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NPS, Still Sweet at 16? (part 1)

NPS, Still Sweet at 16? (part 1)

BEING A KID with a late-December birthday in a land where they have Christmas can be a drag. People forget all about it amid the bustle and yule. Or else they get you one ("extra special") gift for both events. And don't expect great attendance at a children's birthday party held during holiday travel-plus-flu season.

Yeah. It's a drag being a December kid. This I can tell you. So I could’t help feeling a little upwelling of empathy for another "December kid" whose birthday I recently found out: the Net Promoter Score, which celebrated (or mostly didn't) its Sweet 16 last month, having been "born" in a now-famous article in the December, 2003 HBR: "The One Number You Need To Grow" (Frederick F. Reichheld, Bain & Company. Harvard Business Review, Dec. 2003).

The article is free and worth (re-)reading, as ancient foundational texts often are, especially around times of transition and reflection like the new year (good birth-timing, N.P.S.). Then, since sixteen is, well, kind of a milestone age in American culture, kind of a well-known coming of age year, I thought it would be fun to ask, how is N.P.S. turning out? What's it like, as a managment theory entering post-pubescence in 2020? Is its future looking good? Or should we worry about its grades, or some of the friends it's been making lately?

Even if sixteen is still too young for Americans to vote, bank, buy liquor, buy tobacco, or enlist, it is not too young to drive (and feel like you enlisted, if you make your first car a Hummer.) Although, I did read recently that the once-universal rite of passage known in ad-speak as "Their First Car" is, according to the the WSJ, yet another thing the kids these days are just "so over" (subs. only). I guess, for the urban dwelling teenager, what's not to prefer about Uber-Lyft or Bird-Lime-Scoop-Skip?

OK, but even if driving at 16 is on the ebb, there's always college admissions as a mid-teens rite of passage (or high-stakes one-shot at financial security. OR hotbed of bribery and corruption). In any race to the top based on a famously three-lettered standardized ranking mechanism, you know N.P.S. be killin' it: 1600 S.A.T.! Or, well, never mind: first the kids aren't driving, and now WaPo tells us they aren't even testing, either!? So truly, nothing is sacred.

Sorry N.P.S., looks like this year might be kind of on the slow side... but speaking of slow... gee, you might be sweet-sixteen in people-years, but in idea years, why you're solidly "Silver"! Big Ideas like N.P.S. come and go at quite a clip in an advanced Knowledge Economy like ours (...explained Mr. Peabody to Sherman. "Why, they're almost as fast as dog years!")

Speaking of silver, maybe a better analogy for N.P.S. in 2020 is the silverback gorilla (or insert your favorite social-animal alpha). Here now is Sir David Attenborough (at 93, making the rest of us look old):

"Targeted by an endless series of younger rivals, and facing inevitable dethronemenet, humiliation and obscurity, the Net Promoter Score bides its time. Yet, with the eventual fate of its silver head a foregone conclusion, the only questions are 'When' — as in, when will its reign finally end — and 'Who' — as in, who's next?"

No one's counting it out yet, but as a mental exercise, what would be next after N.P.S.? I'm never one to turn down just a smidge of wild speculation - but maybe not right here and now, not on N.P.S. Day (Observed). In the fairly near future, though - next-post-ish maybe - there is a strong likelihood of a solid chance that we may, under the right conditions, provisionally reveal...

To be continued...

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