Commentary by Terry Anker
For decades, television brought us a shared culture. Mostly, we watched the same programs on the same channels at the same time. Each Tuesday morning, we could gather around the water cooler, or even more likely the Mr. Coffee, to exchange a few laughs about the antics of Chrissy and her roommates Jack and Janet – not to mention that silly Mr. Furley. Just as surely, the next day we’d gather again and, this time, the topic would be who shot J.R. Even the commercials lent themselves to our common understanding.
They taught that every group had one kid who was fearless. When mom brought home a cereal that was supposed to be, ugh, good for us, we could always call on Mikey because, as we all knew, “he would try anything.” Then as Mikey clearly loved the new breakfast treat, we would understand that the food is good and that we should be more willing to experience the new and improved while exclaiming, “Hey, Mikey! He likes it!” By the point that the other slackers were pouring a bowl, Mikey had moved onto his second.
But, is there a downside to being out in front? If we laud those bold enough to seek the first-mover advantage, why don’t more of us seek it? The truth, one could suppose, is that there are a lot of “new” cereals that are terrible, awful concoctions unfit for human consumption. And that for every happy Mikey, there are scores of others working for days to rid themselves of the terrible aftertaste of a cereal experiment gone wrong. And if there are times when are we best served by letting, even encouraging, someone else to lead the pack, how do we discern? Do we forfeit potential advantage in avoiding risk or assume risk to gain potential advantage?