Last week I attended my first APG Noisy Thinking event. Soon after, I thought to myself, “Why haven’t you come to more of these?” Honestly. I really enjoyed it and felt I learned a lot. Here’s my review:
Debate: Do you agree that people power, a decentralised and continuously evolving, sharing society, declining major institutions, Corbynism, poor economic prospects for millennials and the 'precariat' add up to something bigger? Is post-capitalism a useful way of thinking about it? If it is, what does it mean in practical terms and how should we respond?
Kirsty Fuller - Co-Founder and Co-CEO at Flamingo
Fern Miller - Chief Strategy and Insight Officer at DigitasLBi
Tracey Follows - APG Chair and Founder and Futurist at AnyDayNow
Summary: Kirsty kicked off the evening by approaching this from the view of what constitutes ‘Good Business’ practice today and the indomitable rise of CSR and green companies. With an overview of how consumer expectations have changed, citing the rise of the ‘No Logo’ ethos during the 90’s and consumer insistence on responsible corporate behaviour, she demonstrated how the status quo has changed. 2008-2012 saw a 32% increase in consumer perception of brands able to do well by doing good. What’s more, consumers now support this as a profit-making endeavour. Move over NGO’s, don’t bother charities, brands are now allowed to step in and take charge. Brand purpose is business and brand business is purpose.
Opinion: Yes, for the moment this is the case. One only needs to look at a few examples, like CSR champions Unilever to see that ‘Good Business’ is big business. My question is though for how long? Surely, there’ll come a point where doing ‘Good Business’ is simply the status quo, and then the debate will forcibly shift to another point of difference.
Food For Thought: What do you envision being the next overriding determinant in differentiating corporate behaviour? Once ‘Good Business’ becomes business as usual.
Summary: Next up we had Fern Miller who presented a digital digest of how the rise of the online world, and faux personalities, poses long term social ramifications that shouldn’t be underestimated. For example, now with the self-proclaimed need to be a digital diva (living a life worthy of the rich and famous), people only share the positive, hide the reality, and consequently, recent years has seen a 110% rise in people suffering from mental health issues. Especially amongst teenage girls. It’s a façade that is hard to keep up. But which the mechanism of social media inherently encourages. Though it seems matters are slowly changing, and certain influencers, are figuratively pulling back the curtain on the eschewed lifestyles social media identities project, and educating people with the cold, harsh, truth. This isn’t real life.
Opinion: I’m not at all surprised. From the days of Candid Camera in the early 50’s, which initially began as The Candid Microphone in 1947, its been proven time and time again, you don’t behave normally when you know you’re being watched.
Given that context, I understand Fern’s plea for social media users to remain wary of the wider impact they have on the vulnerable, and behave accordingly.
Food For Thought: Why do you think we don’t have the same reaction towards celebrities? Essentially, their lives are glamourized to the extreme and they live under a perpetual spotlight. Yet, when ‘regular’ people portray a fancy lifestyle on Facebook, we’re starting to reject it. Celebrities, it seems, still get a free pass. Why?
Summary: To close the night, we had Tracey Follows who looked to the future, through the lens of the past. No, was the underlying message throughout. We are not in a post-capitalist world. What we’re witnessing is simply a change in the B2C relationship; what started of as supply led, became consumer led, and is now a user-led economy. Capitalism remains, but consumers now have a much larger say than before in product creation and service provision. And the future economy will not be solely driven by massive corporations. No, me-entrepreneurs are everywhere. Think Uber, AirBnB etc.
Lastly, the most interesting cross-section of the future lies at the feet of combinatorial innovation, particularly the fusing of biology and technological advancement.
Opinion: I agree, the future is scary but capitalism is alive and well. Entrepreneurship is on the rise and the sharing economy isn’t going anywhere. Check out this Ted Talk about multipotentialites which shares some of Tracey’s views on combinatorial innovation which I found quite interesting.
Food For Thought: The machines will take away all our jobs, was a recurring theme of the night. Some analyst believe by as much 60%. Tracey argued for a more modest 35%. I’d go even smaller. Why? Because no one seems to be considering all the new jobs technology will create. 10 years ago, social media didn’t exist. Now you can specialise in it.