There’s no doubt that our economic world has changed and continues to change. And there’s little doubt that most people don’t like change – Neuro scientists agree – a great majority experience ambiguity as a threat. Further, the worst threat of all is heightened in a shifting economy: that we might lose, we might be rejected – not included in the exchanges of our choice.
Exchanging with others is how we humans thrive. We have a strong desire to contribute – it’s in our biology. Not surprisingly, our brains are well-equipped with wiring about exchanges, both as contributors and as recipients. Much of what goes on ‘inside our heads’ is about where we stand with others, the value we provide and what they provide us, who we can trust and for what, and whether people genuinely know and care about us.
We can spark ingenuity by focusing on others’ vulnerability and how we want to serve them – and we quickly becoming energized. As a Business Anthropologist, I would like everyone to view commerce as an opportunity. Though the brain can’t do that in the context of a threat, fear is automatically trumped when we’re faced with ‘our people’s’ concerns. We’ll jump into a freezing river, or whatever it takes.
Day-to-day commerce is somewhat less heroic – to the consternation of some and the relief of others. In the modern world, we are called upon to articulate what others can rely on us for. During most of human history – the 3 million years when the brain and society were evolving together – our ancestors knew their trading partners their entire lives. They did not have to design new exchanges, articulate brand promises, and engage in sales conversations. But we do. Much as we might like it to be otherwise, other people do not automatically know what we can promise. We have to tell them if we want them to know.
Though it may not get your adrenalin spurting like an emergency plane landing, being current with the value you add is your primary responsibility. Worse, in a shifting world - though you may not like ambiguity nor view it as an opportunity, peoples’ concerns change, and as they do, you’ll probably be called upon to update your promises. I invite you to ask:
- What do you want others to rely on you for?
- What’s the most valuable promise you can make (and reliably deliver?)
Fortunately, our brains are highly wired for that very question: to both make the promise and to consider the value of others’ promises. (We’re built to orient ourselves to exchanging with others.) Promises reduce ambiguity. Being mindful of what you promise will increase your value and make you a desirable trading partner.
What might you promise this year, this month, this week, today, to address others’ concerns?