I have a small collection of children’s books that I’ve acquired over the years. A favorite is Where’s Waldo, one in a series of books based on an iconic character dressed in a red and white striped shirt, matching stocking cap, and black rimmed glasses. Readers are challenged to find Waldo in visually dense scenes filled with crowds of people and elaborate environments. There is so much information to look at that it’s easy to become distracted from the search for Waldo and get caught up in the myriad of detail.
This book came to mind recently as I was helping a client craft a presentation to be delivered to a group of business partners. The objective was to show evidence of a market opportunity in order to prioritize product development efforts.
A phrase as commonly heard as “hello everyone” may have greater meanings than what it is trying to convey in different contexts or in different cultures. Our friend Gordon Gray, from Beijing China Liaison, has an interesting perspective with a similar phrase he heard over and over again in China.
Here’s the blog from Gordon:
The ‘Big Family’
Watch any variety show on Chinese television and you may hear the common Mandarin greeting ‘Da Jia Hao’, meaning ‘hello everyone’, or literally translated as ‘Big Family Good’. This phrase conveys a great deal of meaning about how the Chinese view themselves and their world, closely identifying the individual as a member of the larger social family in the ‘Big Family’. This is deeply rooted in the Chinese way of thinking and organizing that has developed over thousands of years of history and is incorporated into basic everyday language.
For the individual, this social model as a member of a larger family starts with the circle of family and friends, the ‘pengyou’ (friend) network, extending to business associates and beyond. The concept of the ‘Big Family’ organized as ever wider circles within circles is perfectly expressed in the structure of Beijing’s modern city freeway system, setup as logical interconnected concentric circles of increasingly larger Ring Roads, starting at the center of the city at Tiananmen.
Ask any young Chinese what they want to be and you’re likely to hear them explain that they are not sure yet, but they want lives that express their personalities and their individual uniqueness. This might not be surprising coming from a New Yorker or young person living in London, but until very recently, the idea that life should reflect individual tastes was unthinkable in China. Life there was dictated by the community, the family, and tradition. The desires of an individual were irrelevant and potentially disruptive. But capitalism thrives on individualism, so Chinese society is adjusting to accommodate it. In searching for their personal identity, China’s young adults are happy to be the country’s guinea pigs for this.
Myths and stereotypes about the Chinese abound in the press, in marketing books, and in presentations. One of the most prevalent false characterizations is that the Chinese are a homogenous people. In truth, China is a multicultural country that recognizes 56 nationalities within its borders. Ethnic groups often cluster in geographic areas, contributing to notable regional distinctions. The great majority of the Chinese population (92 percent) is Han, but this group subdivides into many distinct groups with significant linguistic, social, and cultural differences. As individuals stream into the large metropolitan areas from all points of China, they bring their differences with them and contribute to the mix of influences brewing in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and their sister cities along the coast.
Jamais Cascio has just posted “12 things journalists to know to be a good futurist” on his blog. It’s similar to the futures FAQ I posted a few days ago, but different in that it challenges commonly held media assumptions about the future. I’ve listed them here along with some comments.
When I reveal to clients and colleagues that I’m a trained futurist, I often get bewildered looks, and then comments along the lines of “pork bellies or crystal balls?” No, I’m not a futures trader who works commodity markets. And no, I’m not a fortune teller either. I am interested in the process of change, and in how the future will be different than the present or past. Rather than “predicting” the future, I study underlying forces of change to understand how different alternative futures may play out in different contexts.
Many of my futurist friends have also encountered this confusion, so we recently posted a FAQ list of common questions about futurists and futures research. Hear is a short version for quick consumption with comments about how the FAQs apply to my world:
Jack Trout has long been a hero of mine, after all, he was writing on branding when I was in high school in the 60’s. But there comes a time when pioneers not only loose their leadership edge, they start looking antiquated. While Trout has introduced or popularized scores of ideas that have influenced how we think of branding, his current thinking is muddled and misses sound marketing basics he has developed such a reputation for.
In his current blog, he questions the value or importance of a brand’s emotional resonance. Trout’s old school positioning is focused on creating differentiation on the basis of functional and economic experiences, and he rejects emotional experiences as providing real value. What is he thinking?