I've worked for a lot of different kinds of companies and organizations, run my own business, and been laid off by a big company. I know what it means to be a loyal employee and also to have that loyalty crushed. When I heard SAS' CEO Jim Goodnight say he would accept lower profits this year so as to avoid layoffs, I thought, "Maybe this really is a company I could stay at the rest of my career."
That got me thinking about the rest of my career. I'm 43 now, so my career might go another 20 years or so.
At SAS we try to reach lots of different audiences - not just C-level execs who make the purchase decisions, but IT managers, programmers, statisticians, recent grads and students.
That means the majority of the people I'll need to reach and influence in 20 years are somewhere between zero and 30 right now.
Some of my future audience isn't even born yet.
So does anybody really think those people, in 20 years, will be going to static web sites and entering their email addresses to download white papers? Reading emails? Even sitting in offices looking at monitors?
The people who will determine whether or not I get to retire comfortably or work until I drop are today's early adopters, the digital natives, the people who most of us in our 40s now find either fascinating or terrifying. If we let them get out of sight, we'll never see them again.
We spend a lot of time now asking "What's the ROI?" and "What are our competitors doing?" and "What are the industry best practices?"
The people we'll be marketing to in the next 20 years are putting pictures of themselves on Facebook that would get us fired and would have gotten our dads arrested.
They're not thinking of the reasons not to do something. For better or worse, they're doing it. And as uncomfortable as that might make us, those who are accustomed to cost/benefit analysis and SWOT and 12-month budget cycles, that's the attitude those people will bring with them to the marketplace our tired old selves will be trying to influence.
It won't be about figuring out what to do. It'll be about doing it and seeing what happens. Or trying to figure out where everybody went.