What happens to society or businesses if young men never have any reason to leave home?
Historically, young men of a certain age, let’s say 18, want to leave home. The reasons are well known and revolve around the idea that independence will allow for making money (or going to college to gain a skill), entertainment, socializing and dating. Everyone wants to ascend in Maslow’s Hierarchy.
But rules of the game have changed.
Young men may not be enthusiastic to join a work environment where they realize they are not as unique as mommy/daddy/school said they were and now have to put in the time and effort and play the office politics to climb through corporate ranks. And even if they do, there is the constant threat of layoffs/outsourcing/automation and stagnating wages. On the flipside, if the only available jobs are in a low-paying service industry, it is challenging to support oneself, let alone raising a family or saving for retirement. To make it all worse, possibly crippling student debt.
Add in that marriage and settling down is not an exciting milestone. Hanging overhead is the experience of complex relationships and pain resulting from divorced parents. Add in the high bars set by heavily-curated lifestyles seen on social media creating unrealistic expectations for the perfect mate.
So, if you can live at home, why leave?
Nowadays platforms allow for more, quickly, now. But it’s not the technology that is exciting in itself; it’s the change in human behavior. So, what if men could fulfill all their needs, on demand, while living at home?
Entertainment: 5000 cable channels, Netflix, Hulu, Xbox, YouTube
Food: Grubhub, Ubereats, Postmates
Socializing: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, texting, Reddit, Discourse
Adult: infinite tube streaming sites
The shift in leaving home may not be permanent, but what is the impact of postponing the transition to adulthood for five years or even ten years?
The potential economic impact is significant. Take the home construction industry as an example. If historically the average person buys three homes over a lifetime, and Netflixication reduces this is to 2.5, the ripple effects are massive. Construction labor, building materials, landscaping, appliance manufacturing, furniture, retail, architecture, engineering, insurance, mortgages, transportation, wholesale, and warehousing.
We have built religious, legal, and economic rules around the expected social norms and life trajectory. Are we capable of dealing with them becoming frayed or delayed?
All the talk of Amazon buying Whole Foods revolves around Amazon getting its tentacles even more into the grocery business.
Talk about underestimating Amazon. Two articles I suggest reading to understand how Amazon thinks: Why Amazon is Eating the World and Amazon’s New Customer.
Amazon is a different breed of company. Why? Its service-oriented architecture (SOA) structure. The Wikipedia definition of SOA: “services are provided to the other components by application components, through a communication protocol over a network.” In short, autonomous components that know how to talk to each other. At first glance, this would not seem revolutionary. Plenty of big businesses already have silos that never talk to each other and compete against each other for budget and credit. Sure I am sarcastic, but how does Amazon do SOA?
Amazon’s silos service customers internally and externally. They start out with an existing large internal customer, but they are designed to be used externally as well. Their warehouses are not only for Amazon merchants but any third party who needs order fulfillment. Selling through amazon.com is not a requirement. AWS is similar. It was created to power parts of the website but became a product to rent out.
Most companies build a product or provide a service. Imagine what happens when all the core activities are profit centers by using them internally and externally. How you create a product, service, or function changes. It is building a business that can thrive in a world of constant change. Instead, we have companies creating innovation labs whose outputs will have to be bolted onto existing processes and systems…unsuccessfully.
As Ben Thompson points out, Whole Foods is not about getting into the grocery business. It is taking the Whole Foods logistics, re-architecting it so it can be used internally for Whole Foods, but any other industry/vertical that buys food whether its hotels, restaurants, assisted-living homes, schools, and so forth. They will be competing against Sysco and U.S. Foods.
We thought Uber’s was in the logistics business because of UberEats and flower deliveries. However, that is small potatoes compared to Amazon when it wants to do everything from payment (money logistics) to drone deliveries and everything in between.
Whenever brands talk about change transformation, usually there are three pillars: process, technology, and communication.
The people component is assumed to be elements of all three.
Unfortunately, the hard part is people.
Externally you have investors, analysts, regulators to satisfy.
Internally you have competing power structures and budgets, misaligned incentives, matrix reporting structures.
In reality, the roadblocks are much more significant:
Add in the fact humans don’t like change. Plus everyone’s favorite topic, corporate risk management.
We can try offshoring, nearshoring. We can try to add another piece of technology. We can try newsletters and coffee mugs.
None of it addresses the real problem.
How do people change or become comfortable with change in a faster-moving world?
Are alternative org structures like Wirearchy and Holacracy really a path forward?
Ben Sasse wrote a piece in the WSJ about how the political sphere is not dealing with economic changes head on. It’s written as if a government can do something about it.
When he talks about education and retraining, the problem is worse than he describes. Companies don’t train anymore. That’s because the fundamental purpose of business has changed. Ruthlessly (potentially) optimized to provide a product or service for maximum profit at all costs. People are a liability. Not only that, the skills most people can learn here, anyone anywhere in the world can learn and do it cheaper. If the radiologist can be sitting in Malaysia reading the chart of a patient in Midtown, an accountant in India is working on taxes for Deloitte, what job exactly does Sasse think will stay in the US? He says there are many potential policy responses available. Doubtful. None of them will be sustainable. Especially none that he can get through a Republican Congress. We won’t even get into automation.
Sasse alludes to it, most of the rules/religions we have and what we expect out of our lives were designed for living on farms when the family was the economic unit. It was for a time when having a bigger family meant more money. A boy knew as much as he was going to know about farming by the age of 15. He needed to start on the baby makin’. Concepts like waiting for marriage before being intimate meant something different 2000 years ago. Protestant work ethic was great when people were traveling on a wagon trying to stake out 100 acres in California in the 1850s. Will Durrant wrote about this. In an agricultural world, you could see religion in action, the cycle of birth, death, rebirth. It does not have the same impact when most of the population lives in dense areas, commuting, and pushing around pointless (digital) paper feverishly all day indoors or staring at tiny screens in our hands.
Whatever tribe (family, church, country, etc.) protected us and gave us comfort previously doesn’t know how to deal with the current avalanche of changes. We are in the ugly middle where the old ways don’t work anymore, but we haven’t found anything new to replace them with yet.
And anyone who says they have the answers is full of shit.
Many consumer brands are trying to incorporate voice interactions or voice commerce into their products. Apple has Siri locked in its ecosystem. So does Google for the most part. But Amazon is pushing Alexa to be the first mainstream voice touch point.
I wonder if that is the end goal. Sure Amazon would like a frictionless interface for consumers to buy more. My hypothesis is Alexa is meant to convince developers and startups that Amazon has all the products and tools that any “technology” company would ever need. The product line has everything from $5/month VPS instances that compete with Godaddy to running oil and energy market-related applications for GE. All infrastructure and data processing needs can be fulfilled within the Amazon ecosystem.
You would think that Google and Microsoft would leverage their expertise into selling more cloud infrastructure. Google’s revenue is overwhelming based on advertising. Microsoft’s comes from Office and licensing enterprise software. Both are in the process of shifting their mindset, but it is not a natural process. This direction might be in Amazon’s DNA or at least related to their previous experience with AWS. They built their website and realized they could leverage that knowledge and rent it out to others. They were the first big cloud provider that enabled developers and shadow IT groups to test, build, prototype and run their products in the cloud. Once hooked those customers were not going anywhere else as they developed more sophisticated products and moved on to other jobs. The use of AWS was organic. It had to be. They didn’t control any of the touch points like the operating system or devices (even though they tried).
How will we know if this hypothesis is correct? The easy answer is we see an uptick in new voice products developed on AWS. It will take time. Voice interactions or commerce have challenges. For example, the discovery of skills or apps. Can you search for Alexa skills without a phone or going through a website? We can’t turn the knob and find more content like on radio. Any form of monetization will be intrusive. How about interjecting ads? We all know how much consumers love pop-ups and interstitial ads. These points of friction require resolution. Otherwise, voice technology will have a short hype cycle.
Scott Brinker interviewing chief marketing technologist of Xerox:
8. Any advice you’d offer to someone starting out their career in marketing today?
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We are severely underestimating the knowledge employees and agencies will need to have to optimize for the customer journey in the future.
If most brands can’t get digital right, or more thoroughly digital transformation (which includes big data), how will they take advantage of AI? Which to be successful, requires…big data.