THE BLOG

Authenticity Goes Viral

12/12/2013 07:28 pm ET | Updated Feb 11, 2014

In the year ahead, "authenticity" will reign supreme. An old idea whose time has come, "real" is the new benchmark for everything we buy, build and recommend.

You see it already in the food industry where "small-batch," "craft," and "artisanal" products are gaining ground on the merely "organic." Farm-to-table foodies are the focus instead of the latest, greatest celebrity chefs.

Real is not real unless it's really... real. But who are the arbiters of authentic, the critics of credible?

It's certainly not the Baby Boomers, who never cared much for authenticity. This is a generation that embraced polyester, after all.

In his new book, P.J. O'Rourke calls the Boomers out as the generation that invented, nurtured and idolized the self. It would seem they didn't have the time to think about the means of achievement, when they were so focused on their end goals of "love, happiness, experience, sensation, thrills, praise, fame, adulation, inner peace and ... money," just to name a few.

I remember the old joke, "It's not about the money; it's about the money." And boy, what a mess we have today.

But those of us in the wake of the Boomers are more concerned with consequences than labels. Yes, we yearn for the "real", the "old school," the "vintage." But ultimately we want to feel empowered -- we want the opportunity to inherit the Earth.

We are creating a radical shift in the economy, seeking reality, not manufactured experiences. We want locally sourced heirloom tomatoes, not the mealy and tasteless bright red proxies posing at the supermarket.

While the Boomers rebelled against the establishment, we're reimagining it. We tried to follow their precise formula for success but were repeatedly thrown off course by circumstances beyond our control. Either the world changed or it started to show its true colors.

Is it any surprise that our response has been to dig a little deeper, to learn a little more? Generations X and Y have been taught to explore the world with just a few keystrokes, yet we value real-world interaction. We can order anything we want online, but we place a renewed value on shaking the hand of the people who grow the food, create the art and build the businesses.

Millennials now outnumber the Boomers and are gaining on their purchasing power. As the younger generation continues to seek out goods and services that ring true, that are "real," all consumers will benefit as businesses become more transparent. Companies will be tasked with telling their customers what they need to know, not just what they want to hear.

Shift happens. Less than 300 years ago, our entire economy was based on the price of growing or raising commodities. Today, you can secure your seat to space for a cool quarter of a million dollars, no astronaut training required. People no longer buy what they need; they pay for the experiences they want. And the accelerating pace of technological advances is only causing us -- and our desires -- to evolve more rapidly.

In the year ahead, and hopefully for long thereafter, we must all be "real." We must honor who we are, what we want and where we came from -- and to share our values in no uncertain terms. Greed may have been yesterday's motivation; but authenticity is how we will value the future.