The concept of hermeneutics – introduced to me by the remarkably intelligent Rodger Nishioka – is that we all have various “lenses” through which we interpret the world around us. These may be immutable characteristics such as age and race, or changeable ones such as level of education, location, or job status. The unique way we each process information is related to the combination of lenses through which we receive it.
We recently explored the potential behind a hermeneutics-inspired approach to consumer segmentation in marketing and advertising. These lenses of interpretation are a kind of inverse of the typical approach to consumer segmentation – separating people into various demographic groups (from the outside in) and targeting them with messages that are calculated to resonate. The hermeneutic approach suggests an internal lens, allowing us to attempt to see through a consumer’s eyes by understanding the factors that influence their perception.
How might this concept help us create brands that attract a wide audience and inspire ongoing relationships?
My wife and I are big fans of Rev. Rodger Nishioka, an astonishingly bright man. We love his insightful and perceptive approach to examining the big issues of our day. The opening sentences of Rodger’s recent note have been on my mind since I first read it. He wrote:
Hermeneutics. It means “interpretation.” I like to think of hermeneutics as a set of lenses through which each person views the world. Hermeneutics, or how we interpret the world, shape everything. The truth is each of us have multiple hermeneutics. We view the world through a complex combination of lenses. Some of my lenses are male, fourth-generation American of Japanese ancestry, single, mid-westerner (that is the newest one and I am still growing into it) and educated (some might say over-educated?!)
In our most recent blog, we examined the problems and oversimplifications that stem from the advice to “follow your passion.” While pursuing our passions is certainly an important part of making our lives meaningful, this advice, especially when applied to building a career, falls short of truly inspiring. Instead of empowering us, it often does the opposite and causes us to ping-pong from endeavor to endeavor instead of working hard to make the best of our circumstances.
If passion is prone to fading, Angela Duckworth offers the antidote in her bestselling book Grit, positing that “a special blend of passion and persistence” is the key to creating something worthwhile and sustainable. Whether it’s a lifelong hobby to excel at or a career that provides a foundation for building a life, persistence is the missing ingredient that “follow your passion” overlooks.
Every year during spring graduation season, we hear variants of the advice to “follow your passion” in life. In today’s social media-enabled marketplace of personal brands and curated public images, it may seem like anything is possible and simply being one’s best self is a foundation for a lasting and fulfilling career. But is this true? More importantly, is it helpful?
I have always been mildly suspicious of this strain of advice… it feels simplistic. How does one know what’s really important? Is a passion stable enough to build a life around?
I recently came across a fascinating TED Talk given by designer Tom Hulme which asks “What can we learn from shortcuts?”. At first glance, many of us would probably be skeptical of the shortcut – after all, we’re conditioned to do due diligence, examine a problem from several angles, and then create a strategy for building a solution. Innovators should create the shortcut but not necessarily take it, right?
But Hulme is interested in learning from the shortcuts that we take in our daily lives. As a designer, his eye is attuned to patterns and deviations from those patterns. Examining the shortcuts that appeal to us as human beings, he proposes, is a powerful way to learn what drives us, what we want, and how we move through our world.
It’s always nice to hear from followers of this blog. We are lucky to have thoughtful, engaged readers who take the time to reflect and share their feedback and ideas. After our recent post, Design Mindset: Bridging the Gap Between Product Design and Systems Thinking, we received a thought-provoking comment that deepened the conversation.
No one makes decisions alone. Especially in this technologically interconnected age, we are beholden to the interests and opinions of many groups of people: consumers, investors, brand enthusiasts, industry influencers… the list goes on. Each has a distinct point of view, an interest in the outcomes of our decisions, and often an investment of time, money, interest, and even reputation on the line.
When so many parties are stakeholders in the choices made by companies, brands, or influencers, how can we be certain that we are meeting the demands of our many constituent groups? How can we capture and consider the interests of our stakeholders? Enter Stakeholder Analysis – the process by which an organization can analyze the priorities and interests of various parties involved in a project or decision in order to create understanding and build consensus.