the age of throwback

Posted on Tuesday.6.2.2009



We’re reaching a time in our society and culture where the old is becoming our new. In order to be successful, it’s not going to take the most innovative thing that has ever been seen or heard, but a willingness to embrace the changing world with lessons from the past.

A leader’s ability to adapt past successful strategies and foresee their utility will make the difference for the future. So much emphasis in the last 20 years has been put on coming up with brand new ideas, terms, and systems. I think as we move forward we’ll be going back to the old way of doing things, retro-fitting our “new” ideas will mean using the best old ideas adapted to today’s society.

The future will be connected to the past and these are the resulting throwbacks:

  • Design/Art: design and art and have always been mediums where the past was valued and emulated. Artists emulate their favorite influences and time periods to create their own new works of art. In design the trends are the same. Newly built homes reflect older style architecture and styling. There is high value put on hardwood floors and trim and molding that is typically found in older style homes.
  • Community: also in these new developments is the rise of new urban neighborhoods. Lofts, condos, apartments in high density around retail developments so that the residents can easily walk to the grocery store, the school, the church and the movie theater. This is being sold in most developments as hip, new, and modern when really, this is a very old idea. This is what most city neighborhoods looked like before the surburbs were born. Now there’s a desire to bring this more communal lifestyle into the suburbs. Here’s a video that talk about this idea.
  • Education: schools quickly became about test scores and standards. So many schools today don’t focus on character, discipline, collaboration. I think some of the best schools in America today are going back to that model, even having schools work from 8 to 5 in order to achieve it. It’s not to say that standardized tests and scores don’t mean anything, it just can’t be everything. Check out the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools, I love this organization.
  • Music: today’s most popular songs are mostly songs you dance to at the club. There was another time like this a little while back called disco. At some point, we’ll have our new rebellious take on life and some dramatic lyrics explaining teenage angst. But for now, enjoy the club hits and kick drums.
  • Social Networks: social networking used to happnen at the park, the library, schools, playgrounds, churches and other community areas. The internet slowly gobbled that up and created a network where people chatted online and emailed and more people stayed within the confines of their home on their computers pretending to be connected to people. Since then, even the internet has adapted to really take social connection to the next level as people look for their need to connect more than ever. Facebook, Twitter, mySpace, and the upcoming Google Wave are adapting our internet heavy culture while also feeding our human need to connect to one another (albeit still superficial in some ways). It’s changing, it went from cold meaningless, informational text to now warmer social connecting.
  • Workforce: as there will soon be more college graduates than ever before, there will also be a workforce of both savvy and entitled entry-level career seekers. The premise of working hard and paying your dues is already slipping because of the inflation of Bachelor’s degrees and soon Master’s Degrees. At some point, the value of working hard and paying your dues will be coming back and it will have to adapt to the next generation’s inflated resume workforce.

The throwback has always been powerful. I still think the best shoe ever made was the Jordan XI (pictured above). When they re-release these is when shoe lovers and shoe companies reach maximum benefits. It’s a throwback and I’ve seen more and more shoes have elements of the XI since they started the re-releases. The phenomenon is happening everywhere.

Remember this quote when these “new” ideas start popping up.

Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years!
-LL Cool J

Posted in: leadership