Guest Post by Daniel Burrus (first posted on CERM ® RISK INSIGHTS – reposted here with permission)
You read that headline right: everything does suck! And in this article, I’m going to give you the solid reasons why this makes me both optimistic and excited about our future!
Think to yourself: On any given day, how many times do you hear someone grumbling about their phone not working well, traffic patterns on their way to work driving them insane, how a business of any kind inconvenienced them by having poor customer service, or a government institution – commonly one like the DMV – putting them in a sour mood?
Last week, a good friend went to the DMV in Las Vegas to renew his driver’s license, and after five hours – yes, I did say five hours – he made it to the front of the line only to find that he needed a document that their website didn’t say he needed and he would have to come back and start all over again.
You can likely think of several instances of things like this occurring, right? Maybe the first thing that comes to mind is you complaining about something that’s slowing you down, wasting your time, or simply not working the way it should.
What about the computer or tablet or smartphone you’re reading this on; is this the best humans can do? What about the seat you’re sitting on now; is that the best seat humans can possibly design? Is it the perfect chair? No! As a matter of fact, when you get right down to it, I’ll bet you’ve been thinking about getting a better chair because the one you’re sitting on now is not all that perfect, and in most cases, it simply sucks.
And let’s not forget about the software you use. For the most part, that sucks too!
I said it above, and I’ll say it again with confidence: Everything sucks!
Now, before you close this article after reading a seemingly pessimistic introductory outlook on our world, I implore you to be patient and read on, because believe it or not, this is a very good thing! But how? And more importantly, why are people increasingly jumping to the notion that if everything sucks now, things will only get worse? The answer is that they don’t see the opportunity for themselves and others.
Think of it this way: Everything sucks because no product or service is perfect, and that’s great news! If everything was perfect, you and I would have no way to improve anything, no reason to innovate, because there would be no problems to solve. Since everything is imperfect, there are infinite problems to solve, endless ways to improve a product, a process, or a service, and countless reasons to apply our creativity and new technology to create an innovative solution that’s far better that what we have now.
We Expect Perfection
Even prior to the digital boom we’ve been experiencing, businesses and organizations that make products or offer services were marketing those products and services as a catch–all for solving consumers’ problems. The confidence a business or organization demonstrates about their creations in their marketing has a powerful ripple effect on a consumer’s psyche, and as a result, said consumers believe the product or service truly is the perfect solution.
The problem is business owners and consumers only think a perfect product or service can be created. That in no way actually makes the world perfect.
The term “perfection” itself actually details this reality in its definition: “the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.” Being as free as possible of issues is an extremely subjective observation, and the fact that in the very definition of the term “perfection,” we have included both “free of flaws or defects” and “as free as possible” means we have generalized the very concept of perfection from the get–go, setting us up for constant disappointment.
New Technology Creates New Opportunities and New Imperfections
Decades ago, people consumed their news and entertainment over the radio. There was no television, no streaming, no Internet – it all came from one type of media that we merely listened to. For years, whether it was said or not, all consumers who had access to a radio likely assumed this was the absolute best of the best even though it often had static, had few controls, and had a so–so speaker. Most could never conceive of a world where you would be entertained or informed at home using any other medium.
Well, look at how far we’ve come! Not only did the television get invented, which actually showed the individuals in these live shows or news broadcasts, but the media itself evolved as cable television emerged on the scene. This was mind–blowing at the time, and surely this was the future, right?
Wrong again! Along came this thing called the Internet, a huge network connecting millions of personal computers that evolved to act as entertainment and information devices, way beyond our televisions. On this network, the power of media consumption was put directly in the consumer’s hands, giving us streaming and binge watching and much more. With new smartphones, tablets, wearables, VR headsets, AR glasses, 5G connectivity, and more, we also have an overload of social media information, misinformation, and disinformation, Google searches that give us thousands of answers we will never read, and what many feel is a world that sucks even more.
Yes, in many ways, our current high–tech devices do suck!
I know, all of this sounds as harsh as it did earlier on in this article, but it’s true! We consistently complain about our phone not being fast enough, being too big or too small, our mobile apps not working, and a plethora of other issues. The fact of the matter is that the diversity of these media devices in our pockets and purses does indeed open the window for more issues and less perfection.
Our Needs and Expectations Evolve
Functionality may be an issue, but we as consumers are an issue in and of ourselves! We find things we are unhappy with because we too evolve!
If you are a business leader, put on your consumer hat for a moment. How often do you feel frustrated with a product or service that we now know isn’t perfect, and in that frustration, find yourself stammering, “Why don’t they just do this or that with their app; that would be so much easier!”
The subjectivity of human needs really authenticates the concept that everything sucks in that we are never fully satisfied with what we have. That’s not to say we are greedy or ungrateful for what we do have, but instead, as a primordial survival trait, we are always looking for a better way to accomplish something. Think of cavemen and cavewomen: If it rained out, they sought shelter to stay dry. And a better shelter is always more desirable.
Because it is so heavily ingrained in humans to want something better, thinking products and services are perfect as they are goes against the very science behind evolution. So, to tie this into what I call an Anticipatory Mindset: If you think your product or service will never be disrupted by something that better solves the problem, you are knowingly setting yourself up for failure!
Look for Opportunity with An Anticipatory Mindset
So, as I stated at the start of this article: Everything sucks, and this is most definitely a good thing! Everything can be improved, and if you think big enough, dramatically improved!
We think everything sucks because perfect is impossible. That means that all of us, as entrepreneurs, business leaders, and employees, are already prepped with an Anticipatory mindset unconsciously. The key is bringing it to our conscious minds and acting on it!
One of the key principles of Anticipatory Thinking is to Keep Your Opportunity Antennae Up! As a consumer, the next time you’re frustrated with an app, a business process at your organization, how a restaurant operates, or any number of material and nonmaterial things in this world, take a breath and instead recognize it as an opportunity. This specific product, service, or process may be a status quo that a business is clinging to that not only could be improved upon, but should be improved upon with your suggestions and actions.
Conversely, as a business leader, use anticipation to recognize something in your own business or organization that needs to be improved. Customers finding things wrong with your products and services is a Hard Trend – a future certainty due to the fact that in a primordial sense, they are unconsciously Anticipatory, always finding ways in which things can and should be better.
If one customer complains about how inconvenient something is in your operation, chances are many more feel the same way and just have not voiced said concern just yet. Observe this Hard Trend, be Anticipatory, and pre–solve the problem before it becomes an even bigger one.
You are the driving force behind a change that needs to happen in your industry! But remember, part of being Anticipatory means you must always have your opportunity antenna held high, as once you make a change, there will be another day when this new change you’ve made must be changed yet again.
Nothing is perfect, and that’s why everything sucks. Just always know that this is a very good thing, providing you with endless opportunities to improve everything and to positively impact the world and the people around you.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the World’s Leading Futurist Speakers on Global Trends and Disruptive Innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker.
He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies helping them to develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight, as well as the international best-seller Technotrends. His latest book, The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change Into Opportunity and Advantage , is an Amazon #1 Hot New Release for Business.