We’re suddenly living in a world where what’s important has been predetermined by a crude form of artificial intelligence, algorithmic “logic”. It only measures what it can measure.

Since it can’t measure the quality of the content, it measures the amount of reaction the article, post, podcast or video gets. This is all measured in “likes,” comments, or shares. The algorithm assumes that somehow quality is determined or measured by engagement.

You may find yourself slowly beginning to buy into this over-generalized and simplistic rating system in the absence of anything better. Seems like everyone else is going along with this as well, so you feel somehow validated. This is the first mistake.

After a while, you begin to believe that quality is a hierarchy of engagement. After all, it’s the only game in town. Or at least the most popular game! But are these algorithms really smart enough to decipher true quality?

Or conversely, can true quality content be suppressed due to lack of engagement? Or worse, once we buy into this ranking system can we be manipulated? Can clever digital marketers work the system to build artificial statistics to make certain content look more important to sell you stuff that doesn’t work? You bet!

In other words, we all are now voting on what’s important at the expense of critical thinking. Do those early votes in the form of engagement push content at us at the expense of content that may be wiser, more thoughtful, and more valuable to the human experience? You bet!

This is a seductive process where we can easily get carried away with trendy distractions at the expense of hard-won historical lessons. Are there more important indicators of value than what gets the most engagement the earliest? We think so and we are worried that those indicators can be lost.

Are smart phones really smart? Or are we dumbing down to the levels they can measure? Don’t get us wrong, we love the new technology and couldn’t live without it. But we constantly have to work around overly simplistic algorithms.

For instance, we love Pandora, but have to get through their algorithms to get the kind of music we like. Seems like everyone has a different work-around because of the overly simplistic algorithms. Our friend Bill says, “I spend the first few days listening to everything they play on a given station. I quickly hit the likes and dislikes so I don’t get too much of their simplistic idea of what I like.” Mary, on the other hand says, “I only hit the ones I dislike so I still get variety without getting into a rut.”

Bill and Mary are dealing with judgements some programmer made about what was important. Was the tune Bill first chose sung by a woman, then give him all female artists. Never mind the beat, melody, or lyrics. Bill knows this and immediately jumps on his next choice so this doesn’t happen. But the more Bill chooses, the less new offerings occur because of the limits of the algorithm. Mary know this and only communicates what she dislikes.

How many people like a post but don’t engage? Most! But if they don’t engage, does that make the post wrong, less news worthy, or less important? Algorithms can’t measure the silent majority because they are silent! They can only measure engaged feedback.

So now a potential minority or a troll farm can work the algorithms and influence your thinking. They may even cause you to take or allow action because you believe it’s what the majority wants. It’s not.  It’s what the programmers have said was important because it’s all they could measure.

If this all sounds like a call for a return to critical thinking, it is! This year! Let’s consider the source as we move forward.

Our centenarian neighbor says, “When airplanes first came out, they’d walk on the wings, light ‘em on fire, and fly ‘em through barns! Nobody ever thought they’d be going to Chicago in one.” Is that where we are today with the algorithms that control what gets amplified in social media? Are we still in the barn storming days?

Let’s not get dumbed down to what an algorithm can measure! Let’s elevate history, proven principles and classic standards – even if they don’t get a lot of engagement these days. We’ve had enough cute kittens and baked lasagna!  It’s time to move onto stuff that matters.

You only have a limited amount of time. Don’t be fooled into thinking that engagement alone is a measure of value to you, your business, or your community. For instance, we get very little engagement on our 2 weekly posts and we know why. Our readers are business people and simply don’t have the time to engage.

However, our articles are often picked up by major business publications such as Entrepreneur, C-Suite Network, and the Business Journals in 43 cities. We often get replies to our newsletter that say, “Please keep these coming,” “Awesome,” and “I can’t wait to try this in my own business.”  In 4 years, we have had only 2 unsubscribe. Check out the best of our 30 years of successful business experience.  And don’t feel obligated to engage. We’re happy to help!

Who We Are.

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact sales@thebarefootspirit.com.