Winning in a Crazy Polarized World - Part 1

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

ITCB Consulting OCT2020 Newsletter Part
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Winning in A Crazy Polarized World

Business during the “GREAT DIVIDE” Sucks!!!


Recent History is The Business Leader’s Secret Weapon. These are some wild days for corporate leaders. The division in the world is getting so intense that it seems we need our own political advisors to safely navigate through the waters of society. How can we do ANYTHING without offending people and losing customers? From those in clothing retail to sports to industrial machinery to service, this is one of the most difficult situations facing companies in the modern day.



Sit back, float along and hope that luck & chance will get it right

I think our natural reaction in business is to avoid conflict, to avoid losing even one sale, right? Ahh…that’s the natural way most people are reacting right now, but I would challenge you to THINK DIFFERENTLY. Winning solutions usually involve rising above the mess that is in your face at the time and looking at a problem through different angles, just like replay cameras during a sporting event. Rather than jumping on the crazy train with everyone else, you need to determine what direction will work best for YOUR business. Let me explain.

I am a firm believer in thinking through and mapping out social trends, just like we track and map our organizations’ customer, competitor, and sales trends. In business we analyze past performance to statistically predict the future. Not only is it important to know what direction the market is trending, but how quickly it is moving that way. The rate of change gives us ideas on how rapid and decisive our response must be.

This rapidly changing market will make business more difficult going forward, because we now have EVEN MORE to think through. TRENDS and HISTORY are key factors in helping us respond to the present and predict the future.

I’ve divided this article into two parts. The first part includes a brief breakdown of some of the recent changes from 2000 until today. History isn’t flashy, but if you are a believer that knowing history is vital to our present and future, I think you will find it very beneficial and put things into context. In the second part, I’m going to talk about vital, actionable steps to make key marketing decisions that will make you look like a genius to your board and much more importantly, get results in your business. Let me preface by saying I’m not a professional marketer; I’m a strategist, planner and troubleshooter. Here we go -

Let us start with a trip down recent history. History is a powerful way to see the future more clearly and serve our businesses and customers better.

Right around 2000, the first change that I personally noticed was inside Christian churches. Denominations have always divided this faith but beginning in 2000, splits within churches seemed to advance from disputes over doctrine into social issues as well, and we’ve seen it in the news consistently. In one case I remember two groups in which one side felt that the Bible should be front and center for everything, and the other side felt that the Bible was not the central focus. I’d bet that you are sitting there right now thinking about which side you would be on. That’s the society we are living in!

HOW Did We Get Here?

Next were the changes within the political parties. In 2010, the Tea Party began to divide the Republican party over fiscal conservatism and pull the party a little to the right. Then in 2015, the Progressives started to divide the Democratic party over progressive ideas and pull the party increasingly left. The internal changes to each party caused them to move farther apart from each other. In fact, the division between the right and left is larger than it has ever been in my lifetime. I used to hear people say that voting Democrat or Republican doesn’t matter much because they are basically the same. Not so anymore! It’s like the Grand Canyon between Republicans and Democrats.

Did you notice that things are dividing

even faster now than just 4, 8 or 12 years ago?

Around 2015, a more global political civil war began to brew. Remember hearing about the big BREXIT (BRitan’s EXIT) from the EU (European Union)? It caught me off guard. That was a point when I noted an accelerating global change. For a time, it seemed that almost every country in the world was heading toward globalization, but then due to too much change too quickly in their country and more people not liking the outcomes of globalization in their country, nationalism started gaining ground. President Trump’s message, “America First,” isn’t unique. Recent elections have pulled several more countries into a nationalist ideology. It is a worldwide Nationalism vs. Globalism battle of ideas. In fact, this global clash of ideas is actually framing the standards of the two major political parties in the U.S. Think about it. Republicans tend to support more nationalist ideas and the Democrats more globalist. This merits watching in order to be able to market correctly.

In 2020, the U.S. reached a tipping point of disagreement and distrust that propelled people into actions that I did not expect to see in America in my lifetime. This big, hairy, division of ideas is so important to people that emotional and physical violence has ensued. Sure, there has always been name calling, boycotts and peaceful protests in the past, but in your lifetime, have you ever seen the level of fervor that has caused opposing sides to physically scuffle, fight, or all out riot? The distrust and hatred between political and social factions have skyrocketed. Why? I believe their political and social ideology is very nearly opposite.

And of course, COVID-19 is still being hotly contested. Masks versus mask choice, mandatory lock downs versus opening back up, in-person school or online? Mandatory business closures or letting each business choose? Federal mandate or state choice? What should be deemed essential?

Some of the young think that this is completely new, but only parts of it are new. America has literally always dealt with division (remember, some of the colonists wanted to stay British!). The difference is that our business isn’t the local mercantile; likely, your revenue is at least regional and sometimes national or global. Instead of relying on a market that is in your town, you’re likely looking for country-wide market share across the political and social spectrum.

Add to this that people now care where businesses stand on issues. A lot. Oh, we still get to choose where we stand, but know that everyone is watching to see what position our business takes on an issue, and the response could designate whether we are embraced or scorned, whether our business flourishes or goes bankrupt. If the internet and online sales, you can literally decide who you buy from, far from the days of being limited to your local stores.

A New Social Media Divide WILL Change Everything

Social media outlets have been providing some of the best inexpensive, targeted access to people, but these platforms are rapidly changing. The social networking companies themselves are banning videos and posts, and supporters of both sides of social and political issues are becoming hotly outspoken. When it comes to business, the point is not who is right or wrong; it’s about the results.

Let’s think about this as an opportunity to pass by our competitors.

All of this banning and chaos and mudslinging has birthed an appetite for new platforms, and those platforms, although small at this point (growing very quickly), are potentially a big blue ocean for businesses who want to take the plunge. Now we are seeing an explosion of people (mainly nationalist, Republican/Libertarian, Christian/Catholic) who are beginning to use these new sites. These emerging social media worlds with wildly different member pools should really be causing us to sit up and take notice because 1. The isolation of viewpoints will only strengthen each side’s belief and vigor and 2. The division of groups has made it easier for businesses to communicate with them in a way that they want.

How will you address the FAST Growing Social Media Alternatives?

Again, our normal tendency is to avoid offending anyone – or at least avoid offending the most outspoken and dangerous ones. In the past, staying in the middle seemed to be the safest place, and sometimes that’s the best decision. BUT today and in the future, remaining neutral MAY actually result in attacks from BOTH SIDES as you are standing between two warring armies. You might remain safe or you might get shot from both sides. The groups are trying to force everyone to make a choice. They want to know who is on their side.

Have you ever thought about this mindset?

“You are either openly for me or you must secretly be against me.”

What I’m saying is that in some cases, neutral isn’t really neutral anymore. Staying neutral can be interpreted as choosing to be part of the opposition. People and organizations are being pressured to explicitly state their position. If you’re thinking that this feels a little like a civil war, I agree with you. This is truly an all-out political and social civil war of ideas and the decisions that we make will begin to invoke a very different reaction today versus just a decade ago.

How does this affect our businesses? Standing in the middle might work well; both sides might still buy from us. However, as more tension builds, it feels more like standing in the middle of a 2-lane highway. To protect our business and thrive in the future, WE MUST understand where we are now and where this situation is going. It is changing rapidly and increases the complexity for the vast majority of businesses and organizations.

The great news is that this new situation is an OPPORTUNITY for those who want to grab it, and I’m excited to share those ideas with you in Part 2.

History is key. By analyzing trends and temporarily stepping out of the frothing red ocean, we can understand the nature and speed of changes and embrace decisions that will give our organizations the advantage and truly “Find Ways To WIN!”

PART 2 – Mapping The New Battlefield, Creating A Process & Making The Correct Plans To WIN

Kevin Miiller - PE, MBA

If you want or need assistance with employee engagement, in evaluating the current situation or planning for the future, please give me a call or send me an email.

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