A while back, as part of a theological study I was involved in with my church (Blueprint for Life, co-authored by Michael Kendrick and Ben Ortlip), I came across a terrific illustration of the importance of “thinking forward”. The study utilized a short historical essay on the WWII-era Pomeranian Calvary Brigade of the Polish army to highlight the relative value of time when taken in consideration of planning only for “today”, vs. planning for “eternity”.
The story applies beautifully to all of those who become too comfortable with any aspect of life; not anticipating change and innovation, nor planning appropriately for the future.
As a professional marketing strategist and one whose job has always been intimately connected to an evolving landscape of consumer, cultural and technological trends, I have long believed in this principle with great conviction. It’s how I have always tried to encourage people to think about their products and services, and the mindset I’ve urged them to apply to all areas of their businesses. Because failing to do so can have serious consequences, as Kendrick and Orthlip’s history lesson shows:
“Colonel Mastalerz was one of the most prestigious men in all of Europe- a decorated soldier and leader of the Pomeranian Calvary Brigade. As head of the 18th Lancer division, he was in charge of defending the Pomeranian Corridor. Built around the strength of its 84 infantry regiments, the Polish military had reigned supreme for two decades, turning back numerous assaults and defending their borders victoriously.
Tactically, they were superior. Their training and horsemanship were unsurpassed. Their determination and bravery had earned them an international reputation as one of the fiercest fighting units the world over. But on the morning of September 1, 1939, even Col. Mastalerz knew that Poland’s string of victories was about to end.
The horses of the Polish calvary grew skittish and reared up restlessly. A deep rumbling sound shook the earth, growing louder by the minute. In the distance, Mastalerz could hear the sound of trees cracking and falling to the ground. Through the morning mist, the 2nd and 20th Motorized Divisions of the Third Reich made their way toward Masterlerz and the small hamlet of Krojanty. The invasion of Poland had begun.
In the hours that followed, Polish soldiers on horseback fought a war of attrition against a German unit of tanks and armored cars. It was one of history’s great juxtapositions. The unthinkable was happening. It was a contrast equal to the Wright Brothers observing a space shuttle launch, or Alexander Graham Bell witnessing an Internet Videoconference. Residents from two different worlds met in an iconic exchange of ideologies, as one bygone era surrendered indefensibly to the next. Time and technology had marched by unnoticed. And that changed everything.”
Just like the Polish army, we as marketers must continue our push to evolve. Enduring success will be enjoyed not by those looking to leverage the tried and true, nor those satisfied with remaining in lockstep with their peers; but rather, by those willing and committed to thinking forward and considering: What’s next? How can I do this differently? How can it be improved? What changes can I anticipate (cultural, media, technological)? How can I leverage these trends?
Our industry today (integrated marketing, advertising, public relations and brand communications) is characterized by profound change– extreme shifts in technology and fragmentation of media, all occurring at unbelievable speed. Is there really any question that the ways we deliver messages must always continue to evolve?
As the Pomeranian Calvary Brigade proved, if you’re not committed to the process and looking far enough ahead, you’ll one day find yourself at the unwelcome crossroads of time and technology; of the past and the future; of foresight and hindsight. And you’ll have no choice but to surrender to those who eyes were fixed on a point on the horizon, much farther than your own.
As Kendrick and Ortlip so eloquently put it, “the advance of time has a great way of correcting nearsightedness”.
Note: The Blueprint for Life Study from which the story of the Pomeranian Calvary is referenced, is a truly enlightening (and exceptionally well-developed and designed), multi-media resource that takes valuable, secular-styled lessons for intentional living and goal-setting and applies them to Christian principles. I highly recommend this $59 study for groups or individuals. You’ll find many more brilliant illustrations you can apply to every area of your life. www.blueprintforlife.com.