Welcome to the Age of Intelligent Reduction

A vector illustration of a man cleaning out a brain

Editor’s Note: This opinion piece is a version of an article first posted on LinkedIn.

Several years ago, the Freeman leadership team established a vision for where we wanted to be in 2025, a strategic road map with very specific imperatives attached to each objective.

A portrait of Bob Priest-Heck. He is a balding white man with glasses and a black collared shirt
Bob Priest-Heck, Freeman CEO

We embraced a design-thinking approach and, as part of that process, we immersed ourselves in a comprehensive global trends study upon which we’d based not only our expectations, but our business plan. As of January of 2020, we were right on track and building momentum.

I readily admit that we did not foresee a global pandemic nor the complete shut down of the live events industry upon which our business is based. But we’ve learned a lot in the last two years, and are designing new, better plans for the future.

As part of this forward thinking, it just made sense to revisit the insights that informed our earlier strategies, so I dug back into our trends analysis and related projections. Instead of finding some embarrassing miscalculations, I was delighted to see that our foundational ideas were fairly prescient. And specific to the trends that were emerging in 2016, we are now wading waist-deep in most of them.

One that jumped out at me was a trend labeled “intelligent reduction.” We had looked at the Millennials who were deferring the acquisition of stuff in favor of experiences. Tangentially, they were trying to minimize demands on their time in order to reduce overload and regain balance.

In this light, we can see that shortened attention spans became a defense against the omnichannel content vying for our attention. Specifically, our planning document stated that, “In work, everyday life and leisure, people will be looking for intelligent solutions that reduce clutter and stress.”

It seems so clear now. Over-extended and bombarded by messages, young professionals were shooting up a flare for help. They could see that their resilience was waning.

At Freeman, this insight validated our decision to invest in the data analysis and digital event technology that would allow more people to attend our clients’ trade shows and conferences on their own terms, including virtually, through livestreaming or on-demand video.

This served us well in the enforced pandemic pivot away from live public gatherings. And as quarantined Americans sorted closets, cleared garages, and jettisoned a lot of emotional baggage, they also welcomed the convenience of attending events from their living room on their mobile device of choice.

Now that we are returning to live and digitally integrated events—an approach to reaching audiences on their own terms—our strategic road map continues to help us navigate this phase of business recovery.

What we are now calling The Great Resignation is intelligent reduction taken to the extreme.

People are rejecting the old social contract, reevaluating their personal hierarchy of needs, and exploring a new path to happiness. They seek insightful solutions that reduce cognitive and physical clutter, replace stress with mindfulness, and validate their sense of how much is enough.

This tells us that they will give their business, and their mindshare, to those who help them build resilience instead of draining it. We have a clear mandate to design products, services and experience that align with this mindset of intelligent reduction.

Enough is not only enough, it’s perfect.

Bob Priest-Heck is CEO at Freeman.

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