A Minimalist View

A last thought on evolution and the development of ideas – at least for now… Read on.

Where does evolution begin? Forget the theatrics and the theology. (Often hard to tell them apart, n’est pas?) Where does an idea, or a thing, begin?

For example, when it became clear that cars were going to dominate the roads, most of the craftsman who produced whips and halters and such for the horse and buggy crowd went out of business. That is, all except for the really smart few who saw the transition as a next step and started producing car parts. In fact, the famous “Body by Fisher”, a staple component of GM cars for many years, began as a carriage manufacturer before the mechanized age.

Bill Gates has said that Microsoft has failed only when trying to change basic behavior, while attempts to enhance what we do are always successful.

The I-Pod (I love my new Nano…) is a direct descendent of the Walkman, while your mouse and keyboard are the latest in a long line of innovations that go straight back to cave paintings and rock carvings. So if you agree that innovation is evolution and that evolution is progress, and that we are all about progress, moving ahead, staying ahead, and having a competitive edge… You get the point. How do we short circuit the development process so that we, Wunderman, are first and foremost in our industry as innovators?

Interestingly enough Lester Wunderman (bless him!) has the answer, and he has been preaching it (can’t get away from the theology) to all who listen. It is also the mantra, litany, and “hymn” that has driven our success over the last five years.

Simply put, it is about back to basics. A simple philosophy that is easy to grasp and easy to market. It is a concept that, rather than limits, opens up infinite horizons; a concept that, rather than be focused on the past, can propel us unfettered into the future.

Call it the minimalist view. It is how the successful consultant companies migrate from era to era. The view is that there is always a core to any business that has little or nothing to do with the outward veneer of the business. For example, consultants might look at the steps a product takes from manufacturer to market and lump all the businesses that have the same steps together. The fact that one is a food producer and the other makes clothes is simply commentary to them. They might argue that a Nano and cellular phone companies are really about content distribution and look at similar models as opposed to looking at them as individual and unlined problems.

The minimalist view strips a company to its bare essentials and tries to understand it in the harsh light without trappings. It is the minimalist view that allows a buggy manufacturer to become a car maker, and allows Google to start with a “blank” page. And it is that same view that needs to propel our conversations with our clients as we help them better connect with their own customers, increase the value of their transactions and the lifetime value of their consumers/users/buyers.

Simply put, here is the thought:

“Fundamental progress has to do with the reinterpretation of basic ideas.”
Alfred North Whitehead

And there you are. We need to be able to reinterpret the primal needs of people across all walks of life, across all segments and in all regions. We need to understand the impact of events, the potential of technology and the pressures of the day as we advise and lead our clients to create meaningful programs and important opportunities.

And, we need to start with the basics – people and their needs – and not get caught up in the complications and unique issues of our business model that so often clouds and muddies the waters of our thinking.

Keep the comments flowing on evolution. I am putting some more of your thoughts together to share.

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