Why do we need to be educated consumers?
We are consumers all the time
We all are consumers. The educated consumer concept does not only apply in product purchasing situations, but also when we consume the news, social media or even our surrounding in form of friends or work environments. In every situation we are a consumer. If we for example apply for a new job we will be the consumer of the new company`s culture, work environment and colleagues. Therefore it is necessary to inform ourselves about these points in advance.
In order to take conscious decisions about what we want to consume we need to be informed. That means we need to be able to understand how something works. We should be able to grasp the functionality and potential effects resulting from its usage. We can learn about new products, situations or people by being exposed to new knowledge and thus seeing things from a different perspective.
Having an opinion
“A truly living human being cannot remain neutral.” – Nadine Gordimer
Once we understand how a situation or a product works we either like it or found it of no value to us. In either case we have an opinion about it. There is no situation where we can be neutral. (Being neutral only applies if we do not understand because we are not aware. But since we informed ourselves previously and are aware of how things work, neutrality is not possible anymore.)
Taking no side means taking a side
“There are no independent people. Even when you are standing aside, you are taking a side.” – Ljupka Cvetanova
If we decide to remain neutral and thus think we are not taking a side, it means having already chosen a side. And most likely we will take the side of the party with the most power or as Desmond Tutu puts it, the side of the oppressor.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” – Desmond Tutu
So we need to become all educated consumers or customers who are informed to make conscious (buying) decisions by having an own opinion.
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain
Do not only listen to what I am writing or what is right in the eyes of the society and do not follow the mainstream. Research other sources, bring together pieces of information and form your own opinion. Only then take action (read: decide to buy or not buy a product or being in a certain situation or surrounding yourself with certain people).
The consequences of choosing to not be an educated consumer
Fastcompany.com has published an article about various sources for information in order to find out if a company culture is fitting our expectations. Although I have already applied some of these techniques during my last job interviews I wished I would have known and get aware of the other possibilities earlier. Although I was able to get the jobs in the end, the company culture did not match my expectations and working style. I could have figured that out earlier due to using more sources of information, but was in the belief that all potential troubles would have been sorted out during a personal interview. As well I believed that I had to take a job quickly to not create a blank space in my CV and to be happy to have the chance to get a job in consulting at all. In the long run the work relationships did not last long since there were different expectations from both sides. The consequence of not being an educated consumer results in unhappiness for all parties involved. Instead I should have taken more time to get the whole picture and form my own opinion about each company before taking the job.
In which situations did you wish to have taken more time to come to a decision?