Science is not a heartless pursuit of objective information. It is a creative human activity, its geniuses acting more as artists than as information processors.
–Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin
I no longer read business books. Been there, done that for too many years. Stimulation comes from reading many other sources. My current obsession seems to be evolutionary theory. And there are few better to read than Stephen Jay Gould.
I prefer him to evolutionary reductionists as I push away from all sorts of reductionism in every field imaginable. There is a psychological matrix that all reductionists share. I don’t fit that mold, I guess. Online marketing is presently overwhelmed with marketing reductionism.
Let’s take a closer look at what Gould is saying; is what he wrote 40 years ago applicable to online marketing and business in general? Reformulated, his quote becomes:
Business is not a heartless pursuit of data. It is a creative human activity, its geniuses acting more as artists than as data hoarders.
Gould went on to suggest that true revolutionary changes result from a creative imagination influenced by social and political forces. It is not some sterile, objective march to progress; rather, our environment plays a substantial role in how we think and act.
Our entire society is drenched in data. This is not just the work of the NSA. Amazon, Google, Yahoo, Facebook and many others have created an environment antithetical to the flowering of the human spirit. Algorithmic prediction reigns supreme amongst the digerati. It is also true that the NSA is paying for a lot of this data to our marketers.
I cannot help but believe that Gould would howl at our attempt to reduce marketing to whatever new algorithmic, data driven obsession is au currant. You see, data does not inspire, it does not fill the imagination with wonder. Ultimately, it is this impulse that moves science and business to higher levels.
Can data inspire? Inspire comes from the Latin, inspirare, which literally means “to breathe into” with the notion that it was the divine breath of God. Do you think data has this power? Can data fill the creative imagination?
Of course not. Inspiration is the stuff of poetry, of music, of art. Gould believed it was the animating impulse for science. I am applying his notion to business and marketing. I know this cuts against how many view marketing and it is no wonder. Marketers and businessmen have become so data driven that the art and soul of business has been lost. This has not gone unnoticed by consumers.
I believe there is a backlash against advertising and marketing in direct relationship to how these disciplines have abandoned art and dare I say it… inspiration.