Someone once said to me that the most important thing in life is not about what you do, but how you do it.
He was no philosopher or book author or even an expert in some skill for that matter. He was just one of many people I got acquainted. Yet, what he said to me speaks an imperative understanding about the world we live in today, that the world is now driven by a new spirit of the age – a new zeitgeist – called fashion.
Fashion in this term is not merely the trend of dressing, but the definition in universal scope – the manner of how we do things.
In the world of business and economy, we do not see many significant success story today. European economy is struggling, American economy is striving to keep its pace, Asian economy is growing with cautions. In this new reality where there is no economic setting serve as the most effective welfare machine, we are forced to more on how we do it, and less on the structure where we do it.
In business financing, instead of overhauling the funding-lending system, many businesses are exploring alternatives on how the debt mechanism can be use in different fashions. We see unconventional funding way such as micro credit and carbon credit. These are the new fashions of business financing.
In the area of branding, product quality is no longer the only paramount driver of brand value. Often times, the reputation of a company in how they present themselves socially does give more edge to competitors with slightly better product quality but less known in social contribution. An allegation for being involved in bribery and corruption can significantly damage a company reputation, and sometimes with the brands the company owns. Such seems to be the new fashion of branding business.
In the investment aspect, we step in to a new territory where investment is no longer about running business in places with cheaper economic cost to produce bigger margin. Quite often we can find investment in an expensive place, merely because that place is the hub of the people whose expertise is essential for our capital flow.
Take Singapore as a good example of this. The most expensive place in the world today, and yet, as a hub where people with expertise make their stop, Singapore establishes itself as an investment center for unconventional industry such as animation.
In politics, it is no longer about ideology. China’s way of combining communism-socialism with capitalism is a massive and groundbreaking example of political fashion. Many countries in the world have been adopted democracy. And yet, democracy is no longer a ‘brand’ come in only two types, US style of presidential system, or parliamentary system used by many European countries. Despite all the arguments that democracy in Russia, or Egypt, or Indonesia, or arguably China, are not really democracy; I would say they have their own democracy of their own. In other words, they have democracy of their own fashion.
An interesting example in Indonesia is the current presidential campaign. While the universally acceptable theory of democracy is suggesting that the election campaign is a contest about political vision; such is not the reality in Indonesian democracy. What is now happening is that the election is a contest of perceived values of the candidate. The candidates have almost similar political vision, and yet the their supporters is significantly divided. The reason is simply the personal values of the candidate is the main driver of the election. The majority of the voters does not really passionate about the ideological and political vision, but they are passionate on how the candidate present themselves as a leader personality. It seems, this is the democratic fashion of Indonesia today.
Hence, how we do things we do – in many aspects of our life – seems to be more important than what we do and why we do it. It is not much about to the world we live in, but more on the fashion of it.