03 Jul Innovation in a “Me Culture”

The “Culture of Me” may be the most significant hurdle to innovation today.

I don’t think I need to support the point that today we have a “Culture of Me”, do I?

Innovation is often born from the necessity of solving a problem.  So here are the symptoms and pitfalls of the “culture of Me” in problem solving, which I’m noticing. . .

  1. When things go wrong, the “me” culture symptom is to first, above all, protect one’s self.  Examples:
  • McChrystal blames the lack of cooperation from Jones, Holbrook, et al for the failure of the counter-insurgency policy execution in Afghanistan.
  • Initially, BP tiptoed around accepting responsibility for the Gulf oil disaster to cover their ass for later litigation and the US government was reluctant to interfere to avoid weakening a claim against BP in future litigation.

The alternative? First, take responsibility for solving the problem.

  • Even if McChrystal is right about the need for unity among National Security Advisor Jim Jones, Ambassadors Holbrooke and Eikenberry, and VP Biden, he is just as responsible for forming a working relationship with them as they are with him.
  • Even if the lawyers are right about litigation risks, it is the lawyers jobs to analyze the litigation risks, it is the responsibility of the leaders of BP and the US government to consider that risk and make decisions that weigh all the risks.

    2.     When things go wrong, the “me” culture symptom is to take your ball and go home.

  • McChrystal behaves in a way that he knows will result in his dismissal or need to resign.
  • BP management sends a young company spokes person to speak to the press the first week of the oil spill and US government issues a blanket moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf.

The alternative is to go in a room and not come out until disagreements are resolved, with all parties dedicated to the mission of resolving the conflict not perpetuating it.

  • McChrystal should have confronted all these guys in a room, face-to-face, instead of hiding behind impersonal communication technologies where it is easy to masquerade and pretend nothing is wrong.
  • BP leadership and the Whitehouse should have been shut in a room Week One and then issued Plan A and Plan B.

I realize the pitfalls of these two symptoms because I’ve been there and done that.  Walked away from “traditional” media/marketing in the early 1990’s because I could see that advertising no longer offered the return on investment it did when mass media was less cluttered and retail distribution was not controlled by a few behemoths.

Since then I’ve watched Venture investors fail to build new businesses on new media, because they were based on the myth that advertising still works.  And I’m listening to the twitterati battle on who will win:  free, ad supported media on the internet  (Mike Masnick in Techdirt “Another Journalist . . . PRedicts the end of the Web”) or traditional media experimenting with paid models (Michael Hirschorn in The Atlantic “Closing the Digital Frontier”).  I’ve witnessed the battle inside of companies who separate traditional media from internet because they can’t figure out how to sell advertisers on paying more for the internet.

The truth is advertising only delivers ROI in a few premium programs for those who can afford it (see previous post: Advertising is like wrinkle miracle ointments).   Marketing in a highly competitive market with ridiculous communication clutter has to be more nuanced, strategic, and dynamic to be efficient and effective.   There are no shortcuts.  There is no one formula.  Media could add value to both audience and marketers by inventing transparent ways to help people spend less time looking for each other and more time listening to each other.  It would be fun to work with a team who are motivated by this purpose.