Saturday, January 31, 2009

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross Redux

January 31, 2009 The "Death-and-Dying Lady" lives on. Financial correspondent Floyd Norris of the New York Times writes about a Columbia University researcher whose seven-stage theory about how industries recover from traumatic change derives from Elizabeth's five-stage theory about how terminally ill patients confront the prospect of death:

Industries facing severe structural change go through a seven-step progression before they manage to deal with it, said Rita McGrath, an associate professor at Columbia Business School.

1. Shock.
2. Denial. “This can’t be happening to me.”
3. Sadness. “This is awful.”
4. Anger. “I don’t deserve this.”
5. Bargaining.
6. Acceptance.
7. Renegotiation. It is then that companies find ways to change their business model to survive.

Comments are invited to discuss where in this progression various industries are now, and what they should do. Possible industries for comment are banks, autos and newspapers.
MY COMMENT (embellished from the printed version): How shocked would former University of Chicago psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross be, were she with us today, to see her five-phase model for process of grief in terminally-ill individuals plucked up from the realm of the human psyche, transported to the realm of human commerce and metamorphosed there into a seven-stage model for the recovery of cyclically-afflicted industries!

That said, the seven-step model is useful and invites comment on newspapers in particular. Most papers are hopelessly stuck in step one or two, shock and denial, and are sinking fast, unable to facilitate or even acknowledge the dominant trend of the digital age: the emergence of an increasingly articulate PUBLIC MIND of ALL citizens fueled by massive demand for interactive media experiences and, in politics, by the demand for interactive politics that led to the election of Barack Obama.

The New York Times, whose stock can now be bought for under $5 a share, remains beholden both to its traditional elite Tiffany/Rolex advertising base and to an editorial outlook that seems to want no part of the inclusiveness that marks this developing public mind. I'm no fan of Rupert Murdoch, but the Times' elitist outlook strikes me as arrogant.

In the future, profitable media (including newspapers) will find ways to mediate the disparate elements of this developing public mind, including ways of generating intelligent discourse between intellectuals and non-intellectuals. Economically speaking, they will mediate differences among of America's lower, middle and upper classes. In politics, this mediating media will make citizens and government responsive and accountable to each other in solving the nation’s problems and maximizing its opportunities.

In the last paragraph of his important Feb. 3 column, Martin Wolf of the Financial Times writes that "we are living on the cusp of history." Indeed we are, and in more ways than one. For first time in human history, human beings have the chance to use interactive media technologies to resolve a single critical problem – the collapse of the global financial system – not by military force but by human reason, as President Obama keeps telling us. In this new era, profitable media will find novel and compelling ways to tap the presently untapped Market of the Whole - in America, of all 300 million Americans - that constitutes this emerging, interactive public mind. Only when this public mind is communicating substantively with America's political leaders will America develop the informed consensus that will enable it - and the world (read Martin Wolf) - to survive the economic maelstrom in which all of us swirl today.

No comments: