Jan. 20, 2017, Washington, D.C.: Donald Trump takes the oath as the president of the U.S. Something that was unthinkable even a year ago has actually happened.
A lot has been written about this event in political terms and in economic terms, but what does it mean to us as human beings and as professionals? What does it tell us about the world we all live in and work in?
It’s the perfect postcard moment, the perfect imagery that captures the paradigm shift that has been going on for some time at a human level and a societal level. It tells us unmistakably that the world works differently now and values things differently now.
Pithy Trumps Thorough. Our attention span is measured in seconds now. We rarely sit down for an hour or two at a stretch to read something and consider something deeply. We are drawn to pithy, memorable soundbites and no longer have the patience to go through a logical, comprehensive analysis of anything, even if that is of monumental importance. This is not just in politics; even the business world is awash with soundbites, fancy infographics and short-term tactics.
Connection Trumps Content. If we like a leader — if we feel a “connect” with the leader — we support the leader even if the leader’s ideas are not great or they don’t have many ideas. If we feel a job-seeker is like us — if we feel a connection — we hire him even if he doesn’t have the experience we said we wanted. If we like a brand, we buy its products and pay more for them even if they are not the best products.
See also: What Trump Means for Best Practices
Confirmation Trumps Consideration. If someone says something that confirms our own preferences or ideas, we believe it. If someone says something that is contrary to our preferences or ideas, we shut the person out. We don’t wish to spend the time needed to consider, to think, to examine, to perhaps change our minds. Conversations have become echo chambers. Again, this is not just in politics. Just think back to the last time you witnessed a conversation between business managers and risk managers in your own organization.
Passion Trumps Perseverance. Our image of the last several generations is that of people persevering to achieve what they want. People starting out with very limited means but working their way up over the course of many years and decades. The current generations are more about passion. If we believe in something, we want everyone to know about it. We want everyone to know our passions and to experience our lives just as we are experiencing it.
Fast and Fleeting. Everything seems to happen faster. Stories build up in hours — globally. Leaders rise to the top in a few short months. New products and companies become dominant in a year or two. But things fade away faster, too. Stories become stale in days, and then no one cares any longer about the Syrian toddler or the burning cell phones or that game-changing corporate merger. Fifteen minutes of fame has become fifteen seconds of fame. Window of opportunity has become a small keyhole.
Digital Unites Us. And It Divides Us. It is no surprise that digital technologies are making the world a smaller place. In politics, pundits and ideas and even fake news seamlessly travel from one country to another. In business, we routinely work with people scattered across the globe. In our daily lives, we use products and services coming from everywhere. However, at a micro level, digital seem to be separating us, putting us in our own bubbles. If you go to a restaurant or observe a family sharing a meal, more often than not their faces are awash in the digital glow of their own devices. The impulse each of us feels to “like” a post or send a message at that very moment is so much stronger than the desire we have to look into each other’s eyes and have a real conversation. Just as technology has broken up and reorganized entire industries, it seems to be reorganizing the society — earlier, we belonged to a family or a tribe or a city or a nation, but now we belong to a global, digital, amorphous, even transitory group of people who share our interests.
What should we do?
As professionals and individuals and as mentors and parents, we need to put more emphasis on these traits and skills:
- Be a marketer. Good work is important, but talking about it and selling it in a pithy, passionate, confident and catchy way is equally important.
- Connect with people. Learn how to understand, relate to and connect to people. Find areas of agreement. Appeal to their heart.
- Truly embrace change. Like it or not, change is happening and happening fast. Better to be on its side than to be complacent, comfortable or cocky.
- Use the power of digital. It is much more than devices and apps. It can help you find allies across the globe and collaborate with them. It can fundamentally change how your business or home or community operates today.
See also: What Trump Means for Healthcare Reform
But remember to check the devices at the door, when you are with people who are important to you. Just like Trump, your most loyal and trustworthy fans and advisers are likely those you live with or those you often meet face-to-face.