Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

We are creating a culture of being “comfortably uncomfortable”.

It’s creeping up on us and it’s changing faster every day. It’s scary—and yet liberating. It is honest in the moment. It is typically unburdened by long-term thinking. And it’s setting a new standard for human interaction. 

Look at any of the most highly used and enjoyed digital platforms— Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, or SnapChat.  You’ll see a shameless embrace of our unpolished, unvarnished, and unedited selves. It doesn’t seem to matter how silly, vulnerable, or awkward we might feel. In many ways, an unfiltered digital image is a badge of courage. A symbol of our authenticity. And it is shared without regard for the cumulative effect—if there is one, given this new paradigm.

When I was a kid, I can remember my grandfather telling me to speak up only when I had something important to say—to make my words and thoughts count. He taught me to think hard about the way I was seen, to exercise tight control over the image I projected. If I had to guess, today’s marketing leaders grew up with similar lessons.

But those lessons are at odds with this new cultural shift, as people look not for what is perfectly crafted, but what is perfectly real. By today’s lights, spontaneity, authenticity, and vulnerability trump a mediated image.

Not surprisingly, today’s organizations and their marketing efforts (internal or external) are typically highly crafted and rarely spontaneous,  rarely authentic or vulnerable. There are some brand marketing efforts that have embraced the idea of “comfortably uncomfortable” and enjoyed success, like Domino’s Pizza and its Pizza Turnaround and Think Oven initiatives. Or Heineken’s Ideas Brewery, or even the great behemoth Walmart, with its Get on the Shelf contest. But clearly, this is a lesson and an approach that has still not taken root in business culture, despite the evidence of today’s reality.

For those of us that grew up with the type of lessons that my grandfather taught me, it’s hard to let go of the desire to control an image, whether our own or our brand’s. But the impact of this cultural shift will become even greater in the next decade as the youth that grew up in it look at their employers, their brand interactions and buying options through its lens. Getting an organization to be comfortably uncomfortable takes time – start now before you lose the next generation.

 


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