Monday, 21 November 2016


Throughout my career I met people who said they loved change, simply thrived on it. They were, they claimed, a manic gleam in their eyes, change-agents. They were only interested in the future. “History is bunk” they said quoting Henry Ford. And I humoured them because a change, here and there, is the essence of progress. As it says in my recently published book on marketing - “Brilliant Marketing - 3rd Edition” - it’s “new and improved” - in other words changed.

But this year change seems too small a word. I’ve been arguing for some time that we’re living through a quiet revolution. After the US election and Brexit it’s not so quiet. And just wait as suppliers and retailers in the UK grapple with forthcoming inflation and a sales slowdown. More revolution’s imminent.

I say “forthcoming” but who can tell?  Our radar systems have all gone down. Research has become discredited. A senior fmcg executive recently said “we’ve more than halved our research budget. It wasn’t telling us anything we had any faith in”.

(Until November 9th  - David!)

This is the age of the contrarian, the thinker of the impossible. When the Saatchi brothers said in a Lewis Carroll moment “anything is possible” they were, at the time, guilty of hyperbole but, considered today, they were merely ahead of their time. In this uncertain world those apostles of change I described should be feeling delighted. But I bet they aren’t. We know that the most stressful moments of our lives - moving house, changing jobs and divorce - all involve real change, reappraisal and the need for difficult decisions.

Increasingly it feels as though we’re living with Alice in Wonderland where “If you don't know where you are going any road can take you there.”  Certainly that seems to describe our Prime Minister whose pose of confidence doesn’t conceal that she must be missing the Home Office where she was mistress of all she surveyed with no ghastly surprises coming at her from every direction.

Post-Truth has been named word (sic) of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary. It will, I think, be overtaken by “Post-Strategic” because arguably strategy has been replaced by tactical nimbleness, by the ability to change direction and avoid the unexpected. Diplomacy has been replaced by deal-making and poker (at least that’s how some Minsters describe the negotiations with the EU (“keeping our cards face down and close to our chest.”)

Perhaps the biggest surprises will be for two people discovering that running a turbulent country is neither the same as running a business empire nor heading a government department.

So it’s time to turn and face the strange…and the totally unexpected.

You’d better be ready. So here’s some advice….

Medical research (if you believe it) shows that snoozing before an exam is more efficacious than last minute cramming. So I recommend a lot more snoozing for all of us. We need to be prepared… for anything.

No comments: