Goodbye Kansas

Lattaby John Latta, Editor-in-Chief --

I was struck at trade shows I attended over the past couple of months by a sense of déjà vu. It was all so very 2009. OEMs, contractors, media, design and support companies, parts producers and attendees were hearing, and delivering, almost word for word, the mantra heard at trade shows last season. “We just have to fight through it, to hold on, to get to the other side.”

It was more a team fight song than anything, but it captured our most basic approach to the recession back then. Buried within it were two assumptions. We assumed that the downturn would be limited in time, that by trade show season 2010 we would be talking about handling the recovery. And we assumed that once we “fought through it” we would be back on our feet in a recognizable world. But a recession with a definite, relatively short, time frame is a distinct, boundaried economic event. A longer one is not the same event. It is not simply a short one that overruns its predicted time frame.

The dynamics of the recession we are in now are not the same as the one we were in a year ago. And recovery will not take us back to a recognizable world. We have left Kansas and we won’t be going back.

We must continue to fight to survive the recession, but at the same time prepare for the new game that is coming. In my own world of media, change is everywhere. While we keep fighting to get through the recession with any and all the tools we can find, we also have to adapt to current changes and prepare for more changes. The 2008 model of media and publishing won’t be coming back. We will do things differently in the future economy. We’ll have no choice.

This is our challenge: we have to think like teenagers, or even pre-teens. They have grown up with change. If cell phones, mp3 players, video game configurations or computers come with totally new gadgets or apps and a whole new operating system they don’t blink. They fire them up and figure out how to get the absolute most out of them in a hurry. They discard the old for the next generation without a second thought.

Change, for teens, is not an interim activity that happens only when we stumble from one paradigm to the next. It is not separate from everyday work, it is built into it. It is not the exception, it is the rule. And it makes the future more accessible, more exciting and more profitable.

But it’s okay – we don’t have to like their music. v