Shout out to Desmond Morris: A sign of the times?

This is not a political, social, or economic commentary, even though I’m warning you, it does involve Donald Trump. It’s simply an observation of human behaviour in our modern world, and the avenues of thought it brings about.

In his (incredibly late) first press conference as the president-elect, while answering questions, Trump spoke about a good friend and business associate from the Middle East whom he called Hussain Damac - and he had to pause before saying the second name. This person is actually Hussain Sajwani, the CEO of the Damac Group based in Dubai. A number of ‘non-fake’ news sources from around the world ridiculed him for getting the name of a “very, very, very, very good friend” wrong. Now, let’s park that thought for a moment and talk about Desmond Morris.

Morris (88) is an English zoologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and a popular author in human sociobiology. He produced a documentary series in 1994 called The Human Animal, a “study of human behavior from a zoological perspective - because we are, after all, just another animal species”. Morris filmed people around the world in their natural conditions (i.e., habitats), describing their behaviours and body language in the exact same way that David Attenborough did for all other living things in his Life series, focusing on the strategies and extreme behaviours developed to survive. The Human Animal was (and continues to be) a wealth of insight into human behaviour and I highly recommend you watch it.

Now, let’s be ethologists for a moment and get back to Trump. It’s very understandable to mock him for not even getting a good friend’s name right. But what if he actually said “Hussain. Damac.”? Is it possible this was no mistake, and that instead he stated the name in a way that was conducive to his own natural conditions? Think about it: Trump thinks and acts in 140 characters. He is the product of a digital world that relies on Google as its primary source of information, as most of us are nowadays.

Now, despite having lived and worked in the Gulf for over 20 years, any relevant information I would want on Hussain Sajwani would be linked to his role as the CEO of Damac. And to make sure that I’m searching for the correct ‘Hussain’, I would type two words into Google search – hussain damac.

What if Trump was simply speaking in a new vernacular that is, in and of itself, a product of the same digital world we so depend on? I don’t know the answer to that, but if it is a new vernacular, we need to understand it soon, as we’re all stuck with him for the next four years! More importantly, let’s not forget that Trump’s ‘vernacular’ (not just his message) appealed to millions of people across the world…

Might today’s new (digitally-influenced) vernacular have any implications on how we currently approach solving challenges? It has already impacted how we communicate with each other – OMG, WTF, AFK… – but can we glean anything about human behaviour that can improve how we interact both within and without our organisations?

As I said at the beginning, I'm just making an observation on human behaviour. Perhaps it's nothing, but as we're still playing ethologists, it certainly raises some interesting questions worth exploring, don't you think?