Fast Company

Letter from the Editor: Attitude Is Everything

My father-in-law uses an expression, "Attitude is everything." It's his nonconfrontational way of saying, "Stop complaining." This expression has been on my mind lately when I talk to media and advertising executives about the disruption and uncertainty in their industries. I hear a lot of nostalgia, resistance, and barely contained anger as lucrative ways of doing business are undercut by shifts in technology, new spending patterns, and client enthusiasm for ideas that have never been tried before. It's no wonder that AMC's Mad Men has become such a cultural touchstone. As a throwback to another, perhaps simpler business era, there is something comforting about the series, despite its moral ambiguities.

Which brings me to Ashton Kutcher. There is something odd -- something uncomfortable for us -- about putting Kutcher on our cover. He is not Cisco's John Chambers or even Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, CEOs who have headlined previous issues. Kutcher is a celebrity with an adolescent persona who has insinuated himself into Web stardom via Twitter and now contends he is on his way to becoming a new kind of media mogul. It seems a bit hard to accept.

But, as senior writer Ellen McGirt's profile reveals ("Want a Piece of This?"), Kutcher's bid to break down the walls between Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Madison Avenue offers a glimpse of where media are headed, even if his bid to be a titan of tomorrow proves ephemeral. What Kutcher has going for him most of all (aside from a rabid fan base and an instinctive sense of how to engage the Web generation) is a complete indifference to established structures. He sees excitement and opportunity everywhere -- which is exactly the outlook that competitors inside more-traditional organizations have such a hard time with.

When my father-in-law says, "Attitude is everything," it isn't just an admonition -- it's a prescription. Right now, we are experiencing a massive explosion of creativity in tech and media, an extraordinary flowering of content and collaboration. Businesses (and businesspeople) that can find the excitement in that have a fighting chance of surviving the transition and thriving. Those who choose to fight the future and pretend the old ways are coming back, well, you may be the subject of your own TV series one day. But it's likely to be on the History Channel.

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  • Terri Waterman

    I was so looking forward to the attitude change that I knew was going to happen from last year. I like that Ashton doesn't care about the establishment and sees opportunities everywhere. He is a hero in so many ways and he knows that we are ALL capable of doing the same thing he is. Yes, it's hard to teach, but it's inevitable and we're all going to have to rely on ourselves more and more if we are going to survive. Be trustworthy and have NO FEAR! This is an exciting time we're in and I'm truly thankful to be living throught it, yay!

  • Chris Reich

    AMEN! And this is the hardest lesson to learn and extremely hard to teach: "a complete indifference to established structures".

    I have such a difficult time getting business clients to let go of rigid, unproductive and wasteful ways of doing things---and oddly, it's not an age thing. The older executives are hung up on traditional methods and the younger up-and-comings are equally stuck in the silly junk knowledge they are taught in MBA factories. Teach them a process and all thinking stops.

    For example, I have a young friend at a small business who absolutely insists that he is the "Supply Chain Manager". Well, really he's a glorified buyer. But being wrapped up with his supply chain theories makes him the primary bottleneck at this particular business. The slightest customer request---a request for a tracking number---throws junior into a tizzy about procedures that must be followed and how we can't stop his supply chain to get tracking numbers for everyone who wants one!!!!

    This disheartens me because I see much of the new generation of management being less creative, more rigid and less intelligent than the 'old guys' they are replacing.

    "complete indifference to established structures"

    That should be a mission statement.

    Chris Reich
    www.BizPhyZ.com
    www.TeachU.com