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Why old is still new

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In an exclusive, Rezwana Manjur, regional editor of Marketing magazine, affirms there can be no alternative to experience – even in the new world of technology.

Recently, I was watching a 2009 George Clooney movie, Up in the Air, which revolves around a corporate “downsizer” named Ryan Bingham and his travels. See, Ryan, the protagonist, worked for an outplacement consultancy and earned his keep by travelling across the US and firing people on behalf of employers.

As a frequent flyer, Ryan’s main goal in life was to become the youngest person to earn 10 million frequent flyer miles with American Airlines (point number one).

But one day, Ryan is called back to his company’s HQ where he meets a young executive who is pushing for a computerised programme. The programme is designed to cut costs by conducting layoffs via video conferencing with a standard script in place (point number two).

Ryan, an old dog in the trade, calls out the new system for being cold and decides to upstage the young executive – with the hope the entire system will be scrapped, and he can go back to his way of life as a nomad. Instead, Ryan’s boss decides to pair him up with the young executive to train her on the job. Grudgingly, he agrees (point number three).

Clearly, comfort breeds lack of change. And probably, the only way to counter this is to work with someone from a different world altogether.

While I shall not delve much deeper into the story, what I found interesting is that many of the trends pointed out in 2009 relate to what marketers and HR leaders are discussing today.

Point No.1: I think any KrisFlyer member would relate to being obsessed with checking their points and rewards. While many marketers might argue the point system is so yesterday, I think nine years later it is here to stay (for example, gamified leader boards for learning).

Point No.2: Time and again, I have come across various instances where customer care folks in numerous parts of the world simply respond to my frustrations with a scripted answer and no empathy or wiggle room. And, while I know logically, there is very little to be done by the person on the other end of the line, sometimes, a human touch is needed when the going gets tough.

Point No.3: This point is probably my favourite. Clearly, comfort breeds lack of change. And probably, the only way to counter this is to work with someone from a different world altogether. But as Ryan’s pairing with the new executive shows, there can be no alternative to experience – even in the new world of technology.

So head held high, no matter how young or old you think you are, go forth with confidence in the knowledge you can bring.

Photo / StockUnlimited

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