Thoughtless marketing and the call to think.

When I was a young lad, my days were often filled with trips to the principal’s office followed then by long stints at the kitchen table staring eye-to-eye with my father who usually posed one of two questions:
  1. Son, when will you stop using your head as just a hatrack? or,
  2. Son, do you think it’s time to get your mind out of neutral?
For the record, I have absolutely no ill-will towards my father for his discipline was always couched in genuine love and it definitely taught me to engage in actions of intentional thought and questioning logic. What am I actually doing? And moreover, why am I doing it?


Having just gone through the Easter long weekend, I had the chance to catch up on some reading and two poignant pieces shone through:
  1. HBR’s piece by James Ryan on 5 Questions Leaders Should be Asking All the Time
  2. Comment’s piece by Hannah LaGrand on Thoughtlessness, Sloth, and the Call to Think
In an unwaveringly parallel manner, both Ryan and LaGrand’s works should jolt every marketer to ponder those two childhood questions: What am I actually doing? And moreover, why am I doing it?

Before exploring the two cited pieces, it is imperative that readers absorb the information through the lens of historical realities; the past is often filled with events and decisions that cause present-minded individuals to cringe yet, only when studied in their absolute truths can we draw true insights for bettering our paths forward.
 
Consider:
  • Nautical navigation improvements after the tragic events of the Titanic; a boat touted as “unsinkable”
  • NASA’s rigorous pre-launch procedures after the Challenger Shuttle exploded on liftoff
  • Nuclear power plant safety protocols after the Chernobyl meltdown
  • US Mortgage policies after the 2006 housing market crash
 
The point of course remains: albeit each of the above events caused massive damage, financial loss and human tragedies, the lessons derived from the past force us to critically think and enable a better future. Said poignantly by Marc Bloch: “Misunderstanding of the present grows fatally from the ignorance of the past.”
 
We have to know our past – even if it’s littered with tragic mistakes – if we hope to better our future.

A horrific example of thoughtlessness:


In 1961, German-born, Jewish American political theorist, Hannah Arendt travelled to Jerusalem on behalf of the New Yorker to cover the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. The shocking twist that occurred was that although the world anticipated hearing a story of a villain and of unequivocal evil, Arendt’s report was of a man who had no real motives at all and that he simply “just followed orders”. Actions just being done out of pure thoughtlessness.

The report was met with public outrage:

Many thought Arendt was somehow letting Eichmann off easy or downplaying the monstrous nature of his crimes. However, Arendt remained that Eichmann's crimes squarely fell into the realm of everyday, mundane habit; a startling point showing how habits are seriously dangerous. This pattern of habitual thoughtlessness was subsequently paralleled by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung in her works as: “the overwhelming urge to stay with the comfortable and the known rather than risk change, even if it promises improvement.” and as “remaining complacent in the present and the status quo…preferring to accept lackluster rather than responding to the demands of today.” 

Later, in her 1971 book, The Life of the Mind, Arendt continued to wrestle with this “thoughtlessness” phenomenon: There is something in the act of thinking itself, she argues, regardless of content and conclusions, that constrains evildoing and plays a key role in our ability to make moral judgments. Arendt pondered a worrisome possibility: What if, in an age of so much stunning advancement, we have somehow forgotten what thinking really means. In a society so prone to thoughtlessness, the need to think is as contemporary as ever.

Arendt worries that in the modern age, while we have been wildly successful in the use of our intellects and our knowledge about the world has grown more rapidly than ever before, the work of reason has been dangerously neglected. But Arendt warns: “to ‘stop and think’ can be terrifying. It is to bring under scrutiny those things that are usually the backdrop to our lives.” 
This cry of calling us to think then is picked up in Ryan’s work where he astutely charges readers with five essential questions if they seek a true position of leadership and influence. 

See rest of article including marketing examples of radical change
 

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