Are people basically divided into two broad camps – the ‘fake it til you make it’ (the marketers & promoters) and the ‘keeping it real’ camp’?
‘Fake it til you make it’ is about projecting confidence, whether real or illusionary. It’s downside is arguably in making our social groups less cohesive and less real. ‘Fake it til you make it’ can be spectacularly successful – politicians, singers/rappers and A-list movie actors being examples of this. Ironically though, politicians campaign to solve real problems, rappers rap about their gritty own life struggle to success, whilst successful actors choose to star in movies that often have themes of real strength from overcoming adversity of some kind.
Some pioneering cultures have a phrase about ‘keeping it real’. Others talk about ‘keeping your feet firmly on the ground’ (unless you work for the weather service, the airlines, the navy, NASA or Virgin Galactic).The ‘keeping it real’ camp includes support groups, social workers, therapists, counsellors, teachers, coaches, trainers and assessors of all kinds. This camp arguably advocates that ‘struggling to succeed is simply walking the journey’ is what life is about and that being honest about this struggle helps us to build important bridges with fellow human beings. In the world of entertainment, reality shows are in theory about ‘keeping it real’, although programme directors inevitably choose hyping the truth over the reality, if if means improving the viewer ratings in a competitive industry.
What about in the field of design – which camp do designers fall into? Steve jobs said ‘Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.’ In product design, great and successful designers don’t tolerate fake. They are obsessed with building amazing, perfection and excellence. In contrast, fine artists can excell at illusion in their art, folling the viewer’s eye into almost believing the two dimensional is actually the three dimensional. Or that the World shown within their art reveals a far more beautiful perspective on the World outside. Musical artists and actors generally want to create real. It’s the marketing staff of their companies that want auto-tune, edit and airbrush.
Whichever of the two camps a person falls into, perhaps real performance is still the key goal and ambition the driving force. Oscar Wilde famously said ‘all of us are in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars.’ Life arguably isn’t about ‘suffer in silence’, ‘know your place’ and ‘mustn’t grumble’. It is about ‘be the best that you can be’, ‘dare to dream’, ‘give yourself a break’, ‘learn from your mistakes’, ‘recognise the perfect parent does not exist’, ‘respect yourself’ and ‘strength through adversity.’
Lastly, somewhere along the line, as we switched from selling the products of our labour to selling the services of ourselves, the ‘fake it til you make it’ mantra started to dominate, in business, in our romantic lives (as singles) and increasingly, everywhere else. How do we jolt ourselves out of that mantra?
In business, is the boundary between being an amateur and being a professional slowly blurring?
Product planning often rolls out a new product to the early-adopter market. This segment may include tech enthusiasts and fashion trend-setters, depending on the product on offer.
The early-adopter market might comprise both pros and amateurs – amateurs unconstrained by corporate budgets (including the ‘Maker’ revolution) and professionals seeking a competitive advantage, at least in the short term. Do product marketers make a distinction or lump them all into the ‘early adopter’ category?
In the luxury goods market, early adopters of the new luxury product release (a Rolls Royce car say), again might comprise passionate amateurs (wanting the luxury status in their amateur life) as well as wealthy business owners, wanting the luxury status in their professional life. Of course, the status spillover isn’t usually something they complain about either.
Switching gears (no pun intended), is there an important distinction to be made between wealthy philanthropists who give in their amateur life, versus those who arrange grants from their own business organisations?
As the product quality to cost ratio improves – cameras, music-recording systems, broadcasting, publishing, sports gear, (some) healthcare, tourism, labour-saving devices etc, does it get easier for passionate, talented amateurs to duplicate professional efforts?
Who does this matter to (the winners & losers)?
Governments whose population rely on a structured (licensed) professional labour force, strong in the above areas, might care about the changing economics of those industries, if they create unemployment and voter discontent.
The professional associations and guilds might care about the threat to their members’ livelihoods.
Educators will care about educating the workforce in the relevant skills to avoid those professional roles that are in decline.
Companies might care about capturing procurement savings as professionals rates are bid down. They will also be keen to sell to wider markets than just the business professionals alone.
Finally, is there a net cultural benefit? Professionals are incentivised to make a living first and expand/extend their art second. Amateurs the opposite. If the market blurs, will there be a faster development of the art?