Vision, MicrotrendingMay 18, 2010 Leave a comment
A couple of weeks ago, during a training with early childhood advocates from around Connecticut, an interesting conversation ensued about vision. This was prompted by one participant’s comment that in this day and age, “There is no such thing as vision. There is no such thing as magic or miracles. People are cynical. People just don’t respond to vision anymore.” There was some immediate push back to this comment, and also some acknowledgment that vision may not be what it used to be, thinking of the old standards a la MLK and JFK.
In the opening of our workshop (focused on collaborative leadership), Melinda offered our refrain that in this post-Cold War, post-Civil Rights, post-9/11, social mediatized, economically recessed and (climate) changing world, the very concept of leadership is very much up for grabs. Clearly big questions exist around the old command-and-control and heroic models as we understand that reality is often much too complex to bend to the whims or wants of any individual. As such, conceptions we had of vision associated with these leadership models is up for some scrutiny as well. Which is not to say that vision, or leadership for that matter, is dead.
If we were to believe the likes of Mark Penn, author of Microtrends, we might see that “small is the new big.” Penn says that with the power of individual choice reaching new heights, there really are no big trends out there. More sophisticated citizens and consumers, armed with a host of Web 2.0 tools, expect that the world will fine tune itself to their individualistic needs and respond to their unique self-expression. “We don’t have to join the herd to be heard,” says Penn. All we need to do is find the right channel for our passion and connect with that relatively small group of 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 people through Facebook or Twitter and, voila, we have ourselves a customized (micro)movement. This may be good news for democracy and those who never thought of themselves as visionaries or movement builders.
On the other hand, the growing number of microtrends and visions may point to a challenge that exists in uniting these smaller movements into something larger and perhaps more meaningful. Beyond the threat of further polarizing existing political extremes (a topic addressed recently by David Brooks in his NYT column), do we now stand to create too much distinction between those who are essentially on the same team? When we split ourselves into groups pursuing visions of green buildings on the one hand and healthy buildings on the other, do we end up creating more work for ourselves in the end? Does the microtrending of vision risk serving the individual at the expense of the collective?