Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Who'll be the Next in Line?

I like to think that I can absorb (and reappropriate) large, cavernous pockets of unclaimed time. I remember a former relation who used to lament the loss of an entire day if I arrived 15 minutes late for an appointment. I never had much empathy -- not because being late is excusable but because these time bubbles float to the top of everyone's surface. Adjusting to unscheduled stoppages and startages is all part of the flow. If you go with it you're a zen master. But if you fight against it you're overestimating your gravitational voting rights. But you also miss the chance to choose the flow that can carry you back on track to your original course.

Surfers don't place "make-or-break" expectations on any one wave no matter how promising or powerful. The same can be said of unplanned layovers, power outages, or even twisted tendons and shattered bones. Our policies around unstructured time won't wish uncertainty away or render pain irrelevant. But it can add purpose and direction to the otherwise wasted inventory that bumper stickers label as "shit" happenings. One goal around this is to dive in and out of whatever I was working on before idleness grows inert. In an unplanned layover the impending stupor is dislodged by the clear-throated static of a boarding announcement delay:

* Oops -- we've got a mechanical malfunction in the braking system? I'll put a pedal to an article revision, nest a blurb, list out an argument, arrange a play list, or steal some whimsical fragment -- a random scatter shot of brainwaves on holiday.

* Argh -- someone snuck through security? I'll commiserate with the next flying stiff how this is the third time this month the works have gummed up without the benefit of a TSA announcement or assurance that our planes will remain stuck in the same formation as the passengers.

* Errr -- the new crew is still backlogged from the last flight? I've got stockpiles -- a Drs. office-full of back issues (purchased through unclaimed frequent flier miles...)

But there's one uncertainty that always seem to put my coping skills to the test. It's when to board or more precisely "who boards when" after the baby strollers, elderly folks, and loyalty members. It's not that I'm hankering to go on next. It's just that I need to know the order and that it reflects some reducible form of justification -- first come, first served tops my list. Everyone's small enough to go first. No one is too big to board last. How Marxist is that?

This need for order is so deeply ingrained that I won't wait at deli counters that don't supply numbered service tickets. OK -- that's a stretch. But even figuring out when it's my turn presupposes everyone else performs that collaboration in the same way. That assumption is a stretch that outruns any line where we know our numbers.

The social engineers at Southwestern Airlines have this figured all out. The folks stuck with the middle seats aren't necessarily the least frugal or the most obese but the one's who board last. Now that's justice. The folks who are on first are the first off. There are no seat assignments. Instead there is a boarding order where the A and B lines are separated by the $20 it takes to join the A list. And just like in childhood mythologies everyone knows "where they stand" and where they shall sit. Bravo, Southwest. The natural order of self-regulation is clear for takeoff.

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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.