Active thinking versus osmosis
The tool isn't in your toolbox yet
If we're immersed in an environment, will we learn by default?
It's easy to think that we can absorb through osmosis, that we'll hum along and improve simply because we're present. I think intuition develops from deliberate thinking. Not from osmosis.
You can live in France for years--and not speak French fluently (or at all).
When product features are merely a justification: why people buy $200 trash cans
When you read great advice, it hasn't actually changed anything in your life...yet. There are dozens of times each day when you might notice something. You might think,
"I should try that."
In the moment, you're excited to learn something new. You think, "This is another tool in my toolbox. This is fantastic!"
Why the "magic wand" question is useless
Years ago, I had a roommate in San Francisco. He was a 6'1'' software engineer and marathon runner. One day, I heard him squeal. I ran outside to see what was going on.
He was jumping up and down that a big cardboard package arrived. What was it? I thought it would be a new iPad, Bose speaker, Patagonia jacket, flat screen tv...
It was a vacuum cleaner.
A million drops in a bucket is a full bucket
"If you could solve one thing about your business with a magic wand, what would it be?"
This question is usually asked in a list of other questions, so it seems harmless.
But let's take a look at the underlying assumption. The assumption is, "If this one thing were fixed, everything else would fall into place."
Speak up before the train crashes
Sometimes it feels like anything you could contribute would just be a drop in the bucket. Is it even worth doing? So we keep searching for the blockbuster hit, the home run, the thing that's going to change thousands or millions of people's minds. That'll really make a difference, that would obviously be worth doing.
When customers take risks, you grow closer
I'm not good at holding my tongue when I sense that a train wreck might happen. If you've tried speaking up before, and no one listened, it's tempting to want to teach them a lesson.
Okay fine, well the train will crash. THEN they'll see why they should have listened to me all along...
You don't get to take the moral high ground there. If you sense that something might be wrong, speak up before it's too late.
Zz plants: the beauty of low overhead
Susie has always worn sensible lipstick. She stops in to pick up another tube, and you introduce her to a fire-engine red she never would have picked up herself.
Tom just got a smartphone and barely knows how to use it. With a few taps, your app lets him start a family chat thread his kids are eager to use. Now he's downloading emoji packs, customizing backgrounds, texting with friends abroad and in the US.
Jake is graduating from IKEA and is finally buying his first piece of forever furniture. He was intimidated to walk into your store, but you made him feel welcome, like he's the kind of person who could own an Eames chair.
Drawing someone in vs getting them to stay
Indoor plants have a way of making a space feel like home. If you want to get a plant, the top question isn't "Where can I get a fiddle leaf fig to make my rental look like it belongs in Architectural Digest?" The first question is: how much effort do I want to commit to keep this plant alive?
Because a plant that's dead by next week doesn't do you any good.
When you're at the mall and walk by the Gap, you might see a rainbow assortment of colorful t-shirts on the front table. There's bright coral, lemon yellow, vibrant blue. You decide to go in and take a look. Most of the time, you'll walk out with a shirt that's grey, white, black, navy.
The folks at corporate HQ know this. As an analyst at Gap Inc, it used to be my job to make sure that inventory levels reflected what customers actually bought, not what they thought they wanted to buy.
I think this is a great analogy that applies to marketing, especially for complex and technical startups.
When you're launching a thing, it's helpful to think about the process in three roughly equal parts. What's considered 'a thing'? I define a product or project as something that you're creating to put out into the world.
It could be a web product, website, app, zine, publication, course, poll, physical product, blog post, album, video, collection, survey, directory, event, book, and many other items.
You might be setting yourself up for disappointment if you think that one part of the launch process is 90% of the battle, but it's really only 33% of it.