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The Anthropology of Listening in the Era of True Value

It’s the 1970’s and Johnny Carson is being broadcast into every living room in America. Four innocent people were killed at Kent State for protesting the Vietnam War and TV Dinners are saving the American family a negligible amount of time in the kitchen. There was CocaCola’s chique Tab cola in the fridge and a lava lamp and shag carpet in the living room.

For the consumer, markets in virtually every time until now have largely been full of the illusion of choice. Mass marketing was all over the television as families flocked from the dining room to the lazy boy. Every family on the block watched the same shows, listened to the same radio programs, read the same newspapers and were consumers of the same commercials running in sequence throughout prime-time.

In the mass-marketing era we traded convenience for being heard. Commercialization meant get an ‘okay’ product to market fast and cheap. Tell people that they had to have it and if they didn’t have it they were less- than. Coca cola bottled sugar, syrup and water but told you you were paying to usher in a better world. They lied to you. They lied to you because they weren’t listening. They weren’t listening because they didn’t care what you had to say. I admit it, it’s smart to tell you you’re missing out if you don’t buy a product. We’re hardwired to want to fit in and we crave certainty. The markets exploited our humanity and fed us garbage.

But being lied to isn’t okay with us anymore. We’re not after convenience if we have to be exploited to get there.

This is the era of true value.

The anthropology of listening is predicated on the idea that those marketing their products actually care what people think. One of the incredible things the internet has brought us is a new, overwhelming resurgence of the individual; an era of consumerism that allows you to be the hero of your own movie in a fast-paced, unique time.

Every morning Seth Godin’s blog post comes into my email. The title is always different. Some are short and some are long. One theme is consistent in every post; bringing value.

“If you’re working on a project that needs just one funder, one publisher, one partner, it doesn’t matter how many other people didn’t like your idea.

And there’s no extra credit (zero) for getting a ‘yes’ from the first person you ask.

Of course, it’s foolish to spam the world, to make yourself a glutton for “no”, to hustle and hassle and learn nothing from all the feedback you’ve gotten. Sooner or later, you’ll use up your welcome and run out of at bats……

The challenge is to find the resolve to bring your work to someone who will benefit from it. To learn from what doesn’t work and then to do the work again.”- Seth Godin

The anthropology of listening starts with asking a question and the question is some variation of ‘what would make your life better?” In some ways, a fairly new question in its current form. If you have the talent, the relationships, or both, to fill that gap then you’re really on to something.

This is the era of finding interesting problems and entering into a collective of like-minded individuals to solve those problems. It’s because we’re listening. We’re paying attention. We understand that to be a consumer has always been a one-way transaction and we’re interested in making that transaction sustainable for everyone involved, all the way through the value chain.

When you’ve raised your hand and told the world you’re ready to solve a problem that needs solving it's time to hear what comes back.

“A new scientific worldview is emerging whose premises and assumptions are more compatible with the network ways of thinking that underlie a Third Industrial Revolution economic model. The old science views nature as objects; the new science views nature as relationships. The old science is characterized by detachment, expropriation, dissection, and reduction; the new science is characterized by engagement, replenishment, integration and holism. The old science is committed to making nature productive; the new science to making nature sustainable. The old science seeks power over nature; the new science seeks partnership with nature. The old science puts a premium on autonomy from nature; the new science, on participation with nature.” - Jeremy Rifkin.

Listen, improve and iterate in the era of bringing true value.

Matt George