Why experiences are the new consumerism

The Experience Economy

It’s not surprising that ‘consumerism‘ emerged as a thing in the post World War 2 era. The last 50 years of the 20th century was a time when we quickly homogenised under the influence of the TV Industrial Complex. We all drifted into a suburban symmetry with little variety in the western world. People had to find a way to display their worth to their tribes and wider community. As many of us entered administrative jobs (think white collar clerk work) which literally looked like we were doing the same things, we needed to find a way to show our position in the hierarchy. And boom – hello consumer land. The more people had, a better car, better clothing, more expensive toys, better furniture, the more successful people would think we were. It was an unwritten ground rule we all abided by. And it was a very effective way to show people that we were creating ‘economic value’. Someone’s consumption patterns told the story of where they sat in society.

I’m starting to wonder if the ‘experience economy’ has the same underlying driver. Sure, we all claim that we’ve moved beyond shallow consumerism, that experiences are more valuable and worthy, but it could be that they provide the same emotional benefit and are just different tactic.

For me it’s more than a coincidence that the experience economy is emerging at a time when people now have the tools to show off their experiences. In the past, our experiences were invisible to all but those who viewed a photo album in our home or heard our story first hand, face to face. Now our experiences are only matched by our desire to share them on every social tool we use. The shift to the experience economy has come at a time when it’s finally possible to share what we do, in ways we never could. Just like conspicuous consumption, experiences can now be shared with strangers, loose associates and colleagues. Even the profile pic is best suited to a tropical locale, or the burning man festival. It sends a message just like a fancy automobile can.

I don’t know if this idea resonates with anyone else, but I do now that a great deal of our human drivers have not changed in 200,000 years – just the ways we express them does.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Ignore what the teacher told you, and just make things up

old school

Watch a 5 year old kid play for half a day and you’ll see levels of creativity that’ll blow your mind. You’ll wonder in awe where their natural ability to ‘make things up’ comes from. You’ll be inspired by how they see the world and what it makes them think and do.

We used to see the world that way too.  But what happened was for the first 18 years of our lives we got told how to see the world. In fact, the concept of making things up brings back some very strong and personal memories for me. I can remember when I reached High School (Grade 7-12 in Australia) and that it was no longer Ok to make things up. We had to reference where we got our ideas from. All of a sudden my opinion didn’t matter. What started to matter was researching someone else’s opinion, someone who had been ordained by industrialised society and had been published. It felt so weird. Why couldn’t I just write what I think? Why did it have to be a quotation from someone else? Why did what they think matter more than what I think? We all got taught  got taught stop thinking and start rehearsing. Rehearsing for what you may ask?

Rehearsing the lines for some kind of monetary industrial pantomime.

We were getting taught how to play inside the the modern economy.  An elongated economic play in which we would become ‘extras’ in someone else’s dreamscape. Someone else had the starring role, but they needed all sorts of support so they could be the stars of the show. And we went along with it. But now the exact opposite of what we got told, is where all the value is being created.

The trick they pulled on us to not have any original ideas, to not create anything new, to keep our opinion to ourselves is rapidly becoming redundant. And this gets me excited. We all still have the ability to just ‘make things up’. Now that we have access to the tools to create anything, now that the economy is being totally redesigned, we just need to forget what we got told, and start to write some of our own lines.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

The evolution of employment

Hunter

Shepherd

Farmer

Craftsman

Employee

Projecteer

While the flow of jobs through history here clearly simplifies the reality, but there is no disputing the type and structure of work we do is in a constant state of flux.

Soon employers will realise they don’t actually need employees. They will work out the thing they actually need is tasks completed, projects managed and leadership provided. And in a connected world they won’t need to pay for people to do these things 5 days a week – especially when large amounts of that time paid for are unproductive.  What we need to remember is that companies pay people based on the value they deliver, not by the hours they are present. If a person cost X for 5 days work, but it really only takes 3 days to do, they the company would be happy to pay the equivalent of 4 days  for previous cost of the 5 days output. Especially when it reduces the overhead of carrying the employee. On average an employee costs twice their salary to carry. In a connected world roles for employees will fragment into pieces and projects purely because the balance sheet will demand it. When this does happen will happen and we will enter the age of the projecteer. And I truly believe this will be better for everyone. Projecteers we gain a greater revenue clip for their time given, and companies will save on cost for activities done.   In addition to this, neither party will be chained to each other mentally providing a more creative work life ecosystem.

So the question for all of us are:

How are we building our personal brand?

What are we developing our pinch hitting expertise in?

How can we create more value by being cross fertilised, nimble value merchants?

And how can companies connect with us?

We all about to become entrepreneurs whether we like it or not, best we get ready now. 

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Most people I know…

… want to get rich so they don’t have to care about the company they work for, or the crappy project they are doing. Once they make bank they can do what really turns them on.

I used to be that guy.

Now I just do what really turns me on, and all of a sudden I don’t care so much about how many zeros are in my bank account.

My father once told me; “Regardless of how rich you are Steve, you can only eat 3 meals a day, lay your head on one pillow and enjoy the company of those around you. Money is an illusion. The art of becoming wealthy is actually knowing what it means.”

Needless to say my dad is the richest man I know.

So what we ought do, is not let the Industrial Complex redefine wealth on our behalf and make us live a life of postponing what we care about. Because once we can feed ourselves and have somewhere warm to live, the rest is in our minds.

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Random Sunday night thoughts

I went for a run today and some ideas popped into my head. Every time I exercise I get new ideas (to me anyway) – they just come from no where. Non blog post micro ideas today, but possible bigger post ideas tomorrow. Rather than lose them, I thought I’d document them. Here they are:

  1. What goes in and out of our mouth determines how long we live, and how much we earn. The former excludes unintended accidents like being run over by a bus.
  2. People say that you need to be a go getter to find success. I feel like we need to be go givers. It feels back to front.
  3. Luxury is in a constant state of evolution. Luxury is both relative to the human condition and relative to our own circumstances. What I find a luxury at a given point in time rarely endures for me. (my current favourite is sleep)
  4. What we do after 10pm has a bigger impact on our tomorrow than what we do during business hours.
  5. Evolution is a tactical process, rather than a strategic one. Tactics of trial and error executed quickly or consistently over a long period of time yield better results than arduous planning. Most great strategies are written in hindsight to describe what happened, rather than what was planned.
  6. The depth and wealth of the eco system has a bigger impact on the well being of the cell, than the make up of the cell itself does.
  7. When it comes to business management, the hard stuff is soft and the soft stuff is hard.
  8. Time is the biggest investment we can make, because it’s the only one that can’t be earned back. Hence true wealth is measured in time not dollars.
  9. Many great inventions (including the wheel in some regions) started as kids toys. So why do many organisations have fun police on staff? I am now wondering if  there a list of practical inventions which started as kids toys?
  10. Why do so many companies who are under threat from the emerging digital landscape forget the first lesson in economics, the law of supply & demand? Eg: Local Australian newspapers seemed to forget that supply of news is now omnipresent. Price is a function of availability, so people wont pay for average and undifferentiated content.
  11. The two types of investments we can make are time & money, most people never get to the second type because they don’t put in enough of the first type.
  12. We are all entrepreneurs, but some people only have 1 big and important client (an employer). We’d all do better if we regarded all income as a part of the entrepreneurial process than a wage based one.

There were more, but this is all I can remember.

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Value yourself

As the new year starts we all set goals and have ambitions to make it a year to remember – as we should. But sometimes we need simple philosophical shifts too. Small shifts that can have a dramatic impact. One of mine is to ‘value myself appropriately’. As startup entrepreneurs an important part of the process is to be a bootstrapper, to maximise the limited resources we have to gain the momentum we need. This often leads us to doing it all ourselves. To be our own courier, printer, door knocker, community manager, clerk, mail room assistant…. anything and everything which is possible to do ourselves. And this is one of the greatest false economies in startup land. A simple rule to circumvent such folly is this:

Never do a task which can be outsourced at a lower hourly rate than what the open market would pay you for that hour.

While it’s easy to argue that we aren’t actually paying ourselves the market rate, it is certainly true that we should be creating the value of our market rate. And this is usually at least double the pay rate. Hence a person earning $100 per hour, should be generating at least $200 per hour for their organisation. Every hour wasted doing a menial task, has more impact than we actually think. Let’s take this simple example:

If we work 60 hours a week for 50 weeks for 2 years and end up with an equity stake valued at $3 million our hourly rate comes out at $500.

Which doesn’t leave many tasks that are worth doing ourselves. Startup blog says value yourself in 2013!

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