Over the holidays, we tend to play board games at our house. Popular choices for my wife, our 23-year-year old son, 16-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son include Cosmic Encounter, Risk, Guillotine and Oxford Dilemma. This year we found ourselves playing a game called TriBond.
TriBond, which is theoretically for ages 12 and up (and therefore theoretically suitable for the entire family), is a game in which players hear three individual clues and must analyze and determine what all three words have in common. Example: Delaware, today, and George Washington. (Answer: They are all firsts.)
Here’s one none of my children, ranging in age from tween to adult, could get: Fossil, Citizen and Timex. My wife and I were sputtering in confusion. How could anyone miss that? They’re all watches! Then I looked around and noticed that no one was wearing a watch: not me or my older son or my daughter (smartphones all) or my wife or our youngest. They didn’t know what a Fossil or a Citizen or a Timex was because they’d never worn a watch.
Here’s another one that my kids couldn’t get: Little, Sloppy, and GI. I know: They’re all Joes! This time I broke it down and asked all three kids who Little Joe was. No idea. (Bonanza having gone off the air in 1973, I barely knew.) Then I asked them what were Sloppy Joes, the curse of many of my grade-school lunches. Again, no idea, so I had to explain again. GI Joe, a staple of my childhood, they’d heard of, but never played with and couldn’t fully explain.
Then I looked at the box and noticed that TriBond, while renewed recently and purchased in a new edition, was “copyright 1993.” Which explained why all the cultural references seemed to be aimed at people in their 40s or 50s. Note to the TriBond guys: If you want teens and 20-somethings to play your game, it’s time to update the cards.
This made me wonder what else has changed at some companies that the people running those companies haven’t noticed.
Here’s something that we at Counterintuity find more often than you’d imagine: a client telling us that a mobile version of their website isn’t necessary. Then my business partner or someone else at Counterintuity will look at the client’s stats and let them know just how much of their traffic is from mobile. For a small manufacturer recently it turned out to be 17% — almost one-fifth of their traffic was from mobile. For a construction firm, it was 52%. They had told us that these “construction guys” are never on a mobile device, but when we told them that 52% of their traffic was from a smartphone or a tablet, they looked at each other and said, “Oh, right, they’re all looking at our website while they’re on the job.” And who is “they”? Their prospects.
It’s easy to not know what you don’t know. I taught graduate writing at the University of Southern California for 10 years, and one night during the seventh year bemoaned the fact that I was always paying for parking. One of my students said, “Why don’t you park on…” and named a side street near campus. I explained that it was metered parking with a limit of two hours, and this was a three-hour workshop, so I’d get a ticket. “There aren’t any meters there,” I was told. So after class I went and looked — and indeed, there were no meters there. Why did I think that street was metered? Because when I was a grad student myself at USC in the late 1980s — 20 years earlier! — that street was metered. But it had changed, and I had never thought to look.
Why is it easy to fall into this trap of thinking that things are set, that once you know something you know it for life? Maybe it’s because, for most of history, that was true. But no longer.
We live in the greatest period of change in human history. I am part of the last generation on Earth to grow up in a pre-Internet world, so we’re the fulcrum class: We fully appreciate the Internet, and know what it was like not having it. Everybody younger just expects it. Given how much change has occurred on our watch — just to start: the rise and fall of nations, the transformation of economies, instant access to more than one billion people across the globe, easy and seamless transfer of funds electronically, instantaneous and constant delivery of news — it would be naive to think that other things haven’t changed right within our own households and businesses and careers and communities.
What does this radical change mean? Among other things, it means that all of us are better served by questioning our own facts every day before making decisions that accidentally reflect times long gone.