Javier Dominguez, a design professional at Gould Design, Inc., posted a surprisingly thought-provoking blog message recently: Are You Living in Anomie?
My initial reaction: “What the heck is ‘anomie’ and how could this stuff have anything to do with marketing?
You probably will have the same reaction when you initially think about it, but I think, with some reflection, will begin to understand why the right match of personality, perceptions and values must underlie your business, and ultimately, your marketing strategies.
The Wikipedia definition of Anomie provides some hints:
Anomie is a “condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals”. It is the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the community e.g. if under unruly scenarios resulting in fragmentation of social identity and rejection of self-regulatory values. It was popularized by French sociologist Émile Durkheim in his influential book Suicide (1897). Durkheim never uses the term normlessness; rather, he describes anomie as “derangement”, and “an insatiable will”.
Dominguez provides a couple of examples of anomie in practice:
Scenario#1: A traffic light in a main intersection at rush hour fails. Suddenly, a lot of cars try to go through it at the same time, horns blaring, slow traffic, maybe even a couple of crashes. Insults are voiced, yelling goes louder. Tension mounts.
Scenario#2: Someone gets up early on Monday to go to work as an automatic reflex, then sighs because the long five days ahead before Friday comes. During office hours, this employee daydreams about all the things to do once it’s time to punch out, then goes by the week doing the minimum necessary to justify next paycheck.
The mismatch — or lack — of fundamental values creates tension, apathy, hopelessness, and in the most extreme situation, could lead to depression or suicide.
I certainly noticed these traits as a young adult, after returning from my African journalistic adventures to a well-paid, secure job as a federal government civil servant, responsible for writing news releases about “human resources planning” for the then-Department of Employment and Immigration. Wow, what a values clash. An inquisitive journalist with an entrepreneurial mind-set surely does not belong in a federal government bureaucracy. Ultimately, after several years I escaped to start my own business, and the rest is (personal) history.
But what about the business quality, its values, and our relationships with employees, contractors and — most importantly from a marketing perspective — clients? How well are we living with our values, are they clearly outlined, and do the employees and contractors share these basic values?
And what about your business — and those of your clients. Are you in the job to live paycheck to paycheck, or for a higher purpose — or just caught in the traffic jam without rules, orders, and the discretionary understandings to apply your values to your work?
One of the mantras in management consulting is to write and share the Mission/Vision (an inspiring one) and politics, because these create the initial map to guide the company but also must show that those involved are getting in contact with a growing project in time.
Now you know why we have those mission statements — but I’m not sure how many companies — ours included — have a strong enough core set of values/ethical standards to really transcend and overcome anomie. Personally, I think I can do much better as a leader here. What do you think?