08 November, 2011

Magic Horses, Great Jobs, and The science of impulse

I saw an old movie the other day or month or so ago, at a friend's house. Into the West is the story of a broken down family in Ireland and the horse that changes their lives. The two adorable urchins give marvelously satisfying performances, which isn't always the case with young performers. I'm going to give almost the whole plot of this 1992 movie away here, so if you're saving yourself for the willful suspension of disbelief (which I LOVE, but rarely have trouble capturing), read no further!

They are mad for movies from the old west, and have seen every western available in the local convenience stores. The horse that changes their lives is horse-napped by some bad guys, and by a crazy chance the kids find and attempt and succeed in getting him back!

But where to go? Home is no good--the neighbors complained about the horse and that's what got him taken away in the first place! (They did live several floors up in a cramped apartment building, but it seemed to be the idea of the horse that offended the neighbors rather than any specific offensive realities. Convention rather than public safety.)

They decide to make like cowboys or Indians, and head... Into the West. Then it's sort of an action/chase movie with comedy hijinks mixed in with the painful story of a half-healed grief... as a movie it's kind of got a lot of stories going at once, but they don't trip over each other TOO much.

At any rate, I've gone through ALL THAT to get to the start of my point... The last lines of the movie.

One of the kids asks their dad: Are we [as 'travelers'] cowboys or Indians? And he replies: There's a bit of a traveler in everybody, Tito. But very few of us know where we're goin'.

It was really my favorite part of the movie, and it is so neat that it WAS the end, because it's hard to get that kind of timing going!

And all this was in service of discussing an article from Steve Denning of Forbes Magazine, about the 10 Happiest Jobs. Unfortunately this is based on self-reporting, but some of the conclusions of the article are, of course, valuable.

Like this: "However, for a life to be meaningful, it must also be worthwhile. Engagement in a life of tiddlywinks does not rise to the level of a meaningful life, no matter how gripped one might be by the game." (Todd May, The New York Times)

But one thing absolutely grated on me, enough so that it is the final, undeniable impulse to write today's blog post.

"...with a focus on delighting the customer through continuous innovation..."

Now, as a customer, I am not bothered by innovation. But Newer does not make Better. And companies that are working to engage their employees in new and innovative ways, as well as their customers, are all very well. But a 'new look' does not offer anything newer than looks, and for people who have been participating for a while, a 'new look' is a 'can't find anything anymore' problem. Which I hate.

Some of this stuff is not mere economics, and I do not want anyone to be hurt when I suggest that delighting (or confusing) the customer may have a financial bottom line.

Harvard professor Jennifer Lerner (of the Harvard Decision Science Lab) says that anger makes people optimistic and risk-seeking. (Fear has the opposite effect.) Sadness will make you eager to buy!

Does continuous innovation stimulate anger and sadness? Are we entering some post-celebratory period of consumerism where nostalgia drives impulse buying? Or did that ship already sail when the home shopping network came to cable TV in the US in 1985?

The difference between what we are like and what we THINK we are like is an interesting question, one I have been considering with some seriousness as I shape up my prospects. The difference between what we like and what we think we like is pretty much the same question. Or is it?

No comments:

Post a Comment