Black Friday exposed

Black Friday is upon us. Or Black Week as it has turned into here in Denmark.

I have always been sceptic about the event; I don’t see it as an event as such but more as an exercise in trying to get rid of a lot of inventory.

This year with Covid-19 only reinforces that impression. Plenty of stores are simply trying to stay afloat and in business. For understandable reasons.

Hence the week and not just a day, I guess.

I wish every store every succes. But can we at least agree on two things?:

Black Whatever is in essence a flash sale.

A flash sale is a short term thing that has absolute no positive impact on the planet or on the store for that matter

Quite the contrary:

It reinforces short term thinking and every single consumption and sustainability issue we have on this planet.

Full stop.

We can do better in the future, can’t we?


Your ego is (literally) killing you

Alex Danco wrote a stellar blog post a couple of weeks ago about the Freud moment of the Covid-19 pandemic seen from an American perspective.

In it he argues that the reason why the US is struggling so much with the pandemic is because doing all the right things to stem it has been positioned as helping other people, which goes against the very ego driven US culture.

I really think that is a profound insight. But it lacks a further perspective;

While the short term problem is that people won’t use masks to help others that very behaviour comes with two risks:

(1) By not using a mask, you risk becoming infected as well. Which may – worst case – be fatal to you and – by extension – your ego.

(2) By not helping others and playing your part in battling the pandemic, you’re making yourself substantially worse off longer term, as you’re effectively destroying your own future.

Why is that?

Because basically you’re assisting the crisis in becoming a lot worse before it gets better. Meaning that while it rages out (if it ever does), you’re losing business, opportunities, sales, partnerships – a livelihood.

You’re not necessarily killing yourself (and your ego). But you’re making both substantially worse off in the longer term by not taking a time out to help NOW.

Why is this important?

Because it shows the perils of (a) being controlled by your ego every second and (b) not thinking ahead a bit.

The last point is one of the great, great challenges, we have as a human species;

We’re so used to thinking and acting short term – from moment to moment – that in the pursuit of instant gratification and a win here-and-now, we’re sacrificing a better, more productive and more profitable outcome later on.

Without even thinking.

Should we really congratulate each other on having stepped back in evolution to the level of other self-absorbed non-reflecting mammals?

Or should we use our unique skills to show that we’re better than that?


TikTok and a lot of…nothing

What does a Trump rally, TikTok users and startup tactics have in common?

They are here and now – and there’s not necessarily a grand plan for how to move on from here.

When I saw that apparently a viral TikTok prank of securing tickets for Trumps rally in Tulsa and then (of course) not showing up and leaving the hall half empty, I was reminded of a similar way that many young startups operate;

They hack their way forward. Growth hacking is just one of the terms.

While growth hacking – or just hacking – can be a real powerful tool and bring you forward here and now, it very often is not useful on the longer term. The results generated can easily prove unsustainable.

A quick example:

A couple of years ago on a hot summer afternoon in Copenhagen, I watched a young startup giving out free cold beers to anyone who would download their app (which had nothing to do with beer).

A super efficient growth hack that coupled their need for extra downloads to serve some metric goal with the bypasser’s need for a cold beer on a very hot day.

But also very, very short term. What’s the chance anyone of those who got a beer ended using the app? Close to zero.

Same with the TikTok happening. Super efficient and (to some) fun even. But what’s the impact going forward? Probably close to zero.


Because now that it has been done, the Trump campaign will have learned what can happen and will most likely adjust for it going forward. If anything there is a risk that the campaign going into the crucial months has been made more robust from this and thus – potentially – more effective.

In this respect the TikTok thing can end up being counter productive in the end. Just as those cold beers on a hot summer afternoon in Copenhagen.

So what’s my point in all this?

My point is to make sure you have a plan. A pretty thought through plan where you at least understand what the things you’re doing short term contribute to the overall goal and how to make adjustments to the plan based on how individual initiatives play out.

It is very seldom that those just jumping from one very short term thing to the next end up with the victors spoils.


This is real leadership

What is the difference between leadership and management? A manager is someone making sure you cut your way through the jungle. A leader is someone who makes sure we’re in the right jungle to begin with.

We’re in a time of crisis. Managers are busy making cutbacks, weathering the storm and looking at whether to retain employees or let them go. They are trying to optimize for the moment. To survive.

They’re not especially creative. They were not hired as managers to be creative or even innovative. Rather they are looking in all the usual places for all the usual plays, and as a result we’re likely to see more of the same going forward.


And then there are the leaders. The visionaries even.

People like Jeff Bezos of Amazon.

Who invests the entire profits of an entire quarter into Covid-19 related initiatives around testing, extra risk pay for employees – existing and new who are joining in droves to meet demand.

Giving the short term thinking analysts and shareholders the bird in the meantime.


What’s he gunning for on the longer term?

The first virus-free supply chain worldwide. A safe alternative in a time of great turmoil and anxiety. Coming with a premium. Or maybe only available to Amazon Prime members.

Who knows?

But it is the difference between deadwood management and visionary leadership.