As technology fails, activities for the win

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The infusion of innovation changes the composition of any living system forever.

For some reason, we are choosing to ignore the laws of innovation, diffusion and adoption – and all for the sake of technology.

The mighty smartphone may have given us some “superpowers” such as the ability to quickly respond to messages via social media and to share photographs with our kids, but it also has helped kill shopping malls and other retailers all across America, especially in small towns and cities like ours.

Smartphones are not just killing us. They are, as mentioned, killing our malls. When we were younger, people used to go to the mall to walk around, converse, exchange ideas and buy stuff. Today, very few people go to the malls in small towns and cities, and when they do go, they go to walk, not to buy.

Our ideas are now exchanged on social media. We buy our things on Amazon. By the way, did you know that Toys R Us went out of business? Go figure.

Black Friday is dying. Cyber Monday is expanding. Most mall managers are concerned about these new online trends. They have a reason to be concerned, I think. We need to do something about this, ladies and gents. The good news is: I have a solution to this whole mess. Are you willing to hear it?

Here we go with my solution to this whole shopping mall mess in small towns all across America, and small cities like ours:

First of all, trash the idea that malls are places where people go to buy clothes. This retail model is approaching death.

Why don’t we turn these dinosaur malls into activity malls? Seniors are already walking there anyway, right?

Don’t you think that we should expand the offerings and capitalize on what people are asking for? Listen to me: How about if we turn Bradley Square Mall into a facility with a rollerblade hall and an indoor ice skate arena?

By the way, is there a place in town for kids to play, especially during winter and early spring? Let me tell you something: Parents don’t want to buy clothing and toys for their kids every week. Parents want some sanity after working a long week at work.

Turn these dated malls into a kids’ activity place. Maybe mall managers should consider not renewing some of these clothing store contracts (which are struggling to stay in business anyway) and replacing them with a bumper-car enclosure, an old-fashioned arcade, Chuck-E-Cheese, air-bounce, trampoline, billiards, you name it!

We live in a dry county, people. Shouldn’t we make the mall the place for teenagers to go and have date nights? I bet we can turn the finances of these shopping malls around quickly.

Let me say this again: People want an activity mall to take their kids to, have fun and get some sanity. It is the No. 1 complaint I hear from people these days.

How do you monetize this idea of having an activity mall? It is simple. If people want to go to a store only, sell them a ticket for them to go to a store only. Another option? People can pay for an all-day pass. People can even buy a yearly pass and enjoy all the activity mall’s activities for a cheaper price. In a couple of years, we may witness the biggest revival in shopping malls this country has ever seen.

We need stronger leadership to turn mall operations around. Let’s not allow our indoor malls to become a place for delinquents to hang out.

I tell you this: Turning the current shopping malls into activity malls will help destroy some of the delinquency we now sometimes may see in shopping malls.

Technology may change the composition of a system forever, but our ability to adapt and reinvent trumps the side effects that new technologies have on old living systems.

Let me say this loud and clear: We can turn these malls around. All we need to do is to think differently, have people on board who believe in the vision, and survive the transition.

Are you game to make our town awesome? I am.

——— (Column previously published in the Cleveland Daily Banner)

(About the writer: Dr. Luis C. Almeida is an associate professor of communication at Lee University and a TEDx speaker. He is the author of the book “Becoming a Brand: The Rise of Technomoderation,” and a devoted Christian. He can be reached via his website at  luiscalmeida.info). 

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