We have a new post on Medium on what Brexit tells us about the mindset of Britain: a nation divided by sharply different sets of values. This has sharp consequences for business innovation. Here’s an extract.
“We’ve written before about the deep values split across Europe and north America between an emerging generation of “post-materialists” and the existing “traditionals” and “moderns.” The “post-materialists” are close to becoming a majority, which is always when conflict becomes most intense. The social markers of “post-materialists” are that they are younger, better educated, and more urban, but the values differences are more important. “Post-materialists” are more likely to value diversity; “traditionals” and “moderns” hierarchy.
As seen in the chart, four times as many Leavers think Multiculturalism is a force for bad as do Remainers; three times as many Leavers think social liberalism is a force for bad. More than twice as many Leavers think globalisation is a force for bad, and a slightly higher proportion of Leavers think the internet is a force for bad. The gap on cultural differences around multiculturalism, feminism and the environment is wide, and these values differences speak to profound differences in worldview. These are not unique to the US and the UK. We can see the same differences, with different forms of political and party expression, right across Europe and the United States.
The disappointing future
These speak to a deep disappointment in an idea of the future, and of progress, which propelled post-war politics from the mid-1940s to the 1990s. In the UK, the 1997 election was the last in which the winning party had campaigned on an optimistic platform. “Things”, went the song, “can only get better.”
Since then, and even before, globalisation promised prosperity for everyone, but instead, while having profound effects on living standards in Asia, at home it has concentrated wealth even more sharply in the hands of the few. The internet was to be a tool of liberation, but our experience of it is as likely to be of intrusion, a loss of privacy, and a loss of control. The result is that people seek to pull up the drawbridges.
The list of values in the Ashcroft research represents a direct challenge to the idea of innovation. Think of it for a moment: for most brands innovation is about novelty, about progress, often about technology. It is clear that the values represented by leavers aren’t those that welcome continual change in the name of improvement.
The lessons for brands and innovation
From a brand perspective, there are three lessons.
First, think about how to make people feel more secure. The lessons of the financial crisis are relevant here, given the immediate economic impact of the Brexit vote.
But second, there’s a deeper question: how to think about innovation in an age where novelty, technology and disruption are less desirable for people than continuity, familiarity and simplicity. Brands, in other words, need to help give consumers a greater sense of psychological security.
Third, this suggests rethinking the approach to innovation. The mindset should be around cautious innovation around simple comforts and reassurance.”
The longer version at Medium has some brand examples.