retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo


About a decade ago, when fad diets were sweeping the country a good friend and I were watching the strange way people ate at an industry meeting when suddenly he was inspired with a great philosophy. I didn’t write it down, but basically it was this: Everything in moderation, including moderation!

It always stuck with me as sheer genius. Because so much of life does go better with moderation, but without going overboard in a couple of places, without some personal passions life gets boring. I’m betting most of us have more than a few spots in our lives where moderation is regularly ignored. Remember I say this as a devoted baseball fan who grew up in the shadow of the most successful team in history (the Yankees) and has always passionately rooted for the other team in town.

So why does that matter this week? In essence it’s a long way around to an apology. Last week I wrote something that was not only wrong, it was the exact opposite of what I like to think is the key point in one of my regular speeches. Allow me to explain.

The issue came in my Friday column about how mindless some of us are getting when it comes to use technology and I think it was an important point. Yet at the end of the column, I suddenly pivoted and tossed all the blame for over-reliance on technology at Generation Y. For no good reason, I singled out this group as lacking people skills. So here’s the philosophical issue.

Living as I do now in the Washington, DC, area, it’s pretty apparent that most of the “leaders” around here seem to operate by the philosophy that they are never wrong and if they are wrong, they don’t admit it. I’m breaking with them here and now. What I wrote about Generation Y was wrong.

Because if I actually listened to my own speeches, what I hope I’m saying is that Generation Y as a group is different thanks to different skills and different experiences. They are no worse or better than other generations and we need to understand this as we hire and train them. But in truth, that’s wrong too because there is no prototypical Generation Yer just as there is no prototypical baby boomer. What’s more, there are no prototypical shoppers or shopping mood. That’s why the business of managing or selling is so complicated.

Yet I’m not writing this solely as an apology, but rather as an object lesson. I erred because I mistakenly drifted into a generalization, which is never a good thing in marketing, management or any other area of leadership. We succeed in understanding and managing differences, not bland generalities.

So for today I have a new philosophy: in general, no generalizations. Then again, my other new philosophy is: listen more than you talk and don’t be afraid to admit you’re wrong and make a change. Give me a few hours and I may have a couple more.

Lucky for me, I again have an idol. Go to YouTube.com and search for Kristin Chenoweth singing “My New Philosophy” from the show You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. You’ll understand me way better. It may get you thinking about the importance of finding a new philosophy and being willing to change an old one.


Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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