New year, new opportunity to be forward-thinking

By Geoff Tan

SPH Magazines

Singapore, Singapore


On 29 December of last year, I was presented with a long service award in recognition of 30 years of loyal and dedicated service to the company.

Many of the folks who congratulated me remarked that this will be a rare feat or an improbable phenomenon going forward, especially for the generation of today! I jested to the people around me that, while length of service is still valued in an organisation with a long history of stellar performance, in a digital organisation you will probably be asked after six months, “You’re still around?”

Regardless of what has happened in the past, the future offers ample opportunities in the media industry.
Regardless of what has happened in the past, the future offers ample opportunities in the media industry.

I was pleasantly surprised when one of my colleagues, who worked at Yahoo before he joined us as business director, said that digital companies do value loyalty. However, instead of giving away metal plaques, Yahoo presents gumball machines and foosball tables to five-year- and 10-year-long service awardees respectively. For me, I’d rather receive a Rolex watch any day!

As to how I feel receiving the award, it has never really occurred to me to count the years I have given to one corporation. I’ve always been one to take a cursory glance at what I achieved in the last year, with a preference for a deeper and longer look at the new and exciting things I can be accomplishing in the year ahead.

In a recent Clifton StrengthsFinder test I participated in, my top five talent themes emerged as futuristic, ideation, strategic, responsibility, relator. Many of my colleagues had themes such as analytical, context, learner, harmony, and discipline.

While some of my peers enjoy thinking about the past to better understand the present — as noted by Gallup — I am inspired about the future and what could be, fascinated by ideas and able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena, revel in finding alternative ways to proceed, enjoy close relationships with others, find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal, and take psychological ownership of what I say I will do.

With uncertainties shaping economies the world over, bleak stock market predictions, brand owners trimming their marketing budgets, companies retrenching and right-sizing their operations, the outlook for 2017 does not look at all optimistic.

But instead of blaming it all on the symptoms, huge opportunities exist for those of us in publishing and media to augment the way we do business and align it to what the market is looking for.

Whether that is more value-added and targeted content for readers, or ROI-driven creative advertising options for advertisers, businesses need to be sustained through this impending downturn. We can be there for them to help our valued clientele effectively communicate their product propositions and inculcate the need for consumers to continue to buy so the downward spiraling economic apocalypse does not become a stark reality!

I am reminding myself at the kick-off of this calendar year that nimbleness, cutting-edge ideas, quick wins, treading unexplored territories, a start-up mentality, attentive listening, intimate client relationships, deep data insights, monetisation across multiple fronts, story-telling across multiple platforms, solutions across omni-channels, consultative-selling, offerings along the value chain, and a digital-first frame-of-mind are mandatory in order to thrive in this brave new world!

Many of us need to face up to the fact that the past is history. Your previous successes are but mere reminders of your inventiveness at those points in time. Your experiences are only as valuable as how you can effectively adapt them to deliver for you in the present moment. Know that you are only as good as your next monetisable idea.

The late iconic Steve Jobs was quoted to have said, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” I interpret it to mean: “Never be fully satisfied, never be complacent, always push yourself, be constantly curious, do the things people say cannot be done, make unconventional decisions, and discover hidden gems!”

On this note, I wish all of you reading this a positively optimistic year ahead. As you take your first few steps forward, let me share with you four of my favourite inspirational quotes, which I hope will motivate you to do great things despite the situation that befalls us:

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” – Michelangelo

“Nothing stops an organisation faster than people who believe that the way you worked yesterday is the best way to work tomorrow.” – Jon Madonna

“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.” – John Sculley

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars!” – Les Brown

Now let’s get out there and just do it!

About Geoff Tan

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