Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Wristwatch Man

As anyone who's ever read anything I've ever written would know, "branding is about being perceived as the only solution to your prospects' problem."  The most important word in that definition is "only," because once you're perceived as the only solution, there's simply no place else to shop.  You're the only game in town, which means your brand is practically impervious to price issues.

The bottom line, so to speak, is that profitable revenue increase is what real branding is all about.

But right behind "only," running a close second, is the notion of perception.  More than what you truly are, perception projects how you want others to see you.  It's about making a statement, projecting not only what you are, but also what you are not.  That aspect has never been more important than it is right now, and it's never been more apparent than at the face to face meetings I've attended of late.

More than likely you've had the same lunch meetings I have.  You know the drill:  The initial small talk, followed by the check of the smart phone, ordering the food and talking business.  But if you notice, there are two types of people whose style and manner telegraph the kind of people they are:

The Digital Slave and the Wristwatch Man.

Let me state flat out that I'm not a twenty something. Or even a thirty something.  And while I've always admired and adopted new, efficient technologies, I've never been a technology lemming who upgrades software at the first available moment or -- God forbid -- lines up the previous night at a retail store to buy a piece of just-released hardware.  

I think that's just kind of stupid. 

Yet increasingly, this is the behavior I see emanating from those who are supposed to be adults but are actually more like large children in business suits.  These are the Digital Slaves.  The people who park their smart phones just east of their salad forks, well within view lest anything, anywhere happen to alert them.  These alerts, by the way, rarely have anything pressing to announce; certainly nothing that can't wait an hour or two while important business is being done.  Digital Slaves don't care.  They're seemingly unable to discern the difference between a crisis back at the office and their pals' latest Facebook post, often disrupting or derailing their real time conversations to the point they often forget what they were talking about prior to the alert.

Decades ago, Chicago columnist Bob Green (the man who invented the "yuppie" moniker) called it the "twitching of America."  Digital Slaves are prime victims.  They over-rely on technology when simpler analog solutions often to a better job.  Digital Slaves love to eat in restaurants where plasma screens are pasted to the walls, showing varying content -- with no sound or means to download any real data.  It doesn't seem to matter, however, as long as the Digital Slave feels as if he's receiving information -- none of which is even relevant to him.

It's important you be able to recognize a Digital Slave, because they tend to be shallow thinkers, unable or uninterested to delve into issues at more than the depth of a soundbyte.  They're so busy absorbing so much useless data that they simply have no time to get a true understanding of the events and issues sitting across the table from them.  It might make them feel self-important, but it also makes them dangerous and undependable.

Contrast the Digital Slave to the Wristwatch Man.  This is the person who favors the appropriate use of technology over the myth of technology.  The Wristwatch Man gives careful consideration to each and every opportunity, knowing that there's always more time than people think.  He devotes his full attention to situations so that when he acts, he gets it right the first time.   The Wristwatch Man doesn't require a 24/7 wireless connection to know what time it is: he simply looks at his wrist.  And chances are that if you're meeting him for lunch, he silenced and stowed his phone long before he sat down at your table.

The Wristwatch Man understands how to listen, focusing on what you say rather than the latest bits of useless information being sprayed into his face by some pocket appliance.  Because he listens with intensity, his thoughts and recommendations spring from a deeper level that those served up by Yahoo or Google news alerts.  

This is a guy you can trust.

The ability to focus and listen and think and exchange thoughts about one topic for an extended period of time is rapidly becoming a lost art, as Digital Slaves overrun the nation, passing themselves off as busy -- not to be confused with professional or productive.  The Wristwatch Man stands quietly to the side, taking time to listen, observe, analyze and respond with surgical precision and lethal accuracy.  Solving problems through genuine thought instead of slapping on this week's hyped up miracle tech.

It's a busy, fast-paced world. And the Wristwatch Man is getting harder to find.  But he's easy to spot if you know how to look for him:  Ask him what time it is. 

If he doesn't pull out his cell phone, you've got the right guy.