Enlightened Conflict

the false comparison trap

May 30th, 2017

compare-iridescent-person-colorful-special

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“As with events, so it is with thoughts. When I watch that flowing river pours for a season its streams into me, I see that I am a pensioner; not a cause, but a surprised spectator of this ethereal water.”

 

—–

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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“The sphinx must solve her own riddle.

If the whole of history is in one man, it is all explained from individual experience.”

 

——

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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“Comparisons are a shit way of evaluating things.”

 

—-

Bruce McTague

 

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So.

 

life explained tat awkward moment birth deathWe LOVE using the past to try and explain shit. Past people, past events, past words and past … well … everything.

When we are faced with something new, or someone new, we immediately start sifting through the scrap heap of the past to start creating some semblance of a jig saw puzzle to explain what we are facing.

 

There are a number of problems with doing this.

 

The biggest is that scraps are scraps. Oh. And the scraps used to reside in a completely different context <which is impossible to recreate>.

 

And, yet, we continue to try.

The problem is that in doing so we elect to not judge the present on the merits of the present. We decline to judge a person as they are, the circumstances as they are and the decisions on the merits of what it is. We do this with everyone and everything … how money is spent, decisions we need to make, new people we have met and even leaders. We do it all partially well intended <we want to make sure we make a fair assessment of hat we are seeing & hearing> and partially because simply examining something and stating “this is good” or “this is bad” <or acceptable or unacceptable> seems … well … flimsy.

 

Comparisons tend to make things look more solid.  And, yet, we tend to absolutely suck at creating the proper comparisons.

 

And, that happens for a variety of reasons – also some well-intended and some not so well intended.

 

I will start with the well intended.

 

As Emerson once wrote: “our being is descending into us from know not whence.” And we struggle with that truth. It makes us uncomfortable … uhm … no … REALLY uncomfortable.

If we don’t know where things descend from then we begin to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find comparisons to do so. this all comes at the expense of judging what is, the beings and such, on the merits of what exists. And this is where the shit hits the fan. We either dip into our own memories or a slew of people start telling us what memories to take a look at <the latter is part of the not so well intended>.

 

Well.

 

Here is an unfortunate fact … our memories, which is how we tend to judge and create mental comparisons, are constructive and reconstructive

 

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“Many people believe that memory works like a recording device.

pico memory key thumb drive

…….. our memory chip ……..

You just record the information, then you call it up and play it back when you want to answer questions or identify images. But decades of work in psychology has shown that this just isn’t true.

Our memories are constructive.

They’re reconstructive.

Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page: You can go in there and change it, but so can other people. “

 

Elizabeth Loftus

 

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“You can ask the universe for all the signs you want, but ultimately, we see what we want to see when we’re ready to see it.”

 

——

(via 1112pm)

 

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We desperately want to define things through comparison and continuously ask the universe for signs to show us what we want.

 

We desperately do so because in the absence of some comparison we would then have to judge what is on the merits of what exists — the good, the bad and the indifferent .

 

That doesn’t mean a shitload of people around you aren’t gonna try and affect how you will build your comparisons and encourage you to compare in some fairly creative <sometimes absurd> ways.

 

What do I mean?

 

I go back to the psychologist Ebbinghaus who studied memory construction <his published essay Über das Gedächtness in 1885> where he realized that memory and recall of continuous passages of prose or verse would be affected differentially by people’s experiences and prior knowledge.

Memory is a snare, pure and simple; it alters, it subtly rearranges the past to fit the present.

 

Mario Vargas Llosa

 

 

What that actually means is that the memory you tap into to create the my-worst-enemy-is-my-memory-projectcomparisons you seek are slightly mangled by yourself <in how you remember it> and can be manipulated by devious not so well intended people around you.

 

The Constructive and reconstructive nature of memory:

 

  • Memories are distributed; not unitary

 

  • “remembering” involves retrieving and reassembling

 

  • memories can be revised over time

 

  • Reconstruction is filling in “missing details” on the basis of logic, assumptions, what “must have been the case”

 

  • More common reasons for forgetting: Lack appropriate retrieval cue = something you attach to a memory, can use to recover it>

 

  • Reliable retrieval cues are key to access <and multiple retrieval cues are best>

 

  • Existence of older memories blocks access to newer ones

 

Ah.

If only we could pull out our brain and use only our own eyes.

But, not surprisingly, this is the exact same issue new ideas, “white space” theories, fresh thinking, true <not made up> disruptive people & things face.

 

All tat said. I will point out that something doesn’t have to be truly new to face false comparison challenges … it can simply be a new person in an existing role or a common problem or question just in a different time.

 

Suffice it to say anything new, or any change, is being asked to be defined by the past. And there will never be a lack of people stepping up and suggesting they can define something through a variety of comparisons <many of which you spend more time trying to fend off than is worth the time>.

explain with rational mind

This is a mistake. This is a fundamental error we make. It assumes what is can somehow be extrapolated by something by what was <the past>. In reality, as I have noted numerous times, I cannot exactly extrapolate the past because I cannot exactly replicate the past … which means <in harsh terms> there is nothing there and nothing from nothing is … uhm … nothing.

Yeah.

Most comparisons end up meaning nothing <although they look like something>.

Yeah.

This means most comparisons we create are just plain and simple false comparisons.

 

Without trying to be flippant with regard to what I believe is a fairly standard operating procedure for people … we need to stop. Stop false comparisons.

It is a trap.

And a dangerous trap.

 

Comparisons normalize that which should not be normalized … just as comparisons can de-normalize that which should be normalized.

False comparisons wielded by the devious can construct almost any “normal” you could desire <even if it is hollow & not really normal>.

 

Anyway.

 

In today’s world there does seem like there is a lot of crazy shit happening. And in our desire to veer away from the “crazy shit” feeling we seek some comparisons to normalize the situation <thereby calming the ‘crazy shit feeling>.

 

Just a couple of notes of warning on that.

 

<a> Finding comparisons, if done well, you can actually be convinced there really isn’t crazy shit happening even though there is truly some crazy shit easter crazy kidshappening.

 

As a corollary to <a>,

 

<b> if there is truly some crazy shit happening there will be no shortage of people ponying up false comparisons trying to convince you that there is no crazy shit happening <and some of them will be quite effective>.

 

The only reason I point out the warning is that there really is some crazy shit happening and we need to stop finding comparisons to make today, and some people, look a little less crazy than it really is.

 

There you go.

 

I will end where I began … “Comparisons are a shit way of evaluating things <and people>.”

We should invest the energy judging what is, people, ideas and things, based on their present merits not some false comparisons from the past.

 

sometimes you just cannot make this shit up

May 17th, 2017

 

  cannot make this shit up life

 

Putin willing to give Congress records of Trump’s meeting with Lavrov

 

 

Ok.

 

In the category of “sometimes you just cannot make this shit up” … today the Russian president, who has ‘surprisingly’ <not so surprisingly> dismissed the claim that Trump disclosed classified information in a recent meeting with Russian diplomats/espionage agent, has offered to hand over records of an Oval Office meeting to Congress.

 

This is rich.

 

This would be comedy gold <assuming this wasn’t our presidency and our country>.

 

The idea that America would be able to gain transcripts of a meeting held in the White House oval office to clear up what actually happened from Russia is … well … absurd.

Not to mention the fact they could possibly even have transcripts <which assumes, I imagine, they would have taped the entire conversation> is … well … terrifying.

 

Personally, I think Putin is having fun at America’s expense <i.e., he is trolling us>.

 

Personally, I think why the hell would anyone in the US congress go to Russia to get a transcript and find out what ‘theoretically’ happened.

 

personally i am dead inside make this shit upPersonally, I think we would have officially entered into some alternative universe if a Russian transcript was necessary to “100% confirm” a Trump story.

 

Personally, I think the Russians haven’t stopped laughing since Trump won the election.

 

Personally, I think this entire situation is a tragic comedy.

 

Personally, sometimes you just cannot make this kind of shit up.

the miserable moment when you do not know who to trust

May 16th, 2017

the nature of compromise miserable

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“I never knew it was possible to be so miserable in so many ways.”

 

Amie Kaufman

 

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Well.

 

Trump shares classified information in a moment of braggadocio <does anyone really believe he would do so ‘strategically’? — no>.

 

That is the thought … and the moment … which we are all faced with today <again it seems>.

 

trump-and-calvin

……… young Trump ………..

We are faced with a headline which, anonymous sources or not, on the face of it is believable.

No one … not even the ones with their heads so far up Trump’s ass they can only see darkness … can say it doesn’t have a hint of believability given everything we know about the man.

 

He said something while boasting. He was just being the non-thinking loudmouth we have watched for decades.

 

Well.

 

This is when the birds come home to roost for all the despicable ‘fake news’ and ‘alterative facts’ and all the other lying bullshit.

 

This is the moment we wanted to have someone from the White House step up to the plate and say, unequivocally with no word parsing, “not true” and we would all breathe a sigh of relief and say “whew, okay.”

 

But we are past that point.

We are now at the miserable moment when you do not know who to trust.

 

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“He doesn’t really know any boundaries. He doesn’t think in those terms.

He doesn’t sometimes realize the implications of what he’s saying. I don’t think it was his intention in any way to share any classified information. He wouldn’t want to do that.”

 

Anonymous White House Advisor

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trust is like paperYou want to trust the journalists … and, yet, you don’t really want to <because if they are we have more proof our President is an incompetent asshat>.

 

You want to trust the only people left in the administration who actually seem trustable <Tillerson, McMaster> … and, yet, their words ring a little hollow.

 

You want to trust the president because … well … he is the president … and, yet, that train has already left the station.

 

To be clear … what Tillerson and McMaster said in defense of Donald J Trump are not quite lies. They are just incredibly well parsed words expressing either truths which are not really the issue at hand or half truths about what the real issue is <but it does not really matter because within 12 hours Donald J Trump just partially undermined what they said anyway>.

 

To be clear … what the Washington Post wrote is most likely quite truthful. They offer incredibly parsed words expressing thoughts run through a paranoid filter that “we better not be wrong.”

 

<note: Does that mean Washington Post never gets things wrong? No. But a story this big this means an editor is going to be extremely careful before running it. I would suggest the reason to trust the Washington Post, and other major journalists at other papers, here is twofold <1> they have high journalistic standards that lead them to being accurate much more so than other media options and <2> they know if there is something wrong in their reporting, other reputable news sources will be all over their shit in a second>

 

But, to be clear … what I may think doesn’t really matter … because echoing across America today is a basic feeling of “yikes, this sounds bad, but I do not know who to trust.”

 

That is what Trump hath wrought.

 

Some very good people <Tillerson, McMaster, maybe even Spicer, some prominent politicians, etc.> have had their reputations tainted by the Trump slime – enough that people of seemingly good character are being doubted.

 

We have reached a point, a point which the current Presidency is desperate to offer some honesty & truth to slow down the downward spiral … a downward spiral in which we realize that not one of us can assume that any one of them is going to say some simple truth.

 

The only truth we know is that once having manipulated the truth, once having misrepresented the truth, once misdirecting us from the truth … that person is most likely to do it again.

You need not lie as colorfully and openly as the President to be seen as someone not to be trusted. His depth & breadth of lying offers little room for his associates to do the typical word parsing they may be accustomed to.

 

Journalists have realized this dilemma and the real journalists are rising to the occasion seeking to limit parsing and innuendo and offering as much starkness as possible <that is a path to success>.

 

I could argue that we are having a crisis of character but at the moment I woke up today realizing we are in the miserable moment when you do not know who i am too sad to walkto trust.

 

I have spent months telling everyone Trump is not competent to be president, I question his competence as a business leader in general … and that good CEO’s do not act this way.

 

But today? Today I can only sigh … and think about what a sad world to live in where when you trust no one you end up believing everything & nothing at exactly the same time.

 

This is a sad time for the United States of America.

 

Bad.

 

the ports have names for the sea

April 28th, 2017

hand-ocean-birds

 

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“And the ports have names for the sea.”

 

 

William Auden

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Well.

 

I could quite easily argue that the most fundamental thing necessary to be successful in Life and in business is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s walk in my shoes see my view morality shoes.

In other words … the ability to see what they see, think what they think and understand why they do what they do.

If you have that ability … or maybe it’s a skill … it fosters understanding, ability to compromise, enables at least the possibility to shift thinking and … well … it actually encourages you to rethink some things and maybe unlearn some learnings.

 

I do sometimes look at what is happening in the world and how we seem to have stopped listening and I think of Auden’s line from a poem he wrote about Iceland. I think about it and sometimes believe we are all out at sea floating amongst tides, waves and storms <rarely calm> looking at the ports with names. And, yet, we can never envision that the ports may look out at us and not only view us differently … but also the seas upon which we float.

 

By maintaining our personal view we do not listen, therefore we do not debate <we only lecture> and we certainly never compromise or find some common ground. Instead we all bob around the vast ocean just trying to keep our own head above water and yell at each other for stupidly bobbing around in the water the wrong way <or not the way we are>.

No wonder the ports have a different name for the seas then we do. We call them Black, Caspian, Mediterranean, Baltic, Caribbean , etc.. Ports most likely look out and … well …”a place upon which fools who do not listen to each other float” is what I guess they would name it.

 

I word it that way because … well … it seems like sometimes we forget that we are all trying to figure out a way of keeping our heads above water.

 

Now.

I imagine the reasons why we forget all the commonalities and why we ignore what each other truly has to say is not simple, nor just one thing, but rather a thousand reasons scattered around like quarters on the floor just waiting for someone to ick up. I would bet I have sloppily discussed many of these reasons on enlightened conflict.

 

But I can truly only think of one thing that trumps all the thousand reason to not do what we should be doing – moral imperative.

That may sound high too falutin’ for somethings as simple as ‘listening to each other and discussing’ but truly it is a moral imperative that we try and solve this.

 

We are better as people if we hear an Ann Coulter and Bernie Sanders debating, in a civil fashion, what they believe and why.

 

We are better as people if we hear a Wilbur Ross and Robert Reich debating , in a civil fashion, what they believe and why.

 

We are better as people when the most liberal of institutions open their ears and eyes to the most conservative of believers and listen … really listen … and discuss and say do not conversationsdebate … and realize that most often our differences reside in tactics, possibly in some strategies, but rarely in objectives.

We are even better when common everyday schmucks, like you and I, sit down and listen and discuss and debate <kind of like Heineken just suggested in a fabulous video message they produced>.

 

I believe this can happen if we embrace the moral imperative as people.

Ah.

But there is that ‘moral’ word I keep tossing into this mix.

 

What a divisive word for a word which should be a unitor.

 

Beyond the entire civil discourse and listening and finding common ground discussion it seems to me that a shitload of us are actually embracing what I believe is called ‘moral condescension.’ It’s not that we are just condescending with each other about views, opinions and beliefs … but all of that crap is grounded on an underlying sense of moral condescension <’not only do you have the wrong belief & attitude but you do that because you are not a morally strong as I am’>.

 

Not only is condescension of any type irritating but moral condescension ratchets up irritating to … well … an incredibly irritating level.

 

For the most part most people don’t really have to deal with it because most of us either keep our moral ‘high horse’ in our pocket or share it with friends and acquaintances of like mind.

And most other people know our views and just avoid us if they disagree.

What that means is <a> there is a significant lack of any discourse and <b> when there is we fairly quickly move into our ‘moral condescension mode’ which … well … irritates the other person/people.

 

I do ponder why we hate moral condescension so much. I mean condescension in general is irritating but with morals and morality it just has a tendency to more condescending moralitybring forth a little anger.

 

I would offer to everyone that maybe it suggests we should feel some guilt for some indulgence in the vagaries of life. It suggests that maybe we feel too much … well … about ‘muchness’ without truly examining the barebones of shit without all the muchness attached.

 

The truth is that, for the most part, if you strip away the condescension it only suggests some examination of what we focus on and what we do not focus on … who we possibly deprive something of in what we may truly subconsciously be indulging upon as something ‘we earned’  <this idea, to me, is at the nucleus of the condescension>.

 

Uhm.

You do not earn indulgence.

You earn money & respect <as well as some other nice and not so nice characteristics I imagine>.

 

I say that because regardless of whether you are the moral condescension giver or the moral condescension receiver you should be stepping back and stripping away the indulgence aspects <simplistically … I earned that huge SUV and deserve it … even though some people cannot even afford taking a bus> and try viewing all moral decisions and people’s views in the most stripped down version.

 

I say that because naked we kind of all have the same problems and issues in a harsh world — it is just a matter of degree in most cases.

 

I say that because we kind of have a moral obligation to the fellowship of all humankind and ‘fairness’ <whoever you would like to define that> for all.

 

Look.

 

I fully understand as we bob around in the sea of survival <and self beliefs> we cannot have moral obligations to everyone around the world. It kind of seems to make more sense to understand we actually only truly have moral obligations against the people we come up against. T

he ones who metaphorically enter into our moral space.

 

This suggests a concept of proximity or that proximity matter in morality.

 

Uhm.

Well, yes and no.

 

First … the closest proximity is yourself – you can control your own actions and what you think, do and say.

 

Second proximity then would be the ones closest to us – physically or mentally.

horton hears a who speak out morality

Third proximity would actually be ‘the world.’ And what I mean by that is you have a choice to be vocal with regard to what you see as right or wrong. It’s kind of like the moral version of the butterfly affect. If enough voices are raised even Horton will hear the Whos in Whovile.

 

I say that because distance diminishes the affect your own moral obligation can have a real impact.

 

But maybe what that proximity idea I just shared with you means is that we have some moral obligation to intersect, with ideas, and listen and discuss with those who our space interconnects with.

 

Here is what I know for sure.

 

We do not listen to each other enough these days. And we certainly do not discuss things with an eye toward commonalities anymore. Our differences seem incontrovertible and our civility has diminished to such a point we don’t even attempt to engage in discussion because of such certainty of lack of civility we do not even believe it is worth the attempt.

 

That is a shame. And in Bruce terms … “it is bad.’ The lack of any attempt is, at Find your voice listen speak moralityits worst, ignoring a moral imperative for the greater good.

 

We would all do better if we recognized that ‘the ports have names for the seas’ … and they may be different names than the ones we have given the seas.

 

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Historical note about the line I opened this piece up with … and a thought that sometimes mistakes can lead to a different way of looking at things and thinking about things … and … well … in the end — doing something different than you planed.

 

W.H. Auden describes somewhere how he had written a line, in a poem about Iceland.

 

and the poets have names for the sea

 

and the printer set it up in galley as …

 

and the ports have names for the sea.

 

Auden left it liking the line better. A happy accident.

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How do you solve a problem when one half absolutely hates the other half?

February 10th, 2017

Polar Opposites conflict

 

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I want people to think about our politics here in America, because I’m telling you guys that I don’t know of a single nation in this history of the world that’s been able to solve its problems when half the people in the country absolutely hate the other half of the people in that country.

This is the most important country in the world, and people in this body cannot function if people are offending one another.

Marco Rubio

 

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Well.

 

Polarization can create some pretty foul conduct.

 

Polarization can bring out the worst in people.

 

Polarization can create stillness within turmoil when movement within teamwork is needed <and desired>.

And.

 

Polarization within leadership is a virus that infects everyone in the organization … not just in leadership.

marco rubio speech on respectful conflict

I was reminded of this as I watched a completely underreported and under the radar speech Marco Rubio gave on the senate floor after <I believe> Elizabeth Warren had been asked to stop speaking.

Warren gained all the headlines where Rubio actually had the words we should have all been listening to. It is maybe 8 minutes long and worth every second.

 

 

Please note that I believe this message is more important than just one directed toward the Senate … it is a message which all Americans should take note of.

We are fortunate to have the privilege of freedom of speech & thought and we should embrace that freedom as one to permit healthy discussion, debate and disagreements … all of which should enable healthy, positive decisions.

 

Freedom is a tricky thing. In the United States of America we have the unique opportunity to “criticize a president without retribution.” <as past President Obama said to a group of military people at MacDill Air Force base>.

 

But our freedoms are being challenge by Trump and his attitudes & behaviors in ways we haven’t really seen in a very very long time.

 

The Trump Affect ripples way beyond simple executive orders and specific friends unfluencers ripples2actions that will have an impact on the people of the country. The more dangerous ripple effect is one of attitudes & behaviors.

Within this dangerous Trump affect ripple,  the freedom to freely criticize is a little less secure … and the way we criticize, debate & discuss in the Trump era appears to be one of not listening, not respecting and not believing that there could possibly be a way to do something differently than the way “I believe.”

 

Trump and his merry little band of morally corrupt liars suggest that there is no middle ground for “ladies & gentlemen to disagree with ladies & gentlemen” <note: this is a rip off of the Ritz Carlton motto>.

 

The Trump Affect has trickled down into his direct organization … the congress.

 

And within that ripple Republicans either embrace the bully opportunity or simply privately watch in horror as leadership decorum and leadership example <which, by the way, IS important as impressionable children and adult seeking cues on how to be leaders watch closely>.

And within that ripple Democrats screech & gnash their teeth in impotent frustration over not only having no power to shift the tides of change but also because, in their heart of hearts, they know this is not the way business should be conducted.

 

Balance has disappeared.

compromise balancing actWhile people can bitch & moan that decorum, in the past, has only encouraged stagnancy & lack of action they should not confuse with what business is conducted and how business is conducted.

Just as I am more accepting of my high school football coach if we have a losing season but the players play with respect & dignity and go to class and show signs of growing up with a healthy personal responsibility … I am less accepting of the coach who permits poor behavior & lack of respectful competition even if they win more.

You can have all the good in this case. But balance has been lost.

 

In fact.

 

We should face the fact that balance deserted us the day Trump stepped onto his golden Trump Tower escalator last year to announce his candidacy.

 

And that is why Rubio’s speech is so important. Without actually saying it he suggests that we shouldn’t let Trump drag us down into some dysfunctional squabbling amorphous blob of indignant jerks.

 

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“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do.

Both are nonsense.

You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

 

———-

Rick Warren

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I like conflict and I think conflict is healthy.

creative spark light bulb

It is a basic Life truth that conflict is the positive friction that often creates innovations and new thinking and new ideas.

But, as with most things in life, there are degrees of conflict.

 

The kind of conflict we need now, more than ever, is the productive type.

 

We need to better embrace the valuable contradictions in life.

Things like:

 

Smart and funny.

Silent but says a lot.

Liberal conservative.

Cynical optimist.

 

Oh.

 

And enlightened and conflict of course.

 

We need to better embrace the fact that contradictions are powerful.

They create a chemistry ending in positive friction <when done right> and the fire for innovative thinking and thoughts.

 

In general I believe contradiction not only make life & people interesting but they also forge the kind of decisions that become the iron construct for a solid culture, civilization and country.

 

We need to embrace that conflict is part of life and not treat it as only a negative thing.

 

void embrace the unknownHumans are neither passive nor stagnant. We move. We do. We think.

 

Combine that fact with individuals are unique <although they may group together> and inevitably there is some conflict. It can simply be healthy competition or it can be staggeringly evil intended activity <i.e. there will be conflict because your point of view and thoughts shouldn’t exist and I am going to extinguish them>.

 

We need to embrace the fact that conflict can be “managed”.

Maybe call it competitive camaraderie. I call it enlightened conflict. I believe if people know more about stuff <I don’t really believe it needs a technical term> then conflict will be conducted with knowledge.

 

I would suggest that ignorance, and being close minded, guides conflict toward evil interactions … while knowledge guides conflict to responsible interactions.

 

Lastly.

 

We need to embrace that enlightened conflict is really some version of pluralism.

A pluralism in that it encourages, and embraces, freedom to learn and freedom to think different thoughts.

 

In the end I imagine what I really care about are people’s actions. They can remain mute as far as I am concerned as long as their actions respect others opinions and others lives and meets global responsibilities.

 

Look.

 

enlightened conflict ideasIt is silly to think that conflict doesn’t exist as part of our natural behavior <I apologize to all the “why can’t we all get along” groups>.

 

It is silly to think that friction between beliefs and causes is not the spark for something better.

 

It is silly to think conflict and friction is not good.

Good conflict leads to positive friction and ideation and evolution of ideas.

 

But it needs to be conducted with respect. Respectful disagreements & debate lead to two things:

 

  • Positive friction.

 

  • Enlightened conflict.

 

 

The first is based on curiosity plus friction equals better ideas and thinking.

The second is lack of ignorance plus conflict equals respectful competition.

 

We here in the United States have an incredible privilege … a freedom to say what we want and disagree and criticize whomever we want. We shouldn’t abuse that privilege by not understanding that it creates good conflict which enlightened conflict thinkenables ‘gooder’ ideas.

 

Marco Rubio did something in his speech which I endorse wholeheartedly … he tried to make an impact on his own little corner of the world … encouraging positive friction for enlightened conflict.

 

 

Marco Rubio had a stellar enlightened conflict moment … and more people should see it and listen.

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“Enlighten the people, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

Thomas Jefferson

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budget shopping and shoppers

December 22nd, 2016

 want need value

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“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.”

 

Erma Bombeck

 

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“I knew there was evil in the world.

Death and taxes were all necessary evils.

So was shopping.”

 

Lisa Shearin

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“Explain the value and justify the cost – People don’t mind paying; they just don’t like to overpay.”

 

Chris Murray

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So.

 

This is about budget shopping. Not lowest prices … but budget shopping … as in ‘watching how much you spend when you shop’ type shopping.

 

......... prices & budgets .......

……… prices & budgets …….

Budget shopping – dollar stores, deal shopping, excessive coupon cutting – hit its stride during the recession. While it always played a role in everyday shopping it went main stream during that time … well … because people were forced to change their budget shopping behavior.

 

And back during the worst of the worst periods of the recession there was not only real business to be had in the discount & budget retail world … but gobs of people started offering futuristic pondering with regard to what it would mean long term to the world of shopping after the recession.

 

Shit.

Even I wrote about it.

 

At the time I disagreed with many of the pundits who claimed “the shopping world will never be the same and that the forced budgeting behavior by people will change how people shop in terms of buying cheaper & less expensive <two different things> moving forward.”

 

And I was partially right and partially wrong.

 

As is I stated back in 2010 when discussing the have and the have nots that there was a huge swath of America who were not really affected. Let’s say maybe 50%. Yeah. I just typed 50%. While we talk about all the wealth going to the top 1% <which is true> the majority of the country faced little true impact from the recession. Most of the impact on them was worry … not real financial stress.

And then there were the 45% ‘have nots.’ They got screwed. And they are still getting screwed.

 

But, in general, unless you got financially screwed … and stayed financially screwed … i believed most people would get out of the ‘buy cheaper mode’ as quickly as tit was financially viable to do so <as in … return to their past behavior>. Suffice it to say … there were a bunch of psychological reasons I stated as rationale which I will not bore you with today.

 

This changed the way many households shopped for shit … in today’s world the “buzzword” of the day is shopper behavior. 

 

With that in mind let me discuss “aspects of consumer behavior” for a minute.

And by ‘aspects’ I simply mean the differences between consumer attitudes … and actual shopper behavior.

 

What I mean by this is that managing what a person thinks <that’s the attitude if-do-stimulus-responseside of the equation> and what a person actually does in store <this is the shopping, behavior, side of the equation> can be significantly different. In fact … it usually IS significantly different.

 

In recognizing this, if you care about behavior management, you actually get one step closer to understanding how to create shopper satisfaction <and loyalty … the holy grail> if you are actually selling shit.

 

To be clear … if there is misalignment between the thinking <perceptions & attitudes> and the actual doing/shopping outcome, ultimately, there is going to be shopper friction.

For example … if I perceive I am getting a great bargain by going to some store and then consistently find out it wasn’t a great deal … that creates some mental friction.

 

By the way … shopper friction is not good.

 

That said I will use budget grocery shoppers, and some research, as a case in point with regard to shopper friction <or frustration> almost every single shopping-cart-iconsbudget shopper encounters. .

 

The obvious beginning point: the budget grocery shopper attitudes are focused on value and maximizing their budget <and maximizing their shop visit/experience>.

 

But.

 

In reality … as shoppers … their behavior shows they actually don’t save money in store.

 

Uh oh.

 

Misalignment.

 

Friction.

 

It starts innocently.

 

Attitudinally, the fact is that budget shoppers try really hard to save money. In fact, they often go to some fairly absurd lengths as they try harder than ever.

 

Attitudinally, they emotionally care about shopping more than ever <so there is a functional and emotional aspect to the consumer before they even enter the store to shop>.

 

But the unfortunate truth about their trying?

 

Research, facts , show they actually don’t save money and in many cases are doing worse shopping than f they didn’t try so hard <note: there are functional and emotional repercussions to this also>.

 

I say this because grocery stores need to pay attention and understand the budget shopper situation <and frustration>.

 

First … because there are a lot of budget shoppers out there.

 

Second … because many budget shoppers get frustrated when they don’t save money <and wanted to>.frustrated image

 

And these frustrated shoppers translate into a ‘less money spent’ shop event … as well as an underlying dissatisfaction with the store.

All this despite the fact the store may have done everything right – clean store, wide aisles, incredibly low prices, etc.

 

Now.

 

Let’s be careful when we discuss budget shoppers.

 

Not all budget shoppers are truly low income, albeit, it is a fact is that about one in seven American households’ lives in poverty.

 

Another one in six can afford only basic necessities, such as housing, food, and health care.

 

And almost 6 in 10 say they have had to make significant life changes because of the recession <although ‘significant’ is a broad term>.

 

This all becomes even more important when we discuss the psychological aspects of this attitude/behavior scenario because this means for many people we are talking living ‘basics’ now. And when we do that … well … we are moving into what Maslow calls “basic biological & psychological needs.”

And that Maslow psychological profile is possibly even more important a distinction than the true functional “spending within budget” aspect because any shopping frustration is exacerbated by the emotional feeling it is affecting the person’s basic biological needs.

 

<note: that is bad for a store when that happens>

 

Regardless.

 

These economics facts suggest that, at minimum, nearly one in three U.S. households pretty much carefully plan its budgets and spend accordingly.

 

i dont care stuck inHere is the next problem.

 

Budget allocation and spending behavior models often implicitly assume that shoppers with budgets are knowledgeable about the total price of their shopping baskets as they shop. However, because in store shopping behavior actually reflects estimating of the prices of their shopping baskets it mitigates the relationship between budget allocation and actual in-store spending.

 

Uhm.

 

What I just said, in plain English, is that most of us suck at estimating the total cost as we place individual items in our basket by the time we check out we are over budget <and no one puts shit back once in a checkout>.

 

So let me try how to explain how the average shopper estimates their total basket price because inaccurate estimating has implications on:

 

  • Real consumer welfare: the shopper is maximizing neither time nor budget <suggesting the consumer is not meeting basic Maslow hierarchy need>.

 

 

  • Consumer perceptions: the consumer perception afterwards is twofold:

 

(1) somehow I wasn’t smart enough to maximize my budget <or> I wasn’t smart enough to implement the budget plan I had in place <therefore attacking self esteem/self actualization>, and

 

(2) the store made me look & feel stupid <consumer & shopper dissatisfaction>

 

 

  • Retail performance: the store didn’t maximize the transaction opportunity

 

A study was conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology to uncover understanding how shoppers on predetermined budgets might estimate the total price of their shopping baskets and whether, when, and how they keep track of in-store spending. The study had three objectives:

 

–              to determine whether and when budget shoppers keep track of how much they spend while shopping

 

–              to understand how they estimate the total price of their shopping baskets

 

–              to examine the implications of estimation biases for consumer welfare and retail performance.

 

Methodology:

The research was conducted in the context of grocery shopping, for which people shop multiple times per month and often spend 15%–20% of their income on ten or more items per trip.

 

The research, a field study and two laboratory studies, concluded four key generalizations about budget shoppers in grocery stores:occams razor question

 

  1. They predominantly use mental computation strategies to track their in-store spending

 

  1. They adapt their mental computation strategy to the dominant range of price endings of items in their shopping baskets

 

 

  1. Those who try to calculate the exact total price of their basket are less accurate than those who estimate the approximate price

 

  1. Motivated shoppers are less accurate than less motivated shoppers <because they tend to calculate instead of estimate the total basket price>.

 

The key fact grocery retailers need to understand is that budget shoppers are failing at what they are setting out to do.

 

Yeah.

 

Let me say that again.

 

Most shoppers setting out with a motivated intent and attitude to save money and shop on a budget … do not do so. They are failing at what they are setting out to do.

 

This failure creates a domino effect of dissatisfaction <personal as well as some blame on the retailer>.

 

The next conclusion from the research to note is that shoppers who decisions eisenhower more knowledge less consequences teaffectsoverestimate the total basket price most likely spend less than they budgeted for––that is, they do not maximize their own utility under the budget constraint.

 

Furthermore, they might reallocate the “saved” money to a different <mental> account, which could entail a financial loss for the retailer.

 

Next.

 

The study noted that the shoppers who underestimate estimated calculations, i.e., those who underestimate the total basket price, are more likely to spend more than their grocery budget.

 

This means they unintentionally reallocate more money to the “grocery budget account.” This reallocation in turn may trigger a chain of budget and spending decisions that could cause shoppers significant financial distress.

 

Importantly is that a second field study demonstrated that shoppers who underestimate the total price of their basket are more likely to overspend, leading to negative store satisfaction.

 

Where to go from here?
The easiest thought for Grocery Retailers is to begin educating shoppers about computational estimation strategies which may enable them to become more informed shoppers. In other words … turn wild guesses into more educated ones.

 

More difficult, but the path with the highest ultimate return, is to not just educate but actually facilitate an estimation strategy in store almost to the point of “calculation” rather than “estimation.”

 

There are some clear benefits of exploring an answer to all these shopper issues:

 

Consumer Welfare: Real consumer welfare should improve, because shoppers can maximize their utility given their budget while minimizing the likelihood of spending more than they can afford.  This is true functional value to a shopper.

 

Consumer Perception: This is where functional and psychological meet on several levels <and Maslow hierarchy plays a role in what is important>:

 

  1. A budget consumer attitudinally has had his or her behavior match expectations. Attitude and actual behavior is aligned.

 

  1. With alignment the shopper feels smarter translating into a higher self esteem <because they have “self actualized” a perception>

 

 

  1. Consumer self actualization is typically shared with the shopping environment, i.e., I find higher value in the experience because they were able to deliver upon what I desired attitudinally.

shopping-red-cart

In the end.

 

If you work on a solution … if you align the shopping perceptions to match the shopping reality there is a heightened sense of satisfaction.

 

This would suggest that if someone could actually do it and someone wanted to do it … an every second lowest price store could be quite successful. Yeah. A store with every second lowest prices <which is just a funny way to say lowest price store>.

 

And, no, WalMart is not that.

 

Why the idea I just shared and not everyday low price? Well. if you think about it, it seems crazy that stores have every day low price claims.

 

Does that mean you have to worry that every day prices change?

 

Or does it mean that on average during the day if you are really lucky you can find the lowest prices?

And, frankly, you don’t shop every day.

 

Someone shops in the minutes you have in your hectic day.

So if someone could offer lowest prices every minute you decide to come into a store … well … it becomes the simplest way to save money on the stuff you like and buy every week. It’s the smartest way to shop.

 

Anyway.

psychology of risk shopping stuff

Shopper behavior analysis is not anything new. We looked at it in the 80’s when I was at JWT.

We just called it ‘the consumer buying system’ and analyzed all aspects of perceptions, attitudes and shopping behavior. I have even seen a JWT in-house advertisement from the 1930’s that basically outlined managing consumer attitudes and matching them with in store shopping behavior. I say all of that not to suggest studying shopping behavior isn’t important.  In fact I say it to suggest it is.  People have been studying it for years and shouldn’t ignore it if they are in the marketing business.

 

And it is maybe even more important these days as stores think about how to satisfy the budget shopper as well as the budget shopper inside almost every shopper that walks through their door.

 

The retail business is multi faceted.  It is about understanding what people think and what motivates them outside of the store as well as what they think and motivates them once they are inside the store.

 

Here is what I know about managing a shopper experience and budget shopping. Ignore the ‘attitude to outcome’ alignment at your own peril.

Enlightened Conflict