Commentary & Analysis
Echo Chambers, Finding Open Water, and Navigating to Create Your Own Economy
In any industry, just like in life, there are normally two great barriers that stand in the way of people and companies changing: ego and education (knowledge). When we believe we have all the answers, we find ourselves in a terrible dilemma. Tim Baechle, CEO of Idealliance, explains how stepping outside the industry’s echo chamber and making outselves open to alternative viewpoints can make us more open to change—and make better decisions.
By Tim Baechle
Published: August 26, 2019
This coming week, I am getting ready to take my oldest daughter off to start her first year of school at NYU. I am deeply proud of her for many reasons, but on the collegiate side of things, she was accepted to every school she applied to, all of which were in the Top 30 colleges in the country, and she received a scholarship. She pursued all of these by herself with no parental steering. We wanted her to choose her own path in life. She ultimately decided on her dream school of NYU, which was solely her choice, to pursue her career because of what she felt NYU had to offer, including global campuses, allowing her to explore the world and take in a vast amount of cultures both in New York City, her new, never before met roommates from across the world, and whatever foreign campus she decides to attend while going to NYU. We never pushed her on grades but allowed her to find her way—her own drive, her cadence, explore her dreams, make her own decisions and determine her course in life. We always encouraged her that her dreams were and are always in reach and at times had to tell her to not to be so tough on herself because she found a grade of a “B” to be unacceptable.
In preparation for orientation week for university, she was asked to take an online “test” in order to determine which political party she aligns with; this way, she can state it at an incoming student event on campus during orientation week. This “test” also included parental religious affiliations and prior to that, there was a required summer reading of a book, which I will not mention, but in summary it is about how education begins once you separate from your family and think for yourself. I also read the book myself out of curiosity and interest. I was bewildered by the “test” and so was my daughter because in our home we are tolerant, accepting, supportive and open to everyone. Thus began another conversation on being prepared for the world outside of the “bubble” of our own echo chamber perhaps. Having lived and worked all over the world, we are not a political family. My kids have been exposed to the plight, blight, beauty, and realities of mankind, including the success and most importantly the failures in life, including within our own family, very much including myself—failures and shortcomings highlighted in bold. We believe in transparency, where truth is spoken, answers are given without docile language because the world is not perfect, nor are parents, and in order to see things for what they are, it is important to see them in totality. Life is a four-letter word and that connotation can sometimes be an expletive and sometimes be an exhilarative. We learn deeply from lessons, both our own and from others. So, the echo chamber begins as she started to send me her results and those posted within the forum regarding the results of this “test.” She asked me my opinion on the matter and my answer was, “you should decide what issues mean the most to you and why you support them or do not support them and if it is different than mine, that will not matter, because you are absolutely entitled to your beliefs, as you are your own person and this is your own life. It is for you decide what you support and believe, and I would never push, influence and say what you believe is wrong. What I believe and support may be different, but that does not mean I am right, and you are wrong.”
As I travel the world each year, logging close to 250,000 to 300,000 flight miles annually, I am exposed to a lot in the industry and it provides a lot of “terra firma” insight into what is really going on in our industry globally, what markets are skyrocketing, what other markets are poised for incredible growth, where technology is leapfrogging other technology, where there is a re-birth of certain types of printing methods, where certain print methods are shifting to new markets and shorter runs from the traditional work, where there is innovation, where there is thirst for knowledge and also great opportunity—among so many other things. It is an eye-opening, first-hand perspective. We work in the business of serving the industry as a global think tank. Our roles are in transforming the industry to greater profitability and efficiency through certifications, specifications, standards, education, and leading practices. We work with everyone involved in the printing and packaging supply chain globally, touching every corner of the Earth.
Often when I return to the United States, I see and hear things so differently that I see and hear around the world. The echo chamber, for one, is not something that exists so prevalently globally as it does in the United States. There are certainly parts of the world that are in a “bubble of information,” but typically that has to do with geographic proximity to other parts of the world, economies, or a political environment of a country. People are not typically, for right or for wrong, reinforcing their circumstances through the “bubbles” of industry “news” that are disseminated by self-described thought leaders, but forging their own way, building their companies up through delivering great products, building incredible relationships, education both shared internally and externally, standardization, knowledge, certifications, process control, acquiring customer after customer and maintaining their client base, driving internal culture, constantly managing manufacturing and increasing profitability and what you see is expansion, which you most certainly also see here in America, as well. Operational efficiency reporting is everyday work in many operations—all process-driven cultures. Overseas, you might find a company with 1200 employees, but you can also routinely find the CEO on the floor of the facility. This is hands-on detail, because that is what built the business from one press to 30 presses, 10 employees to 1,200, and that never seems to stop. Some used to refer to this as “bootstrapping.” I see this here in the United States as well across many sectors of our industry. In many countries in the world, ISO Standards and Certifications are not procedures or ideas, but legal requirements in order to conduct business and most certainly to attract business. You most certainly see this in America as well, which greatly advances efficiencies, profitability, customer bases, and reduction in both waste and expenses. Globally you never hear about “print is dead,” “how to reboot your business,” or things that talk about how great things used to be, as if everyone is working under this black cloud of business failure, driven by unfounded knowledge and rhetoric in “research” where only 20 to 50 people respond in this massive industry and then conclusions are drawn by someone, typically with no industry experience, based on the answers to questions, regardless if the responses represent the industry as a whole—which they never do—or if the questions are poignant, directive, subjective, or valid, then draw a blanket conclusion of the same conclusion from last year and the year before and the year before that. In statistics and science, this would be considered a statistical hypothesis with a false finding because there is considerable growth occurring in a variety of market segments and what is being reported is statistically unsupported.
I often think of the lessons we can learn from stepping outside of the echo chamber and truly seeing what is happening around the world—and certainly stepping outside of our own selves and seeing how this can have a dramatic impact on business here in America, especially from an industry perspective. There are many incredible things happening in the industry, many of them most certainly happening right here in America. This open-minded perspective, drawing your own conclusions, thinking for yourself, and questioning data/information is very important. So much is not being discussed. “If you are acting like a sheep, do not blame the shepherd. You cannot herd lions. Wake up and roar and you are free.” A great example of this is how people are using sheetfed offset for short runs and digital presses for long runs (there is flip-flop in certain markets that has occurred), the skyrocketing growth of the corrugated market, and most certainly the technology within this space, as well as who is in this market and who is entering this market, how and why people are migrating to high-speed inkjet technology and offset LEP over other technology, which is quite amazing when you consider price point leaps. It’s also quite amazing when you see what markets are making this change. There is a reason this is occurring, continuing with color capabilities of technology today (gamut and tolerance) and how as a buyer you can truly benchmark a press you are demoing. You also see certain markets moving largely to digital (not just segments but regions of the world), others increasing growth in flexography in parts of the market (wide web and narrow web), where expanded color gamut (CMYKOGV) is making the biggest impact, inline automation and the impact on certain print technology markets and many, many other things such as how brands search for service providers with presses with Xnumber of colors—and why—including very specific sheet size requirements, die lines (including direction), and global certification requirements on suppliers being searched. Find your customer first and then fill the gap. Experimentation is costly.
Like any industry, just like life, there are normally two great barriers that stand in the way of people and companies changing and those are ego and education (knowledge). When we believe we have all the answers or are perfect despite the circumstances that hold us down and back, we find ourselves in a terrible dilemma, a dilemma we are typically completely unaware of because we have not stepped out of the echo chamber. Change typically only occurs at the intersection of grace and/or desperation. When we choose to elevate/enhance ourselves, by consciously making this decision, we change and can change. When we are at a point of distress, sometimes one that is so great, the pain can often move us in the right direction of change, however, this choice must also be consciously made, deeply committed to, and sought out to complete transformation that can be life everlasting, should one be so committed. No change ever occurs when someone tells us we must change or should change. We must recognize the need to change, be open to change and most importantly be committed to take the personal steps to change. You cannot change the path of a stream with a pebble; it takes tectonic force or human intervention, such as building a dam. All of us are wired for change and have the ability to change. It is essential to our growth, adaptation and survival.
So, if we end where we began, it all starts with “self.” The beauty of free will can never be forgotten, forsaken, or let go of. The compass of our lives sits within our own hands, the magnetic pulls of life can throw our compasses off wildly from time to time, but there is something that never moves, which every great mariner knows when they lose their way at sea, and at that is the North Star. The North Star never moves. If you find the North Star, your “North Star,” you find your way quickly back on path. On the sea of life, the ability to find this is critical. When you lead others, you must also be able to get others quickly back on the “boat,” being a “navigator” and a great mariner is knowing where to look to find your way and knowing that no matter what comes your way, you know how to stay on course. You cannot find an echo in open water, but what you can find is you have plenty room to move in open water. You can also create your own economy—people do it every day, all over the world. You just need to find your wind and your way.
Powering the Supply Chain®
Idealliance, a global think tank, is a non-profit graphic communications industry organization with 12 strategically located offices around the world. Idealliance serves brands, OEMs, service providers in print and packaging, content & media creators, creative agencies/design teams, material suppliers, and innovators & developers worldwide. We do our work through ISO Standards Innovation, Print and Digital Workflows & Technologies Development & Integration, Technical Research, Certification, Training, Brand & Facility Auditing Programs, Brand Strategy Consulting/Premedia and serves as a Global Super Connector for brands, print buyers, service providers, & OEMs throughout the world. Our specifications have transformed the graphic communications industry by defining production workflows for color (GRACoL®, SWOP®, XCMYK™, G7®,and BrandQ®). Idealliance is the world’s foremost certifying body for competencies, systems, materials, and facilities, and Idealliance, a Liaison ‘A’ to ISO TC130, is one of the world’s largest contributors and developers of ISO standards.
Join us in creating the future of our industry.