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A wholly new force is driving human behavior today, and it's turning the world as we know it upside down and inside out. Human behavior is now being driven by a new survival instinct -- a new primal desire -- that is invisibly but unstoppably reshaping the world, from the most intimate details of our private lives to the dynamics of the global marketplace. The New Culture of Desire reveals and chronicles this present and future brave new world -- the beginning of Human History Part II. According to futurist Melinda Davis, it is evolving right under our noses, and we need to adapt now to survive -- and to thrive.
Described variously as "a secret weapon of the Fortune 100" and a "hired-gun visionary," Davis divulges the startling conclusions and once confidential details of The Human Desire Project, a six-year, multidisciplinary study to investigate what makes human beings want what they want and do what they do. Originally initiated as a landmark study for big business (Davis's client ranks include distinguished companies such as AT&T, Merck, Diageo, Procter & Gamble, L'Oréal, Unilever, and Lucent Technologies), The Human Desire Project evolved into an even larger phenomenon with far-reaching implications for all of our lives. In The New Culture of Desire, you learn to leverage for your own good fortune, today -- and into tomorrow -- the same insights and strategies that inform the future plans of some of the most powerful corporate movers and shakers around. Here are just some of the revelations of The New Culture of Desire:
The unconscious formula that we all use to make choices now
Why bliss beats sex, money, and power
The new peak experience: the State of O
The single greatest unmet consumer need
The battle for our interior lives
The five strategies we enlist to satisfy the new primal desire -- and what they mean for your life and your business
Harvard-educated and street-smart, Davis examines the telltale signs of our rapidly morphing world with the nose of an MIT/MTV anthropologist and an arsenal of case histories. Quizzes and checklists appear throughout the book to help you diagnose your own desires. New marketing models provide new ways to speak more powerfully to the heart of your customers' true desires. This insider's analysis of the most powerful desire-driven trends of our time provides a strategic guide to the inside of the new millennial mind, to help you understand your own motivations and those of your colleagues, customers, and friends. Here are some of those cultural trends that you need to know about:
Magical Thinking: Looking for the simple, supernatural solution
The Third Sex: Having it all
Yoda-ism: New candidates for a god
Tribe Crashing: The ultimate insiderism
Hot-Blooded Spiritualism: Drumming up the saving graces
Raging Amazonianism: The rise of the butt-kicking babe
Pleasure Healing: Self-indulgence that does you good
P. Q.: The Performance Quotient: Upgrading the human processor
A pioneering work that looks into what people want and why, The New Culture of Desire blows traditional future-planning theory and practice sky-high, and replaces it with groundbreaking strategies that really work.
|Product dimensions:||6.26(w) x 1.00(h) x 9.30(d)|
About the Author
Melinda Davis is the CEO and primary seer of The Next Group, a futurist think tank in New York, and has consulted to multinational corporations, venture capitalists, politicians, and pop culture icons. She is also a fiction writer and winner of a Pushcart Prize. She lives in New York City with her husband, Ealan Wingate.
Read an Excerpt
The New Culture of Desire5 Radical New Strategies That Will Change Your Business and Your Life
By Melinda Davis
Free PressCopyright © 2002 Melinda Davis
All right reserved.
IntroductionThe Human Desire Project
The nature of man as a combination of mind and body is such that it is bound to mislead him from time to time.
- Rene Descartes
Most of us have no idea what we really want.
We know we want something - and we want it with great longing and passion, even ferocity. We just cannot seem to get a handle on what it is. This inability feels particularly peculiar now, when our species is so obsessively attentive to issues of satisfaction, self and otherwise, and when the line-up of things to acquire, to do, to experience, to achieve - to desire - is more vast and compelling than ever before. Our culture prompts us to consider our appetites every waking hour of the day: want this, want this, want this. Yet there is always at the back of our minds the twinge of some enigmatic hankering - a feeling that what would really do it for us has yet to be identified or even created.
We seem to understand even less about the true wants and needs - the defining desires - of everybody else. "What is it?" we constantly wonder of one another. "Enlighten me. Workwith me. Just tell me what you want." For most of us, the answer remains a kind of rumbling mystery, whether we are thinking about what to have for dinner or what to do with the rest of our lives.
Because the dynamics of human desire have rather recently been transformed. It is a change that has been sneaking up on us, catching us mostly unaware and unprepared. As we were looking about for the big news of the future in the world around us - investigating socioeconomic trends and demographic shifts, political revisions and planetary modifications, gazing into the stunning headlights of technology, or struggling to see daylight through the smoke of an exploding architecture of global power - the real revolution has been going on invisibly and nearly imperceptibly inside us, in what it is that makes us (and not our mere machines and social structures) tick now. The big transformation of this transformational era is a recasting of the essential nature of the human being, beginning with that most elemental of realities, the human survival instinct - the source from which all appetites, fears, and enthusiasms flow. This profound change in the dynamics of human desire may well mark the division between Human History Part I and Human History Part II.
Human behavior is now being ruled by a new pleasure imperative - a new primal desire - that is at least as powerful as the one that brought each of us into the world. Although, as you will see, the goal is consummately peaceful, the experience of the new primal desire is provocative, indeed. It needles, it goads, it exhorts, for no desire of the primal variety is ever a wilting lily. It keeps us from our slumbers and visits us in our dreams. It pokes at us as we hide behind a gaze in those brief, empty-headed moments on the bus, behind the wheel, standing in line, facing the mirror - or pushing a cart or a mouse through endless lineups of things for sale. Evidence suggests it has overtaken not only sex, but also money and power as the most persuasive - and irresistible - driver of our twenty-first-century behavior. Ultimately, this new dynamic of motivation, persuasion, and behavior will compel the creation of an entirely new architecture of human exchange - a new model of the marketplace and human relationship - which will reshape human society with a transformative power that rivals that of technology itself.
This is a fairly significant event.
To say the least, this change in human desire presents a professional challenge for those people whose livelihoods depend upon understanding what is going on inside other people's hearts and minds - the pitchmen, the persuaders, and the wooers of the world - whether they are in the business of selling or politics or religion or writing love songs. But even before we get to the work of pitching and wooing, of rallying and missioneering, there is the ever-present, personal issue of our own hearts and minds. Wouldn't it be great if we could finally figure out what is going on in there? Great for our lives, great for our selves - and yes, great for business - because we would be armed with a powerful, deep-insider intelligence. The most critical requirement for success in the future is recognizing, understanding, and addressing the big change in what we want.
This need-to-know is, in fact, the mission that launched The Human Desire Project, an ongoing investigation that began in 1996, and whose discoveries this book reports. The Human Desire Project led to a new vision of the future - and a new model for successful transaction - that is at least as critical for the individual - for each of us, you and me - as it is for the corporate clients who were the project's original stakeholders. This book is designed to share both the learning and the adventure: the discoveries, insights, musings, and imaginings of participating thinkers, the juicy insider stories, facts and figures, and the conclusions that took even the participants by surprise.
The Human Desire Project is an initiative of my company, The Next Group, a think tank founded in 1993 to provide a new kind of resource for people making high-stakes gambles on the future. We observe, investigate, and analyze human behavior - both theoretically and in the trenches of the real world - and use those insights to inform our clients of opportunities for innovation in the marketplace and the culture. We have been described as hired-gun visionaries, a description I rather like, because our work, though intellectually driven and unabashedly visionary, is emphatically pragmatic. Our blue-sky thinking is firmly grounded in the service of no-nonsense corporate task masters - companies such as AT&T, Merck Pharmaceuticals, Diageo, Unilever, Lucent Technologies, Campbell Soup Company, L'Oreal, Miller Brewing, Corning, Viacom, and Procter & Gamble, to name a few - as well as new start-ups backed by investors such as Intel, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, and Warburg Pincus. We have also worked with political candidates, venture capitalists, icons of popular culture, and even a well-known religious figure. (Who among us is not in the business of selling something to someone else?)
And so the starting point for our investigations is the flashpoint of desire in the culture: the marketplace. It is there that we make not only our most frequent and straightforward expressions of desire, but also our most documentable ones. Evidence of desire old and new is most easily seen in the great open space of the agora, where the exchange of something for something is plainly revealed. However, like the human heart and mind, the culture of the marketplace - the very idea of life-as-one-big-sales-negotiation: "I want this, you want that, let me try and sell you this exchange" - encompasses a lot of territory, embracing just about every human endeavor. Marketing practices have infiltrated our lives, from the most public to the most private of concerns. Even foreign policy and the patterns of our sex lives are manipulated by the furies of market research, advertising, and spin.1 We may not like the idea that even our most intimate lives are governed by the laws of the marketplace - but they are. The politics of persuasion, seduction, negotiation, and exchange - of skillfully shaping the quid pro quo - the something for something - that makes the sale, cinches the deal, and in some circles, seals it with a kiss - is the law of our current jungle. We are all in the persuasion business - selling an idea, an opinion, a vision of how a relationship (or the next ten minutes) should go forward, an understanding of "the truth," our very selves. (Consider the amount of attention given lately to the concept of "personal branding" - the way we present ourselves to potential employers, colleagues, and other players in the great game of life.) Some may use the skills of persuasion in a more commercial context than others, some with more self-awareness, skill, or aplomb. But none of us escapes the necessity of negotiating human exchange, or the power of desire politics to shape our lives. The moment any one of us invests in an agenda that is not hermetically solitary, persuasion becomes the critical task.
So when I speak of the business of desire in this book, I am talking to every one of us: those who are marketers by profession, but also those who qualify as marketers simply by dint of being alive. The politics of desire is a basic dynamic of life. It includes any pursuit that lives by the mysterious laws of has/gets: the marketplace itself, management and diplomacy, politics and policy, relationships and romance, religion and war, power and fame. In all of the heart-and-mind fields of life, those people with the keenest understanding of how to address human desire ultimately prevail.
Given how triumphant the model of the marketplace has been in taking over so many aspects of our civilization, one might expect established marketing science and its insights to be right on the money when it comes to understanding how the human heart and mind work now. In fact, someone, somewhere, right this minute, is speechifying about how some imagined secret collaborative of cereal makers, car companies, and soft drink manufacturers has created the ultimate sneaky algorithm to tap into our cravings and control us all. Such is not the case, as every marketing pro reading these sentences is secretly, sadly, and with reluctant denial of omnipotence, acknowledging.
If it were true, marketing science would not see such astonishing rates of failure: up to 95 percent of all new products, for instance, are destined to end in a bloodbath of red ink and oblivion. So while it is difficult to imagine a culture more deeply invested in innovation than consumer marketing ("It's new! It's improved! It's the next big thing!"), the official marketing world is revealing itself to be one of the most ironbound, anti-insightful, anti-visionary industries still alive these days - even as it engages in the business of innovation itself. The official mouthpiece of new news in the world of desire has become a dusty old compendium of cliches and conventional wisdoms, many established way back in the fifties and sixties. In turbulent times, even the champions of change tend to cling to what they perceive to be the status quo. Mature markets, unpredictable economic karma, scary times, and the powerful reflex to hold on tight to the familiar when everything else seems to be madly morphing, make most marketers afraid not to follow the established canon of insights into what makes us want the things we want and do the things we do. And so we have a marketing industry whose efforts are inspired not by real and true insight into people's hearts and minds, but by excessive attachment to outdated research techniques, technology, internal political agendas, the service of method over mission, or paranoid projections of what the competition might do - a competition that is probably equally trapped in a consumer-intelligence time-warp - the marketing-insight equivalent of your father's Oldsmobile, windows up, doors locked. Classic premise and methodology are plainly discernible and politically difficult to fault, even as they continue to fail.
It is true that the community of commerce has exerted enormous effort at understanding the new mechanics of the business of desire: the rush of new technology that changes the whole playing field of communication, distribution, and selling; global brand management, database mining, digital culture, and that still-ruling king of corporate self-satisfaction, "core - this is what we do - competency." But the prevailing assumptions of how the consumer mind works have been unexamined - and obsolescent - for years. How ironic it is that the business of desire has become so obsessed with every revolution that affects the structure of commerce - bricks or clicks? global or local? content or conduit? lone crusade or mega-alliance? - that it has been largely oblivious to the revolution in desire itself that may well make all of these issues beside the point. The process of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic comes to mind.
This failure of insight on the part of the marketing industry - the mothers of desire, as it were - creates a bizarre disconnect in all of our lives. The loudest voices of human want and need in the culture are strangely out of sync with the quieter - but more compelling - voices inside our own heads. We struggle with the sensation that there are two realities going down - our own private inner hungers and the loud public hungers that rule the airwaves and the conventional wisdom.
Our truest, most powerful desires are undercover, in the dark, misunderstood, and disquietingly - weirdly - unrecognized by the prevailing premises of official marketing science. The purpose of The Human Desire Project, and this book, is to go boldly in there, into the dark, where the true motivating power of our lives dwells, to have a good look around, ask the important questions, and come out with a plan. Why do we want the things we want and do the things we do? And how do we use these new insights to find greater satisfaction and success in our personal and professional lives?
The Project began with a straightforward research and development proposition: to identify those products, services, ideas, enthusiasms, and innovations that will strike a successful chord in the future. What will be the big motivators of our twenty-first-century spending behavior? What will make our eyes grow wide, our pulses quicken, and our wallets open? In short, what will people buy? This question led, inevitably, to the bigger question before us right now: what do human beings really want? We discovered that this is, in fact, the question of the century - the futurist's equivalent of the physicist's "answer for everything," the explanation of the origins of the universe. For human desire is the ultimate force of creation. What we want determines who we are and what we will make of this world. Given the nature of the question, I suppose we at The Next Group should not have been surprised that what started out as a mission for big business became, in addition, an amazingly personal adventure for everyone involved, a journey into an interior landscape that is both intimately familiar and totally unexpected: the mysteries of the human heart and mind in the throes of an astonishing metamorphosis.
Like all Next Group investigations, The Human Desire Project goes forward as a collaborative of insider experts. These beloved "peripheral visionaries" (a term I lift, with a bow, from Tom Peters) represent an extraordinary assemblage of cutting-edge expertise, indeed - celebrated thinkers, authorities, movers and shakers from virtually every field of inquiry and enthusiasm alive and kicking in the human circus. Our process is inspired by a vigorous belief in the powers of interdisciplinary collaboration. There is priceless enlightenment to be found in identifying those hot zones where apparently divergent phenomena - say, technology, religion, fashion, intellectual inquiry, supermarket trends, science, popular entertainment, visual and literary art, the cult of celebrity, and the ruminations of scholarly genius - converge.
Our expert ranks include research scientists and scholars, poets and choreographers, corporate chairmen and cultural alphas, psychiatrists and senior marketing executives, artists and authors, policy wonks and theme park designers, film producers and neurophysiologists, media whizzes and quantum physicists, performance artists and digital-world-makers, epidemiologists and educators, healers (AMA, shamanic, and otherwise) and trendsetting chefs, Chasidic rabbis and rock promoters, social anthropologists and retailing gurus, molecular biologists and architects, professors and award-winning screenwriters, magazine editors and journalists - the insider knowers and analyzers of the news along with the newsmakers themselves. Our objective is to capture an advance look at what's next from that most insider of all possible views - the inside of the heads of the imagineers of the future. We look for telling cross-category convergences - common grounds of cutting-edge curiosity, theory, point of view, passion - that point a knowing finger in the direction of the Next Big Aha. From our cross-category perch, we are able to spot surprising and powerful new commonalities shared by even the most dissimilar fields, and to identify new forces that will drive innovation in both the culture and the marketplace. Our ongoing intelligence work allows us to discover the fires of the future while they are still just a twinkle in an insider's eye. It is an extremely privileged perspective on coming attractions.
Excerpted from The New Culture of Desire by Melinda Davis Copyright © 2002 by Melinda Davis. Excerpted by permission.
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.
Table of Contents
|Introduction: The Human Desire Project||1|
|Part 1||A New Understanding of Human Behavior|
|Chapter 1||Human History, Part II: Welcome to the Age of the Imaginational||15|
|Chapter 2||Life on Terra Not So Firma: How to Make Sense of Human Behavior When Reality Itself Has Gone Mental||53|
|Chapter 3||The New Primal Desire: Struggling for Psychic Survival, Shooting for Ultimate Bliss||71|
|Chapter 4||Bliss and the Bottom Line: The Calculus of O||95|
|Part 2||The Hierarchy of Healing|
|Chapter 5||Strategy I: Doing the Work of Grief: Mourning the Death of an Old Reality||111|
|Primal Escapism "I Am Outta Here"||113|
|Outward Bound in an Inward Age: Our Appetite for Survivalism, the Old-Fashioned Way||115|
|An Age of Rage: Fury As Imaginational Politics||116|
|Raging Amazonianism: Or the Incredible Rise of the Butt-Kicking Babe||121|
|Bad Behavior "Oh Yeah? Watch This!"||127|
|Smart-Assism: The Bad Behavior of the Deeply Cynical||130|
|Why Everyone Is Talking to God: Calling in the Invisible Powers||132|
|Our Black Plague: An Evolutionary Warning?||134|
|Chapter 6||Strategy II: Pursuing Instant Altered States: First Aid for an Ailing State of Mind||137|
|Pleasure Healing: "Say Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh"||138|
|The New Medicine Man: Shamans of Altered States||146|
|Hot-Blooded Spiritualism: "Drumming Up the Saving Graces"||155|
|Chapter 7||Strategy III: Looking for Safety in the Human Embrace: The Search for Imaginational Shelter||161|
|The Human Net: "Catch Me!"||162|
|Primal Tribalism: The New Gangs of Psychic Safety||163|
|Tribe Crashing: "Please! Let Me In!"||169|
|The Third Sex: Is the Concept of Sexual Identity Obsolete?||174|
|Chapter 8||Strategy IV: Building a More Solid Sense of Self: Our Quest to Stay Visible in an Invisible World||179|
|Why We Are Fat: The Existential Equivalent of the SUV||181|
|Meta-Posting: Kilroy Goes Global||182|
|Personality Multi-Plexing: When One of You Is Not Enough||185|
|Luxe Populi: The New Elitism||188|
|P.Q. The Performance Quotient: We'd All Feel Much Better If We Were Highly Effective People||192|
|Chapter 9||Strategy V: Finding a Clearer Path: How to Make It Through a Complicated New Jungle||197|
|Navigators, Advocates, and Avatars: Someone to Take the Point||198|
|Mythmaking: The Magnificent Truth Safari Machine||205|
|Yoda-ism: New Candidates for God||209|
|Chapter 10||The Marketer as Meta-Physician: Let the Buyer Be Healed!||217|
|How to Succeed in the New Meta-Physical Marketplace: The Consumer As Mental Patient||224|
|Customer Diagnosis: A New Model for Understanding Wants and Needs||225|
|Customer Treatment: New Models for Marketing||234|
What People are Saying About This
I am a three-decade student of enterprise. Yet I am
increasingly puzzled. I no longer understand what 'value' means, where 'it'
stems from. I loved Melinda Davis's book. It disoriented me. And if you are
not disoriented in 2002, you are not in touch with the profound/scary/
wonderful/horrible changes that have engulfed us all ... from 911 to Enron
to eBay to bio-revolution. Read. Ponder.
best-selling author of The Pursuit of Wow! and In Search of Excellence
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A large part of the joy I derived from my recent ¿home for the holidays¿ visit involved setting up hotmail accounts and MSN messenger service for my parents while also explaining how google, CNN Breaking News alerts and fast web navigation would provide a quick fix to the gray area that surrounds their current needs, pleasures and wants. Fact is fact¿ our world is changing at warp speed and we either shuffle to simply keep up or shudder at the thought of getting in or online. The New Culture of Desire, written by Melinda Davis is a triumph for all those who seek the light of our new day and the truth of this dramatically powerful shift in our time and reality. Melinda, the ¿Pied Piper¿ of our new age, takes our hands and forges forward, both ¿tenderly¿ and ¿fearlessly¿ into the complexities of the world we once knew, in order to assure us that ¿there are no monsters under our beds at night¿, but we better damn well check just the same!! In a point-by-point tell tale, she examines our shifts from the physical to now imaginational world, reflects on our transition from ¿Prada¿ to ¿Prana¿ sensibilities and simultaneously unravels the mysteries of how we ought to survive in the midst of all this chaos, confusion and potential short circuitry. Melinda uses wit, rhyme and a poetic verse that is uniquely her own to admit that, yes¿ these are in fact ¿scary¿ and often confusing times, but Melinda also assures us that they are exciting, and we ought to be ¿in the know¿ both personally and professionally.
I saw this book at a B&N and it was radiating on the shelf, with it's bright orange cover. I started to read it in the store and found that I was tapping into a language that was at once new, and which somehow I also intuitively understood. This is more than a marketing book- it's about sex, and craziness, and how to feel sane again. If you ever feel lost in this world, this bright orange book is your beacon.