Survival of the ‘Fit for Purpose’

An economy built around efficiency is, by definition, not resilient

I am in Sydney, a city that I adore, and I have been here a week but my body is still extremely confused

I managed to get through our work engagements in and around Advertising Week with adrenaline, caffeine and the buzz I get from being on stage, but I can’t seem to sleep or stay asleep. Jet-lag is medically known as desynchronosis — I am out of sync with time.

When I lived in NYC and worked at agencies, taking vacation was frowned and obnoxiously commented on. Thus, to avoid embarrassment, I would fly on the red-eye on Friday night to go to a friend’s wedding on Saturday and then fly back Sunday for work on Monday. I did this several times, and it was tough but fine. Now it takes ever longer to recover.

According to the internet, it takes one day of recovery for every time zone crossed, which means I won’t recover before I leave. I’m constantly trying to catch up with myself. I have been nomadic for a decade but I am beginning to suspect my body is no longer fit enough for that purpose.

Humans did not evolve the physical ability to traverse the world in hours without consequences. 

Change is hard to appreciate in real time, just like getting older

Amara’s Law states: “we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”. Change seems unlikely and imperceptible from day to day, but inevitable in the longer term. As Hemingway wrote about bankruptcy, change happens two ways, gradually then suddenly. The climate seems to have a similar trajectory.

Corporations believed themselves to have a social responsibility, until Milton Friedman convinced them that the only one they had was to maximize shareholder value. It trumps all other considerations, which is perhaps why modern publicly traded corporations were never a good fit for ‘purpose’ as a marketing strategy. 

The brief appetite for stakeholder capitalism was never more than PR, it would seem, when espoused by the CEO round-table. Money talks, as they say, and CEOs sell. Or buy, in the case of the social network formerly known as Twitter, which has changed dramatically in a very short time. Perhaps the best indication of how that’s going is the fact that ‘Community Notes’ on the platform have been consistently calling out the advertising that is still running as scams designed to trick unwary consumers. That doesn’t suggest it’s a platform fit for responsible advertising purposes.

Fitness was never really about health, despite what your CrossFit friends would love to tell you

It’s more akin to product-market fit, a measure of the ability to survive, and perhaps even thrive, in a given environment and context. People living in Phoenix, Arizona, are getting third degree burns from walking on the pavement because it is so hot. Humans find it hard to survive when temperatures get towards 35C and Saudi Arabia is reportedly hotter than that right now. Texans are pointing out that Seasonal Affective Disorder isn’t limited to winter months.

The physical infrastructure of the United Kingdom was built for a temperate climate, so houses don’t cool, air conditioning is rare and the railroads get too hot to function with increasing regularity. The trains the British Empire ‘built’ in India still run because they were designed to allow for heat, but context determines priorities and profit determines action. 

An economy built around efficiency is, by definition, not resilient

Resilience requires redundancies, which impact the bottom line. When everything is made as cheaply as possible, to be as profitable as possible, we get ultra processed foods that make up 60% of the calorific intake of American and British citizens. These foods are made to increase consumption, somehow people can always eat more junk food than whole foods, and then they often become obese and unwell.

Countries are an idea, a concept of a people connected by a language and culture, but they are not fit for solving the translational problems the world faces, be it pollution or tax evasion. 

Humans are incredibly adaptable, it’s perhaps our most human trait. We habituate rapidly to new states because our innate responses to the same stimulus declines after repeated or prolonged exposure. We get used to things being the way they are rapidly but we evolve very slowly. We shall find out whether we are flexible enough to remain fit for the purpose that our selfish genes created us, to survive and replicate, as the environment we have shaped changes faster than we predicted.

Featured image: Александр / Pexels

Faris Yakob, Author and Co-Founder, Genius Steals

Faris Yakob is the co-founder (with his wife Rosie) of the nomadic creative consultancy Genius Steals and the online learning community The School of Stolen Genius. They have been working with brands, agencies of all disciplines and sizes, media companies and conferences around the world for the last decade, delivering keynotes, workshops, training and brand and business consulting.Their newsletter, Strands of [Stolen] Genius, was named one of the ‘7 Essential Reads for the Curious Creative’ by Hubspot and one of the top community resources for strategists in the world by the Planning Survey.Previously, he was Chief Innovation Officer of MDC Partners, Chief Digital Officer of McCann Erickson (NYC) and spent many years at pioneering communication strategy agency Naked, in London, Sydney and NYC. While in agencies, he won (as both a strategist and a creative director) and judged numerous awards, including the Effies, One Show, ADC, Clios and LIAs.Faris Yakob is the author Paid Attention: Innovative Advertising for a Digital World which was published in an updated second edition by Kogan Page in 2021 and is a contributing author to Creative Superpowers: Equip Yourself For The Age of Creativity, & Eat Your Greens: Fact Based Thinking to Improve Your Brand’s Health.

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