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The Big Leap: An Ethics of Insight, Volume I

Author(s): Thomas Kennon

Edition: 1

Copyright: 2022

Pages: 132

Details: Electronic Delivery EBOOK | 180 days |

In philosophy, an ethics suggests a system of values or as Brittanica says, an ethics “consists of the fundamental issues of practical decision making, and its major concerns include the nature of ultimate value and the standards by which human actions can be judged right or wrong.”

I’m not a fan of coding for right or wrong but I am interested in the difference between real and unreal when it comes to human insight in the milieu of value-making. The conceit of my overall thesis holds that a more transparently human standard for business behavior in the world is required, and that the superficial insights we’ve been briefing this behavior in the form of our marketing are no longer sufficient.

Fresh, deep insight done right is the product of rigorous research. The structure of this book aims to use a lookback through the blustering stabs of my so-called work life as a sort of retroactive research lab. The intention is to explore and explicate what we might see deep in the heart of human desire in the context of a particular culture of inhabitance. A life, even one stumbled through with the opportunistic aimlessness of mine, as research lab. A lab as practice framework, an ethics if you’ll allow, for discerning human insight in the world and suggesting what might be done with it in the service of human value creation.

The format then is essentially referential. Think of each chapter or essay as a dig site, shoveling down into a particular expression of human desire. I’ve surfaced cases as both ‘don’t posters’ and inspiration models for how the insight might be applied in briefing a more ethical business behavior in the world. If a new practice of insights whispering is required, consider this a fi rst take how-to guide for launching that journey.

Its telling may seem an absolute mess, an achronological collection of fragmented diagnostic moments towards surfacing insight. Th e upside of this random sampling is you can start anywhere and everywhere, pretty much like I did across the past fifty or so years. The trick, if I’ve learned anything, is to never settle for stopping, never assume you’ve truly gotten to the bottom of human desire. I invite you to imagine this work as an archaeology of insight, a work in progress towards always something deeper, something more frighteningly real hiding beneath the perceived level of human need – and strategies for using our craven businesses to finally start serving desire instead of stimulating or manipulating it.

Finally, who am I to presume a role in all this… I warn all the young insights whisperers just starting out on your relentless journey towards ever-deeper insight: don’t lend much credence to old poseurs like me. Err on the side of skeptical suspicion towards the advice, teachings, recommendations or guidances from people like me. People like parents, or teachers, self-styled gurus, priests and rabbis, cops and judges and – most importantly – venal bosses and business people. Nobody, certainly including - maybe especially - me, really knows what they’re talking about and nobody knows you like you know you. Or perhaps more accurately, like you will end up knowing yourself as you explore and expand your capacity for human insight and joyful praxis.

INTRODUCTION
The big leap vs. the end of the world as we know it; Empathy, humility and grace as the new value-making career and business journey; Connecting human ethics to social + business impacts; Becoming as the new business ontology; Better capitalism as the crucible for a new-businessing-as-new-marketing.

INSIGHT 1 – TOGETHER APART
How the revolution in social production, communications and connectedness establishes a new order for value-making in the world of humans --- and what emergent business models are doing to enable these environments instead of conquering markets, healing for alienation with open, horizontal networks of collaborative value-making between businesses and their extended stakeholders.

INSIGHT 2 – ADVERTISING IS DEATH
A leap is required to re-imagine the nature and role of marketing in driving the necessary business outcomes of customer acquisition and loyalty – and advertising is imminently ill-suited to this new brief; The old advertising insights of our brand and product marketing briefs must be replaced with fresh, deep and troublingly real insights into human desire.

INSIGHT 3 – SOCIAL IS A BANK
Leveraging the insights surfaced by early 20th century European ethnographers (Mauss, Boas, Bataille, Malinowski et al) revealing the role of social currency in fueling, sustaining and nurturing societies within their social economies, we explore revolutionary ways for a business to enter into social, cultural and economic production with its internal and external stakeholders.

INSIGHT 4 – WE CAN’T GO ON, WE MUST GO ON
A rigorous investigation into the existential nature and strategic importance of real failure; In response to the traditional PR-driven papering over of business errors and the Valley/VC accelerationist ethic of fail early and often we probe for, reveal and case-study strategies for leveraging failure as the death and rebirth journey of a more ethical business modeling.

INSIGHT 5 – PERMISSION IS JOY
A journey across emergent business models, organizational structures and stakeholder cultures demonstrating the extraordinary value outcomes available to businesses who hire, train and unleash their workforce and partners with once-dangerous levels of permission to choose, decide and behave within a dynamic culture of what the philosophers call jouissance.

INSIGHT 6 – OWNING IT ALL
As the world throttles towards self-annihilation from climate catastrophe and late capitalism’s inability to reform, we surface cases and actionable insights demonstrating how each business can take complete responsibility for driving ethical impacts from one end of its supply chain to the other; This is what stakeholder capitalism really looks like as an ethically impactful and utterly differentiated competitive model against companies clinging to their selfishly short-term shareholder capitalism.

INSIGHT 7 – BEYOND GROWTH
By the simple if revolutionary replacement of growth, the implicit mandate of every business/marketing strategy, with the outcome of thrive an entirely new ecosystem of shared value creation and exchange is made possible; Changing this one word changes absolutely everything that follows.

INSIGHT 8 – ACT UP!
Rejecting the business-as-usual normativity of an optimally de-risked business model we posit the startling mandate to misbehave, at least by the standards of orthodox business theory (see Peters, Christensen, Porter et al); Immense competitive differentiated benefits accrue when a company encourages and enables its workforce, partners and consumer allies to act up - within an extremely transparent ethical framework of value production.

INSIGHT 9 – PEOPLE LIKE US DO STUFF LIKE THIS
We shamelessly steal and elaborate on the epic insight from Seth Godin which understands all human behavior within the context of its role in reinforcing familial, tribal/social, systemic and cultural bonds; Our business and its products are not for everybody and that’s a good thing --- if we are able to determine with deep insight how who we are for and why we matter is intrinsically linked to whom they are for and why they matter to each other.

INSIGHT 10 – AFFIRMATION BECOMES AUTONOMY
Against the general state of alienation created by the contemporary business models of platform capitalism, we suggest a pathway for businesses to tap into deep wells of human desire, honoring the human condition and enabling the expression and amplification of the sovereign individual stakeholder value through a business-politics-as-human-ethics of impactful affirmation.

INSIGHT 11 – REAL FEELS
In the face of less than authentic attempts at companies advertising or PR-ing their ostensible purpose, we posit a profoundly authentic sense of real telos as business behavior strategy. Our business behavior becomes essentially the manifestation of this telos in the marketplace – everything we do, make and say is marketing and the human KPI we optimize for is impactfully positive affect.

INSIGHT 12 – DEATH IS THE MOTHER OF BEAUTY
Running with Wallace Stevens’ killer insight into how our human state of finitude becomes the real milieu for our transcendent capacity for a response to beauty and affect, we suggest ways a business can and must re-write the marketing brief; Understanding the ethics of love which underpins our post-advertising insights into the targeted human conditions we solve for, we design a marketing not meant to stimulate desire but to serve it – humbly, authentically, ethically, aesthetically and impactfully.

INSIGHT 13 – A CIRCLE IS THE MOST RADICAL FORM
If we are meant to re-imagine our businesses around a more ethically authentic telos, we must re-imagine the type, nature and contents of our new marketing; Grounded in fresh insights, we suggest the new marketing activation machinery which jettisons the models and cycles of advertising’s paid media systems to build, optimize and expand human-based and data-infused marketing teams of collaborative strategists, creators, community activators and all-media analysts – operating within always-on, circular modes of social and business value production.

INSIGHT 14 – BECOMING NOMAD
A revolutionary businessing subject is imagined; Leveraging ethical insights to fuel a new thriving in the world for all our stakeholders will be lonely work …at the start; A sense of untrammeled nomadism can inform our strategic and operational behaviors as taking lines of flight beyond the safe walls of usual business and commercial enclosures - out into the shared commons of value-making and -taking amongst the people who matter to our thriving businesses and brands.

Thomas Kennon

Thom is a self-described shameful marketing shill, having spent way too much time on Madison Avenue and inside holding company agency networks around the globe. His professional focus has been perfecting the practice of what he calls insights whispering, leveraging observational ethnographic research to surface excruciatingly deep insight into human desire - insights which can be applied to an emergent value marketing which he claims is the new brand imperative in a post-advertising world.

He teaches his craft as practitioner adjunct within a range of graduate and undergrad level programs, integrating his suggested radical practices and cases into courses like Applied Marketing Research, Digital Marketing, Social Media and the Brand, Competitive Strategy, Startup Marketing, Brand Strategy, and The Permanent Campaign.

He founded alternative business and marketing consultancy Free Radicals in 2012, and his strategic work is grounded in a demonstrably ethical praxis driving impactful outcomes for the companies crazy or desperate enough to hire him. 

Asked about the motive behind his publishing of The Big Leap - an Ethics of Insight, volume 1 (Kendall/Hunt 2022) Kennon says, “If you believe, as I do, the world is diminished by the vast majority of extractive business behavior, you'll dig why I had to write this book. https://he.kendallhunt.com/product/big-leap-ethics-insight-volume-i  It's fourteen rollicking, profane chapters as insights, each meant to inspire a better marketing via a more ethical business behavior. The unifying principle is that a better capitalism is possible. I'm not as sanguine as I’d like to be that such a moment in history remains a plausible outcome. But I had to do something in the way of fixing the world I spent too much of my career breaking.”

 

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