Category: Philisophy

The ancient aroma of cutting-edge business strategy

Umbrellas closed and dripping we hastily ducked into the small waiting room leaving the rain and narrow street behind. Immediately, softly, we were wrapped in the ancient scent of burning incense —the aroma of healing.

One of the most wonderful aspects of my line of work as a freelance strategy consultant is precisely this: the opportunity to intimately know, to see, hear and feel people’s projects with all of my senses. I help people to draw a personalized strategic map and plan of action for their idea, business or organization. That’s why a client and I were standing in the cosy waiting room, swathed in the fragrance of sweet wood on that rainy day.

My client will soon open a small business to offer her health services in Barcelona, and she is doing it by herself as the sole creator, investor and worker. I am helping her to draw the map she will need to be successful. She is excited, afraid and full of desire.

Because this the first time she has embarked on this type of venture, I thought it would be helpful for her to talk to someone who has a business similar enough in size and content to invigorate her ideas, but different enough for that person not to worry about us copying their blueprint.

I knew of just the right business a nearby town. Using my network of contacts, I found a close colleague who personally knew the owner and offered to make a call on my behalf, opening the door for me and my client to have a conversation to learn about his experience. He invited us to come to his shop on a Friday afternoon.

And this is where the story begins.

We were greeted at the door by the owner, let’s call him Julian,

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Your mission: A story well told

This is a story with a happy ending. It’s about communicating the missions of our projects. It’s also a story about fish.

First, before we get started, we should clear up the difference between mission and vision:

Classically, a mission statement tells you the fundamental purpose of the organization; it is about now.

A vision statement tells you what the project wants to be, or how it wants the world to be if the mission is achieved; it concentrates on the future.

It is commonly accepted though to see a mix of the terms values, mission, vision, philosophy or credo to refer to an organization’s statement of purpose.

And second, we should let history add a bit of context to our story. The origin of the word “mission” is from the mid 16th century and referred to the sending of the Holy Spirit into the world, derived from the Latin word “mittre”, meaning “send”. Today, five centuries later, we can pencil the word’s definition as: a strongly felt aim, ambition, or calling.

That sets things up rather nicely, doesn’t it.

The beginning

In the beginning there was a project.

But before the project became a reality, it was first an idea. An idea with a notion to create, change, effect or produce something. When this idea matures into a project with a clear purpose, then it needs a plan to achieve its particular aim, or, in other words, to achieve its ‘mission’.

In the formulation of any plan, the statement of mission should be the second item scribed, be it on parchment or an iPad, right after the name of the project, organization or business. It should clearly and boldly state what a project does and what it intends to achieve ­­— its mission or reason for existing.

All people that come into contact with any project should know what its mission is.

The goal is to

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Marketing and the hyperreal

In Pattern Recognition, a novel by “cyberpunk” writer William Gibson, one of the many intriguing characters the reader meets is Magda, a young woman who works freelance for an advertising agency to help finance her art as a hat maker. She is paid by the agency to go to carefully selected social venues, and while casually chatting with people she meets, mention a new clothing label, a film recently released or a new product on the market. It’s not a pitch, just a casual, favorable mention.

Or, if a person she meets mentions a specific product, say a man in a bar that seems attracted to her, then she is paid to say that she likes that product too. The agency’s objective is not to create immediate consumers of a particular product, but that the information is recycled by people to others: a viral model.

As time goes by, however, something begins to happen to Magda. When she is out for an evening of leisure, not working, having a cocktail perhaps, she may meet someone and they begin talking. And that person might casually mention a designer, a film, or a product in the course of their conversation. Magda then stops cold, no longer able to enjoy her social interaction. She begins to distrust people, distrust their authenticity. She doesn’t know what is real anymore.

The notions of ‘authentic’ and ‘real’ in our high-speed world of multi-environment marketing have been slowly moving toward the center of our collective storyline for some time now. Yet, the ‘real’ versus the ‘simulated’ have no clear boundaries or shared definitions. The philosopher Jean Baudrillard puts forth that a simulacrum is not simply a copy of the real, but that it becomes a truth in its own right – it becomes the hyperreal. In essence: the simulated becomes the reality.

But what does one do with these ideas? Their implications are as much philosophical as they are practical. We continuously make decisions regarding the communication strategies of our projects and products that intersect with questions of authenticity, whether we have paused to think about this or not.

It could be that it is entirely up to each one of us to develop marketing paradigms and content that reflect our own personal values. Better yet: that illuminate our own values.

This will not be done for us from the outside. And, there is no clear map, no clear set of rules. Here we stand, stripped down to our essence, with nothing but desire and intention to guide us through the changing labyrinth of possibilities.

Magda’s story could, at least, serve as one of the guiding voices in our quest: her acts of simulation finally folded themselves back onto her, and she began to doubt the people around her – the real had become indistinguishable from the hyperreal.

She yearned for authenticity.