In the spirit of Halloween, I watched the zombie parody “Shawn of the Dead” this weekend. I’ve never seen it before and it is one of those cult movies that were on my bucket list (i.e., I need to watch it before I “kick the bucket”). I have to admit that I really enjoyed it. It is a tongue-in-cheek comedy based on the horror movie “Dawn of the Dead”.
At the beginning of the movie, the main character – Shawn – doesn’t immediately realize that zombies surround him because all of the people in his life generally act like zombies. His friends move through life without any real emotion as they sit in traffic, play video games and drink at the local pub. His colleagues at work essentially check in, move through their day, and then checkout.
As I watched the movie, I realized that like most comedies, what made it funny is how true it really is. We move through our days doing the same things we always do, without any real strategy or plan. We tend to develop patterns of behavior based on comfort-zones. How many of us get to work and immediately dive into email without prioritizing our day? Halfway through the day, we realize that all we have done is email. How many of us intend to set quarterly and annual goals, but then forget to create them? How many of us know that we are using antiquated processes and/or technologies, but avoid adopting the more efficient options because we are adverse to change? We have become corporate zombies, moving through our day without creative thinking.
I recently attended a large industry conference where the keynote speaker was a very well known, leading-edge marketing expert. I was excited to attend because I am a fan, and his topic “How to use Twitter in Business” was something that I am always interested in learning more about. Ten minutes into the presentation, I realized that he was losing the audience. Twenty minutes into the session, I realized that he had lost the room completely. There were probably only 25 people in a room of 500 that were still paying attention. During the networking break, everyone was commenting on what a waste of time Twitter was and how they had blown a great conference by inviting this “so-called expert” to present on the topic.
What went wrong? Simple – the topic didn’t align with the audience. The average age of the audience was 50 years old. The room was filled with CEOs, CFOs, COOs, investors, board members and retired executives. The presenter was setup to fail. This group was set in their ways and was not willing to open their minds to social media. Their pre-conceived notion that Twitter and social media were a waste of time was simply reinforced by this presentation. The group of 25 or so marketing people who had already adopted social media were the only ones who appreciated the content of the presentation. The room was dominated with corporate zombies who were not open to new ideas. Don’t get me wrong. I know a great many of the attendees personally and have tremendous respect for their accomplishments. My point is that they are losing touch with the market direction and the latest business tools. This is a predictable cycle that continues to repeat itself.
There is a very real generation gap between the group of people who understand social media and those that don’t. I remember when desktop computers made their way into the offices. The older executives argued that they were a waste of time. The younger executives argued that they wouldn’t accept a position with the company unless they were given a PC. I remember when companies were having discussions about whether they needed websites. The older executives argued it was a waste of time. The younger executives argued the company would be out of business in a few years without one. I see parallels today with social media. Older executives can’t understand why a company would need a blog or have a Twitter presence. The younger executives argue that every company will have one in a few years.
Comfort zones are just that – comfortable. However, they keep you from staying competitive. They turn you into a corporate zombie. As the newsman said in “Shawn of the Dead”, the only way to kill a zombie is to remove its head. This is true of corporate zombies as well. Companies kill corporate zombies by replacing them with “non-zombie” executives who are creative and understand newer processes and technologies.
Have a great Halloween, but don’t go as a corporate zombie, it could be detrimental to your career…
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