Embrace the Opposite

Four steps for starting the new year with a fresh outlook on business.

I’d like to start 2013 with an idea for anyone who’s trying to shake off complacency and invoke a fresh perspective this year. I recommend that everyone pick something you believe very deeply and force yourself to embrace the absolute opposite opinion. Even better, write the argument for your initial belief (like, “We can never make money with our global business”, “We have to jump onto the gaming trend”) and then convince yourself of the opposing view.

For me, the inspiration for my inaugural 2013 philosophy, “Embrace the Opposite”, came from a funny juxtaposition of events—going on record against something with a high degree of passion on one day in December and less than two weeks later, reversing my position. Strongly, and with an equal degree of conviction as my belief in the opposite opinion. What I learned from the unfolding of events has become a new badge of honor (instead of an embarrassment). And, based on this experience, I plan to enter a To Do on my calendar at least once a quarter, “Embrace the Opposite” today.

Aaron Kushner is either the new Pied Piper of newspapers or a naïve newcomer. Either way, watch him in 2013 to inspire the spirit of embracing unconventional approaches to business.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you the stories of Nick Smith, a great writer and editor of a column called For and Against, and Aaron Kushner, the new publisher of The Orange County Register (the newspaper for a large county just outside of Los Angeles), and explain how I reversed my opinion from betting against printed newspapers to rethinking the future playing field for print.

First, I Bet Against the Future of Printed Newspapers
About a month ago, I got a call from Nick Smith, a writer who covers technology and new ideas for the E&T, a journal on Engineering and Technology based in the UK, and editor of a monthly column called For and Against, where experts are asked to weigh in on two sides of a controversial topic. He threw me a softball—“For the next issue, could you argue that printed newspapers are going the way of the dinosaur?” Since anyone who has been paying the slightest amount of attention to any form of media over the past few years would have to be blind not to notice iPads, Kindles, online news, and the decline of newspapers in virtually every market, I took on the assignment as a no-brainer and rattled off the obvious arguments.

Now, I’m Cheering for the Future of Printed Newspapers
That was before I started reading about Aaron Kushner, the 39-year-old new publisher of the Orange County Register (also associated with papers in Colorado and Arizona). Kushner is on record as betting on the future of the printed newspaper, even in the face of the Orange County’s own recent history that included a 40 percent shrinkage in their circulation. In his first moves in Orange County so far, Kushner has done the opposite of what everyone in the newspaper world has been doing lately—for example, he’s reduced the number of blogs and increased coverage of local sports games. Some call him “The Pied Piper of Print”. Others call him crazy.

Maybe he’s nuts. Or naïve. But maybe his lack of conventional newspaper experience will be exactly what it takes to rethink the whole idea of why people subscribe to local papers. If the value equation has shifted, maybe Kushner’s radical moves (like increasing the number of journalists and charging the same for an online subscription as a paper subscription) will turn out to be just what the doctor ordered to rekindle the flames for newspapers.

4 Steps for Shaking Up Your Status Quo in 2013
Here’s a suggestion for a 4-step plan to start 2013 with fighting spirit aimed against complacency:

  1. Pick a belief you cling to and force yourself to embrace the opposite.
  2. Track Aaron Kushner’s progress and follow his unconventional, counter-intuitive approach to newspaper publishing. Whether he wins or loses, pay attention to how a gutsy attitude shakes up preconceptions in an industry long-overdue for an overhaul.
  3. Keep up with Nick Smith’s For and Against columns in the E&T journal every month. Become a fan of the spirit of point/counterpoint.
  4. Think of another belief that you have preached recently. Force yourself to do a shakeup. See if you can rethink the issue in a way that uncovers new opportunities to get closer to customers, redesign some tired processes, or improve your mousetrap.

Here’s to a great start of 2013—the perfect year to get uncomfortable with comfortable.

One Response to “Embrace the Opposite”

  1. Zak Edelman February 4, 2013 at 7:38 am #

    Terrific article. I agree. Flip your own script once in a while. I’ll be watching you guys closely.

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