Marthélize Tredoux: On SA wine’s aversion to change
By Marthelize Tredoux, 25 August 2016
Today, I am going to make an observation, elaborate about it a little bit and then I am going to leave the floor open to you. I want you to prove my observation wrong. To tell me I’m mad. Blind. Living on another planet. I want you show me that the slices of the industry I see this condition in are not really representative of the bigger picture. Because as far I can tell, what I see is pretty prevalent.
My observation is based on what I see at the wineries I work with, the industry people I speak to (both local and international), what I see on social media and the things I read about South African wine and our industry.
I have observed a distinct pattern in how large sectors of our industry deals with things in general. Allow me to share my findings with you:
Imagine, if you will, a basic X/Y axis: the Y-axis represents the level of excitement or motivation (on a scale of 0 to 100) and the X-axis represents the progression of time (in a non-specific unit – could be days, weeks, months – no matter) from 0 to infinity.
The condition I am diagnosing our industry with is best described by a graph starting at time = 0 with a y-value around mid-point on the excitement scale – let’s say 50. A short time later – at the exact time that some exciting new idea or plan is introduced, the excitement level spikes to nearly 100. Shortly thereafter – at the exact moment the level of effort required to make the exciting thing happen is realized – enthusiasm drops precipitously towards zero. Occasionally (depending on how essential the original plan or idea is), enthusiasm may climb ever so slightly – just enough to complete the proposed task.
This condition affects all sectors of our industry – from sales and marketing, to management, to the tasting rooms. It is often debilitating. It smothers innovation where it lies. It stunts growth. It demolishes fresh ideas.
The condition is pervasive. And yet I see clear and obvious root cause. The cause seems innocent enough; nothing too sinister. Yet harmful if left untreated. It’s worse than apathy, because it pretends to care. It purports that change is coming. It looks to improvement. Then, as soon as something needs to actually change, the cause pops up and the condition takes hold.
The cause is our inexplicable, illogical and mostly insurmountable AVERSION TO CHANGE.
“What’s that? We need to change the way we’re doing it now? You mean, do something different? Like, not do things the way we are doing it right now? Hmmmm. Not too sure about that. I mean, it sounds difficult. We don’t like difficult. Look, this new idea is great. But I just don’t think it would work for us. Can’t we just keep doing what we were doing instead? We really would prefer that. I mean, is all that extra effort really necessary? I don’t really see how it would improve anything here. Everything we do is perfect. So how about we just carry on doing things the same way we always have? Yes. Let’s do that. It’s just easier that way.”
In short: we are shown a shiny New Thing. A better Thing. A Thing we want. We get so excited about the Thing. The Thing is amazing. The Thing is brilliant. The Thing will make our lives so much better. We must have The Thing.
Then we are told what to do to get The Thing. And suddenly it just sounds like too much work. It sounds difficult. We would really prefer to not have to do anything differently in order to get The Thing. The Thing (and all its lovely consequences and improvements) must simply appear. And if it does not magically appear, we declare The Thing unnecessary, and not really all that exciting.
There are so many challenges keeping South African wine from what we believe is our rightful place on the world wine stage. Should our systemic aversion to changing the status quo really be amongst them?
- Marthélize Tredoux is the co-owner and editor at Incogvino. By day, she helps SA wineries sell their wine in the USA. She won the Veritas Young Wine Writers Competition in 2013.
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