Genesis of Symbolic Thought

Overview

Symbolic thought is what makes us human. Claude Lévi-Strauss stated that we can never know the genesis of symbolic thought, but in this powerful new study Alan Barnard argues that we can. Continuing the line of analysis initiated in Social Anthropology and Human Origins (Cambridge University Press, 2011), The Genesis of Symbolic Thought applies ideas from social anthropology, old and new, to understand some of the areas also being explored in fields as diverse as archaeology, linguistics, genetics and ...

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Genesis of Symbolic Thought

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Overview

Symbolic thought is what makes us human. Claude Lévi-Strauss stated that we can never know the genesis of symbolic thought, but in this powerful new study Alan Barnard argues that we can. Continuing the line of analysis initiated in Social Anthropology and Human Origins (Cambridge University Press, 2011), The Genesis of Symbolic Thought applies ideas from social anthropology, old and new, to understand some of the areas also being explored in fields as diverse as archaeology, linguistics, genetics and neuroscience. Barnard aims to answer questions including: when and why did language come into being? What was the earliest religion? And what form did social organization take before humanity dispersed from the African continent? Rejecting the notion of hunter-gatherers as 'primitive', Barnard hails the great sophistication of the complex means of their linguistic and symbolic expression and places the possible origin of symbolic thought at as early as 130,000 years ago.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781107651098
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/21/2012
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.94 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Barnard is Professor of the Anthropology of Southern Africa at the University of Edinburgh, where he has taught since 1978. He has undertaken a wide range of ethnographic fieldwork and archaeological research in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, is a participant in the British Academy Centenary Research project 'From Lucy to Language: The Archaeology of the Social Brain' and serves as Honorary Consul of the Republic of Namibia in Scotland. His numerous publications include History and Theory in Anthropology (2000) and Social Anthropology and Human Origins (2011). In 2010 Professor Barnard was elected a Fellow of the British Academy.

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Read an Excerpt

PLATFORM

GET NOTICED IN A NOISY WORLD
By MICHAEL HYATT

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2012 Michael Hyatt
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59555-503-8


Chapter One

Create a Compelling Product

Now you know there are two critical parts of the success equation: a compelling product (the what) and a significant platform (the who). In this book you will find a wealth of information on the second element in the equation, but if you don't slam-dunk the first element—the compelling product—you won't win the game.

There is no sense in wasting your valuable time and resources trying to build a buzz about a ho-hum product. As one of my favorite marketing gurus, David Ogilvy, once wrote, "Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster." How true.

For years I have argued, "It's the product, stupid." The secret to success in any business is to deliver a great, compelling product. And when I say product, I mean anything you are trying to say or sell. It may be yourself, if you're a speaker or entertainer. It might be a stellar service you provide for profit or nonprofit. Perhaps it's a cause you are championing, a message you are passionate about. Or it could be an actual physical product, like a book. Regardless of the form your product takes, no amount of marketing savvy, salesmanship, or operational excellence can overcome a weak product.

The purpose of marketing is to prime the pump. But if people don't want to use your product and—more importantly—if they won't recommend it to their friends, you're hosed. You can't spend enough money or be clever enough to overcome a lack of word-of-mouth marketing. It just won't work.

In light of this, it was fascinating to watch how Apple first introduced the iPhone. Like millions of other Mac fans, I read all the articles and even worked my way through Apple's slick, interactive website. I thought to myself, Very cool. I definitely want one of these. But I also thought, I can wait until the second generation. Let them work out the bugs first.

But then I watched Steve Job's 2007 keynote presentation from MacWorld. If you are involved in any aspect of product development, this is a must-watch video.

I garnered three insights:

1. Create products you would personally use. Watching Steve, you get the sense he loves the product. He is so familiar with it, because he has been using it. He thinks it is "way cool," and he's not afraid to say so. He sprinkles words like awesome, incredible, and even magical throughout his speech. He exhibits the wonder of a five-year-old on Christmas morning. You really believe him. He's not trying to sell you something. He's simply sharing the experience.

What about the products you create? If you're speaking about business, do you deliver exciting and powerful messages that you know can make a difference in people's lives? If you're in sales, do you even use the items you sell? Would you recommend them enthusiastically to a friend? Do you really love these products or are you only trying to meet some arbitrary quota or generate revenue?

2. Create products that solve problems in unexpected ways. It was interesting to watch some of the biggest cell phone manufacturers get hammered in the press the week before the iPhone was announced. They essentially said, "We've saturated the market. There's nothing compelling left to build. Investors need to get used to the idea of slower revenue growth and tighter margins. From this point forward, competition is going to be brutal."

Then Steve announced a new phone that essentially reinvented the category. Not surprisingly, Apple's stock soared. Motorola's, Nokia's, and Samsung's took a nosedive.

Apple wasn't content to create a phone that just had additional features. It completely rethought the solution—from the ground up. Apple's engineers put themselves in the user's place and refused to be constrained by the past. They didn't start with the technology. They started with the dream and then went in search of technology. This is a completely different way of doing business.

What about you? We too often think inside the box. We let the past constrain us. We don't get in the consumers' shoes and ask, "What would make this really cool? What would take this to a whole new level? What would we create if the limits of current technology weren't an issue?" You have to get outside the box and learn to dream again.

3. Create products that exceed your customers' expectations. As I watched Steve's presentation, I couldn't help but notice the crowd. It was like they were watching a master magician. As Steve demonstrated each new feature, the crowd erupted in applause. To my surprise, I found myself laughing with glee. I felt like a kid again. Most of all, I wanted one of those phones!

Part of the charm is that Apple seems to execute its product vision with such amazing simplicity and elegance. Every icon on the phone is understated but beautiful. Every feature is easy to use but not complex. Everything seems not only as good as Apple could make it but as good as Apple could imagine it.

What about your products or services? How often have you rushed something to market with a sigh and a collective, "Well, I guess that will have to do. It's not great, but it's good enough"?

Sadly, we don't start with a lofty vision. I'm afraid we have become content with mediocrity; we aim low and execute even lower.

If you want to build a platform, it's time to get the passion back. Push one another and yourself to deliver great products that you are delighted—yes, delighted!—to offer. If you don't, then your attempt to build a platform is doomed to failure.

If you create outstanding products, everything else becomes much easier. Apple spends a fortune on product development. But relatively speaking, it doesn't spend much on marketing. Nevertheless, when it introduced the iPhone, Apple got more press coverage than the entire Consumer Electronics Show that was going on simultaneously in Las Vegas. Apple has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that "it's the product, stupid."

Let's take a lesson from the Apple playbook and get the first part of the success equation right: start with a wow product.

Chapter Two

Bake in the Wow

Now I want to tell you about Blake Mycoskie, who creates wows of a different, but no less magical, kind than the late Steve Jobs.

In 2006, Mycoskie was traveling in Argentina and saw that many children there had no shoes. So when he returned home to America, he created a new company, TOMS Shoes. For every pair sold, TOMS matches it—one for one—with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. When he returned to Argentina with reinforcements the next year, they placed ten thousand pairs on little feet. And by September 2010, TOMS and its affiliated partners such as Feed The Children had given more than one million pairs to kids in need around the world.

Now, you may not think a pair of shoes is a wow product, but for many of these kids, TOMS shoes will be their very first pair. Without shoes they cannot go to school, and they are susceptible to soil-transmitted diseases that penetrate the skin. One child in Kenya said, "I'm excited because when I woke up in the morning, I did not know when I'll have something like this." And a teacher said, "I can tell you, these children will not sleep today. They will be talking about those shoes the whole night!" Now that's wow.

If you, like Steve Jobs or Blake Mycoskie, have a message to share, or a product or service to sell, I have significant news for you. We don't need more messages or products or services. Instead, we need better messages, products, and services. Specifically, we need those that wow. This is the "compelling product" part of the success equation. But what is wow and how can we develop it? How can we make sure our message, product, or service creates a wow experience?

The first step is learning to recognize it. Most of us have experienced wow moments. We just haven't taken time to think deeply about them.

For example, a few summers ago, I took my wife and youngest daughter to Scotland. It was our first visit. We rented a car and spent a week touring the western Highlands. We started in Edinburgh and drove north to Inverness. We then drove down the west side of Loch Ness to Fort Augusta and then headed west across the Highlands to the Isle of Skye. We took our time and savored every moment.

As we neared the town of Portree, the capital of Skye, we saw the Sound of Raasay for the first time and let out a collective, "Wow!" It was gorgeous. My eyes welled up with tears. It was a transcendent moment—something none of us had expected.

We experienced numerous wow moments on this trip—Edinburgh Castle, the Caledonian Canal, Eilean Donan Castle, the ancient Dun Telve Broch, Glenelg Bay, Kilt Rock, the church of St. Mary and St. Finnan near Glenfinnan, and the endless fields of Scottish lupines.

Sometime after that trip, I met with my executive team for an all-day planning meeting. As we began the afternoon session, I asked them to think of one of the most powerful wow moments they had experienced in their lives. Then I asked each person to share the experience. One person spoke about the birth of a child. Another told of the first time he kissed his wife. Still another shared his experience of seeing Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe for the first time. It was so inspiring. We all could see each person's face light up as he or she spoke. The rest of us vicariously entered into the joy.

Next I asked the group to try to identify the common attributes in each of these experiences. Here's the list we created. Every wow experience has some combination of the following ten elements:

1. Surprise. A wow experience always exceeds our expectations. It creates delight, amazement, wonder, or awe. For Christmas one year, one of my friends bought me a copy of the illustrated edition of 1776 by David McCullough. Honestly, it blew my socks off. I have never seen a more beautiful book. As the advertising copy says, "Packed with striking replicas of letters, maps, and portraits, this updated version of David McCullough's 2005 best seller provides readers with unedited firsthand accounts of America's initial steps toward sovereignty." This product definitely created a wow experience.

2. Anticipation. Anticipating a wow experience is almost as good as the experience itself. As you think about it, you begin to live it in advance. For example, as I am writing this, Gail and I are planning a trip to the beach. We are beginning to think about it daily. I am making a mental list of the things I want to do. I can almost feel the breeze blowing in from the ocean. With each new day, the anticipation builds.

3. Resonance. A wow experience touches the heart. It resonates at a deep level. It sometimes causes goose bumps or even tears. I remember watching my two granddaughters play on the beach for the first time. They were joy personified as they chased the waves and the waves chased them. I thought to myself, Oh, to be that young!

4. Transcendence. A wow experience connects you to something transcendent. In that moment, you experience purpose, meaning, or even God. Years ago when I was an artist manager, one of my clients sat down at a piano to play some new songs for my business partner and me. As she began to sing, I was caught up in the music. I knew her talent was coming directly from some other place. I was overwhelmed at the beauty.

5. Clarity. A wow experience creates a moment when you see things with more clarity than ever before. You suddenly "get it" in a new way. Not long ago, I was reading Chasing Daylight by Eugene O'Kelly. The story was so powerful I could not put it down. I read it in one long airplane ride to the West Coast. In those few hours, I had more clarity about life than I had had in a long time.

6. Presence. A wow experience creates timelessness. You aren't thinking about the past. You're not even thinking about the future. Instead, you are fully present in what is happening now. One such perfect moment happened when I enjoyed an evening on the porch with my daughter, Mary, and her husband, Chris. We spent several hours talking and enjoying a bottle of wine together. It seemed like time stood still.

7. Universality. A true wow experience is nearly universal. Almost everyone will experience it in a similar way. This is why Cirque du Soleil and the Grand Canyon are so popular. They are so compelling that they appeal to people of all ages and ethnicities.

8. Evangelism. A wow experience has to be shared. You can't contain it. You immediately begin thinking of all the people you wish were with you. After the experience, you recommend it unconditionally. You become an unpaid evangelist. I have done this with all the books I recommend to my friends and on my blog. And as you might know, "Apple evangelists" are a phenomenon of their own.

9. Longevity. The shine never wears off a wow experience. You can experience it again and again without growing tired of it. It endures. In 1973 I attended a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert at Texas Stadium in Dallas, Texas. I was on the field, about ten yards from the stage. It was incredible. In 2000, for my birthday, Gail bought tickets to the CSN&Y concert in Nashville. Twenty-seven years later, they still blew me away.

10. Privilege. A wow experience makes you proud in a good way. You're glad to be associated with it. You feel privileged, as if you are in an elite group, but at the same time humbled that you have had the experience. "Sandra" had a wow experience following her cochlear implant surgery. She had become profoundly deaf by the time she had the implants. On Activation Day, she was able to hear her granddaughter's first words to her: "Can you hear me, Grandma?" Within months her hearing was clear, and "the magic began. I heard grandchildren's voices for the first time, and my children, family and friends sounded just as I remembered. Does life get any better than this?" Clearly Sandra feels both privileged and humbled.

Being successful means becoming the expert in recognizing wow when it shows up. More importantly, it means being able to recognize it when it is absent—and insisting that you ask yourself to deliver it. Don't settle for something less, because, in doing so, you are depriving your customers of the wow experience they seek—and deserve. It is the foundation to building a significant platform.

Chapter Three

Exceed Market Expectations

On November 28, 2010, the highly anticipated Broadway rock musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark had its preview showing. Audiences were excited to see the sold-out show, since it was directed by Julie Taymor, who had also directed the spectacular musical adaptation of The Lion King. And the score would be outstanding too; the music and lyrics were written by Bono and the Edge, half of U2. At a cost of sixty-five million dollars, the production was to be one of visually stunning special effects.

It was, however, an utter disaster. The four-hour mess started late, had a hopelessly muddled plot, and was "stopped repeatedly as equipment fell from the rafters and actors were left hanging in the air."

The lead actor, Reeve Carney, was "caught in an aerial harness at one point, while also being dangled several feet in the air above the audience at the end of act one."

Of the eighteen hundred or so people in the audience that night, some walked out. Here are some of their comments:

• "OK, I have no idea what I just witnessed. It was a total incoherent mess. Taymor seems to have gotten so caught up in the symbolism and fx that she forgot to include a story. Innovative at times, but soulless always."

• "The show was stopped 5–6 times. During one of those times in the second act, a woman in the audience screamed out ... 'I don't know about anybody else, but I feel like a guinea pig and I want my money back!' We should all get refunds."

• "Oh. Plot. Right.... Act I was understandable. Act II was bizarre. It was completely lost. The show is meant to be meaningful, I guess?"

Spider-Man's audience that night was expecting a wow experience, and what Taymor delivered was, to put it mildly, disappointing. That is something we all wish to avoid, even if on a smaller and less public scale.

Here's the bottom line: you must exceed the customer's current expectations. That doesn't sound all that profound. But I think it has big implications for those of us who are committed to creating wow experiences—and building significant platforms.

First of all, each person brings a specific set of expectations to each experience. Those expectations may be conscious or unconscious. They may be general or specific. They may be vague or clearly defined. Regardless, no customer comes to any experience without some kind of expectation. It's just the way the human mind works.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from PLATFORM by MICHAEL HYATT Copyright © 2012 by Michael Hyatt. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction; 2. Stones, bones, ochre and beads; 3. Kinship, sociality and the symbolic order; 4. Ritual and religion; 5. The flowering of language; 6. Conquering the globe; 7. After symbolic thought: the Neolithic; 8. Conclusion.

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