Apparently, according to the Oxford Dictionary, the world has now entered the ‘post-truth’ era. From how it’s described it would appear to be a significant change. If you, like me, have been involved in change or projects you probably just smiled wryly at the discovery the world has only recently made but which you have known about for ages. Consider the projects whose RAG (Red-Amber-Green) reports are full-on-green right up to the point where the project crashes and burns in flames over-budget, late and without deliverables. Or the wonderful way a phase can suddenly become a month late, overnight. Or how sponsors can confidently announce delivery dates without understanding the complexities. Or how organisations new to Agile can have scrum after scrum and yet produce an un-testable final product which can’t go to the full market. Many of these come from “invisible” type projects. Change where progress is not obvious or easily measurable. Projects in this category include software coding, culture change, innovation, marketing and artistic. In these projects, asking the team, “How is it going?” elicits a one word answer, “Fine.” They may not intend to speak ‘post truths’. It’s more likely that because of the invisible nature of the project, they themselves don’t know they are off-track.
As the world moved away from being about purely local transactions and people began to rely on ‘strangers’ to provide their food and medicine, it became a matter of life or death to know the truth behind what you were consuming and buying. As a result, branding was born and thrived. First with bits of hot metal on cattle and then in labels on bottles of medicine so you wouldn’t get taken in by fake ‘snake oil’ sales men but could be sure that you had the genuine article.
Brands have now taken on a life and value of their own. We automatically associate a range of very specific qualities with each brand which reassures us. In a complex situation, where you have little time to decide and you are unsure of the outcome, the brand works as a short-cut proxy for the truth. In fact the more uncertain and ambiguous the situation, the more likely people are to reach for brands they recognise or understand. For many enterprises the importance of their brand is significant enough for it to be reported in their financial results. Brands are also really significant for individuals. Just mentioning their names conjures up a distinctive list of adjectives which you can be certain they will embody. Think Branson, think Trump or think Madonna. You know exactly what to expect.
Apparently, according to the World Economic Forum the types of risk affecting the world are more diverse and ever more interconnected. In such a world, who would you look to, to guide you through? What is the list of qualities or adjectives which immediately spring to mind? Does that list match you?
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