Trends, Commerce and the Strategic Value of Discomfort
It’s nearly noon in Kyoto, and I’m currently speeding towards it at 200mph aboard the Japanese bullet train. This week I’m off on vacation visiting a few cities across Japan ranging from the big ones, like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, to the tucked away destinations like Nara and Hakone. I’m only a few days in, and already the trip has given me the opportunity to reflect on a few things that I believe are applicable to all of us:
Nearly everything that we describe as a trend or fashion is derivative
And that’s a good thing
Even my saying that isn’t original – the thought was inspired by a Kanye tweet (he’s back on Twitter, btw and he’s on fire), which makes the whole thing somehow satisfyingly meta.
We spent a bit of time in the Harajuku area, which is a global hub for style – especially fashion – and what stood out for me most was the melting pot of old and new, of North American 80s rock + Japanese punk-pop and everything in between. That’s not to say that any of it lacked originality, but like a wise man once said:
it’s not where you take things from. It’s where you take them to
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) April 19, 2018
In our work we can so often get caught up in this idea of originality – who has done a campaign like this before? Does the photography look like someone else’s? Where have I seen an IG story like that before? What I’m suggesting is that we can all be much less concerned about where the idea came from, and more interested in where we’re taking it.
We’re already living in Black Mirror
And that’s (mostly) a good thing
Looking at a whole commerce system as an outsider has given me a unique opportunity to see the crazy ways that technology has tied everything together. For example, this morning I went for a run, took a train back, bought a water from a vending machine, and grabbed a coffee + breakfast from the coffee shop. I paid for all of those things by tapping my transit card that I had loaded up at the start of our trip.
That’s bananas, I thought as I headed back up to the hotel room, but then I reflected that at home I use Android Pay for all of those things + online purchases.
I’ve been writing recently about the need for all of us to pump the breaks on cutting edge communications (ie. VR/AR), using the tools that people are actually using today, and I stand by that. The opportunity that I see in commerce is to more holistically consider how all of the different parts of our lives work together, and how our transactions can show up, or add value in more places. Can we better integrate our online + offline to create a more seamless experience? Our customers are already passing through those worlds (think of every checkout lineup with people staring at their screens), so it’s not that we’re breaking any new ground. In fact, we’re simply catching up with reality by considering our customers as one person whether they’re online of offline.
Bottom line: Your social team and your offline customer service/sales/support teams are all talking to the same people, but are they talking to each other?
Discomfort is a great thing
Curated newsfeeds, information bubbles, and ease of access to just about everything means that our brains are very rarely ever truly challenged. We may face challenges at work, and difficulties in life, and the solutions to those things are hard, but they don’t force us to think outside of our regular patterns.
Before this trip I had never been in a place that didn’t use an alphabet that I am familiar with. I had always been able to at least fake my way through places, but not here. When the language and customs are entirely unfamiliar, it has forced me to be a lot more curious – to pay attention to the details and observe carefully.
I believe that those of us in positions to make strategic or creative decisions can each benefit greatly from discomfort. Again, I’m only a few days into this thing, but I’m already excited about getting home and applying the new ideas and perspectives that I’ve gained to Junction and to our clients’ businesses.
If you have any Japan-advice, or thoughts on travel in general, I’d love to hear it (especially if it’s something that could be integrated into the next Social Brief) hit me up on Twitter: @Conner_G or email: email@example.com
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