Everything Is Changing. Here’s What You Must Know.

Everything. You need to know everything. Right?

No, you don’t. Bear with me here.

Staying current on Retail, Digital Media and Marketing, I read a lot of articles. “Constant Disruption” and “The New Normal” have been themes throughout many of them.

I think, “Haven’t we stopped saying that yet? Haven’t I seen this exact title a dozen times before?” But then I realize this idea genuinely needs restating. Because it’s more true today than it was yesterday or last year.

Amazon, Uber, Airbnb — I hear it again on local radio while drafting this article. All of these businesses are driving changes that challenge old, accepted laws around regulation, taxation and more. We are reinventing much more than marketing. We have to stay informed.

In an era and industry that is highly dependent on media and built on technology, it’s not just that “change is constant” but that the acceleration of change is persistent. It reminds me of something I hear from a lot of young people in the advertising profession — “I used to think I was busy. But now I’m REALLY busy. I had no idea what busy was back then.”

In my effort to command the information I have to use day to day that is constantly changing, reiterating and evolving, I’ve identified a mantra —

“You don’t have to know how. But you do have to know how, to know how.”

Generationally, everyone my age and older (I’m a younger Gen X) remembers a factory model for education. Finite lumps of knowledge were printed in books to be used for years by an assembly line education system teaching the same things to new waves of people. Some of us expect that when it comes time to learn something new, there’s a resource “book” we can read to get caught up.

Everyone younger than me has a fundamentally different view of learning and discovering. It hinges more on “Figure it out.” Access info quickly or in real time to get through. It’s a “life hack” approach. “I don’t have to know how to replace a toilet in my first home. I’ll watch a YouTube video and go to the store and when I’m done, I’ll know how.”

There is an increasing diminishment of prepackaged, go-to, know-how. Older generations learned to rely on an authority and their volumes of material. Think Britannica. Younger generations know how to pool information and curate it to their purposes. In turn our culture and our economy moves in this direction as well.

There is a saying in philosophical circles that “the map is not the territory.” In military circles it’s “The first casualty of any battle is the plan of attack”.

As advertisers and marketers, for every fact we learn about our map the universe of territory has expanded far beyond it. For every preparation we make the contingencies multiply. The map looks clean but it doesn’t have bears and bees and bridge closures on it. It doesn’t have the location and timing of competition’s strategic deployment. We go in anyway.

Now more than ever, we must adopt a responsive, learning mindset and the intuition and judgement to drive it collaboratively to succeed as businesses, competitors and a community of stakeholders.