Why the best way to boost sales in a fast world is to slow down.
Even in the high-octane world of marketing, a judicious injection of SLOW goes a long way….
You’ve heard of Speed Networking. Now it’s time for the Slow version.
“Forget frantic acceleration. Mastering the clock of business is about choosing when to be fast + when to be slow” – The Economist (discovers the joys of GOOD SLOW)
Eye-opening piece from Sweden on the virtues (and challenges) of cutting working hours.
The other day a woman walked into a doctor’s surgery and issued a demand that summed up why the world is in such a mess.
“Look, I know I have a million things wrong with me, but I really don’t want a lecture,” she announced. “I just want a pill that will make it all go away.”
The doctor, an old friend of mine, waited for the woman to laugh at her own joke. But she didn’t. Because it wasn’t a joke.
Of course, her craving for a quick fix is nothing new. Two thousand years ago, Plutarch denounced the army of quacks peddling miracle cures to the citizens of Ancient Rome.
Today, however, the quick fix has become the default setting in every walk of life. Whenever a problem surfaces in business or politics, in science or society, in our health or relationships, we reach for the nearest just-add-water solution. And it’s taking a heavy toll.
Why? Because quick fixes seldom deliver on their seductive promise of maximum return for minimum effort. When it comes to the really hard problems in the world – turning around a failing company, combatting poverty, tackling disease, rebuilding a broken relationship – there are no shortcuts or instant remedies.
This is especially true when dealing with Mother Nature. Everywhere you look, quick fixes are failing to solve environmental problems – and often just making things worse.
One example: To clean up the oil spill caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010, BP pumped more than seven million liters of a dispersant called Corexit into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Such chemicals help make the oil less visible and prevent it reaching the shore.
A win-win fix, right? Wrong. Recent studies have shown that combining oil and Corexit yields a mixture that is up to 52 times more toxic than oil by itself. Which is seriously bad news for the marine life in the Gulf of Mexico.
The good news is there is now an alternative to our culture of the quick fix. It’s called, not surprisingly, the Slow Fix.
You may have heard of the Slow Movement, which challenges the canard that faster is always better. You don’t have to ditch your career, toss the iPhone or join a commune to take part. Living “Slow” just means doing everything at the right speed—quickly, slowly, or at whatever pace delivers the best results.
When it comes to solving problems, a speedy solution can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered. There are times when you have to channel MacGyver, reach for the duct tape and cobble together whatever fix works right now. The Heimlich manoeuvre saves many lives.
But for more complex problems, the best remedy is always a Slow Fix. That means taking the time to: admit and learn from mistakes; work out the root causes of the problem; sweat the small stuff; think long-term and join the dots to build holistic solutions; seek ideas from everywhere; work with others and share the credit; build up expertise while remaining skeptical of experts; think alone and together; tap emotions; enlist an inspiring leader; consult and even recruit those closest to the problem; turn the search for a fix into a game; have fun, follow hunches, adapt, use trial and error, and embrace uncertainty.
All these ingredients can be used to tackle problems afflicting the environment. Just imagine if BP had sweated the small stuff by testing Corexit more thoroughly for side effects.
Yet forging smarter solutions for environmental problems will never be enough on its own. Each win for Mother Nature must be anchored in a deeper, seismic shift that puts nurturing the planet’s ecology at the core of everything we do. Imagine a world where we did not feel compelled to run the risks that BP did hunting for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. In other words, we need a revolution in the way we live, work, travel, consume – and think.
Making that happen will be the biggest Slow Fix of all.
It will not be easy to achieve. In these times of economic hardship, many people are more worried about paying their bills than nurturing the environment. But there are reasons to be hopeful. A new generation is coming of age that sees the world through an environmental lens. Companies and governments are coming under increasing pressure from the public to act green. Last November, for the first time ever, China made “ecological progress” a pillar of its national development plan.
Putting the environment at the top of the agenda must go hand in hand with beating our addiction to the quick fix. In every walk of life, the time has come to resist the siren call of half-baked solutions and short-term palliatives, of band-aid cures and pills that “make it all go away,” and to start fixing things properly.
The time has come to learn the art of the Slow Fix.
A few months, ago, I was invited to join a think called the Future Prosperity Panel. It was convened in London by Aviva, a global financial services company. There were nine members (they called us “thinkers”) on the panel, all from different backgrounds. The aim was to reach beyond the traditional confines of the City and Wall Street to find fresh ideas for reshaping financial services for the future.
Each thinker wrote an essay putting forward a single idea. Mine was that we might be able to inspire people to save more if we make saving more like a game. Since I submitted the piece, the media has been full of stories of how “gamification” is working wonders in many fields of human activity. So perhaps I was on to something.
You can read a very abridged version of my essay on Page 3 of today’s Financial Times. An interview with me will be broadcast on Radio 4’s Today Programme very soon (depending on how the News of the World story plays out).
And for the full version of the essay plus a video interview and more background on the think tank, click here.
Jump into the debate and let me know what you think….
Remember that old Woody Allen joke? “I took a speed reading course. We read War and Peace. It’s about Russia.”
Sounds horribly familiar, doesn’t it? These days we skim through thousands of words a day at high speed. But how much of that ‘reading’ do we actually take in? Or enjoy?
The bottom line is that faster isn’t always better. You don’t gulp down a glass of fine wine. You don’t put Mozart on fast-forward. Sure, there are times when whizzing through a piece of text is the only option. Or maybe even the best option: I certainly don’t linger over the prose in the free newspaper on the Tube. But surely Tolstoy deserves a bit more of our attention.
That’s why the Slow Reading Movement is gaining ground.
The other day I spoke at a conference for the leading bloggers in Norway.
It was a little unnerving. Bloggers are a pretty fast bunch, so singing the praises of Slow to them felt like barbecuing a steak at a vegan retreat.
From the stage, I could see laptop screens glowing in the dark. An iPhone rang. Members of the audience tweeted my talk, their dispatches scrolling down a large screen behind me. In Norwegian.
Even so, the Slow message seemed to go down well. I was not booed, heckled or pelted with tomatoes. Okay, someone tweeted that I reminded him of Quentin Tarantino. But given the high geek content in the room, I’m going to take that as a compliment.
The surest sign that the Slow philosophy made sense to those Norwegian bloggers is that several of them will soon be blogging on Slow Planet.
But the conference left a mark on me, too. I lost my Twitter virginity there. I decided that the only way to balance all the tweets about me was to start tweeting back.
So what do I make of Twitter? It’s a question put to me a lot by journalists these days. My view is that, like all technology, Twitter is neither good nor bad. What matters is how we use it.
Twitter can be a fun, enriching and provocative way to air views and connect with people. It can even reshape the political landscape, as we’ve seen during the protests in Iran. Sometimes a heat-of-the-moment 140-character missive is just the ticket.
But I think Twitter is best enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. In other words, it should complement – rather than replace – other forms of communication.
The trouble is that it can be very tempting to do everything at the speed of a tweet. And I mean everything.
Two university students are now reducing some of the greatest works of English literature, such as James Joyce’s Ulysses, to 140-character tweets.
This strikes me as an amusing parlour game that might inspire some people to read the original books in their entirety. It might even add to our understanding of the English canon.
But it also plays into the cultural pressure to reduce all communication to high-speed sound bytes.
Already, research shows that millions of people are no longer bothering to update their blogs. Why? Because blogging is now too slow. It’s much easier (and quicker) to type a short update on Facebook or to fire of a tweet.
If the Slow revolution stands for anything, it stands for doing everything at the right speed. And that principle holds true for communication. There are times for a shoot-from-the-hip tweet, but there are also times for more reflective – or slower – forms of communication.
I’ll tweet from time to time when it feels right. But I’ll also continue writing blogs, emails, articles and even books.
If you want to follow my tweets, my username is carlhonore.