Learning from … 2014

| Tags: Business, Creativity, World

As we look into the eyes of 2015 we see both excitement and anxiety. The young man in Jakarta, captured by photographer Edy Purnomo, who worked assignments for the studio in 2013 and 2014, looks out at a world that is both global and intensely local. This young man is the new citizen. His life is already networked, his cultural context already shifting and, as his fellow Indonesians know all too well, the complexity of a rapidly urbanizing society is upon him.

These complexities bring both joy and pain. The joy of opportunity and, all too often, the pain of conflict.

2014 saw the release of the World Values Survey data from its most recent wave of research. In it we see the tensions clearly: the nearly 80% of respondents who feel global are also feeling local. The dilemmas facing all of us require us to challenge our own identities. These identities have been wrought by a global mass media that is now shifting, breaking into parts and decentralizing from the monolithic norms of the past.

The young man in our photo lives in a media world that is pluralistic, embracing opposites and demanding a more profound sense of provenance from us all. Context is what turns information into knowledge and, in the information age, context can be cloudy. Yet what we see is a new generation fully capable of contextualizing information, absorbing more and, potentially, making more sense of the world than an older generation. The older generation clings onto the polarizing monocultural precepts of the mass media age, whereas the younger generation embraces ambiguities, thrives in gray areas, transforms the meaning of things and has the capacity to create new from a mix of old that is unprecedented. The power of creating new ideas from old ones is transforming their understanding of the world and how they relate to everything. Yes, everything.

This is a result of negotiating the dilemmas posed by conflicting narratives in a multi-contextual world. Social media brings it all onto the screen of a smartphone and, with smartphones becoming the mainstream media of choice for the entire world, has started the process of massive change. All change is fought and change is being fought right now. But there is an inevitability in what we see: the dogmas and polarizations–in politics as well as in business–that have defined the “stuckness” of the last few years is beginning to break down. A new class–worldly, creatively capable and without much interest in old paradigms–is emerging. They are already out-classing mainstream marketers of brands and politics, creating what is known in the jargon of consulting as disruption.

A better way of perceiving this change is that it is less about disruption than it is about creation. The creation of new ways of being in complex and still hierarchical societies, new ways of seeing what can be made, what can be experienced and what can be consumed. Humanity is messy. It probably always will be. But there is something magical in the air when you see young people embracing big change and creating new cultural contexts. The old and traditional are being mined for relevant knowledge for new living. The new technologies are enabling a reclamation of identity and craft, as well as solving humanity’s problems and creating new weapons systems.

It is up to us to choose which to focus on as we create the ideas that infuse all this change with meaning and purpose.

Happy New Year!