Denial? Or Hunkering Down?

Denial is, of course, your first defense. You refuse to believe the inevitable and find a myriad of reasons to deny the impact of this invention. “People can’t read,” you say. “The market is too small and besides, the investment required is outrageous.” You retreat to the safety of your office. “This silliness will pass,” you tell yourself. “Just stay focused on what we’re doing. Everyone knows our quality. This will blow over.”

Denial and defensiveness – the two natural reactions when we are confronted with the inevitable – are understandable. But they are also the responses that lead to poor decision-making in both business and life.

The current information revolution is identical to what happened 600 years ago, only this cycle is more intense. Mankind is generally literate. Information, and all manner of propaganda, moves considerably faster. Competition is greater and globalization is at play. But most importantly, time frames have accelerated. While hand-manufactured books were still being produced several centuries after the invention of moveable type, this revolution will barely give us a few decades. But the options to respond remain the same: Will you go into denial? Or is defensiveness more your style?

Most people are into denial about what is coming down the pipe. It’s not just the graphic arts industry… it’s all industries. It’s governments – think about the health care system. It’s our environment – think about how we still treat our world even though facts would suggest otherwise. It’s consumers with credit cards. It’s Baby Boomers with SUVs. It’s everyone! Misery loves company…

In my consulting work, I spend the most time and energy identifying existing factors that are influencing the business. Owners usually focus on what’s not working, what needs to improve, how to manipulate markets or consumers, how to cut costs; market better; or trounce the competition. Few ever stop to look at the larger picture.

It’s much like sex. In the passion of the moment, few ever stop to think about the consequences of not stopping what they are doing. “It feels too good,” they say. “We’ll deal with the consequences later. Maybe there won’t be any.” So they sweat it out – sweat it out while they’re doin’ it and sweat it out waiting to see if there is a consequence. Some sweat even more when there is. Can you relate to that?

In the printing industry for instance, the trend to cutting prices has meant cutting costs. Cutting costs has been accelerated by newer and cheaper technology. We can safely assume that this scenario will continue for a while yet. In fact, the influence of nano-technology – 1/75,000 the width of a human hair! – will revolutionize the way we communicate more dramatically than the invention of the printing press. So if you’re focusing on cutting costs through more efficient technology, you’re on an expensive, slippery slope with no foreseeable bottom.

When you stop and ponder what is going on in our world – the big picture – you may get the sense that we’re spinning out of control. However, what is happening now is just the continued unfolding of what was already in motion. Perhaps everything really is in control. We may not know the exact outcomes but having an understanding of the underlying forces provides a powerful perspective.

How does that help with your business today? How can you manage if you don’t have a context and sense of where you’re going? Isn’t that what most people do … live for today without a concern about what tomorrow will bring?   (Yes, we’re back to the sex thing.)

It’s always a good idea to give the larger picture some airtime … just to get perspective. Change is more predictable than we imagine, particularly when we’re acquainted with its underlying influences. Stop. Look. Listen. It’s a great management discipline.