A post-industrial A to Z digital battledore
New times demand new words, because the old words don't help us see the world differently.
Along the way, I've invented a few, and it occurs to me that sometimes I use them as if you know what I'm talking about. Here, with plenty of links, are 26 of my favorite neologisms (the longest post of the year, probably):
A is for Artist: An artist is someone who brings humanity to a problem, who changes someone else for the better, who does work that can't be written down in a manual. Art is not about oil painting, it's about bringing creativity and insight to work, instead of choosing to be a compliant cog. (from Linchpin).
B is for Bootstrapper: A bootstrapper is someone who starts a business with no money and funds growth through growth. The internet has made bootstrapping much easier than ever, because the costs of creating and marketing remarkable things are cheaper than ever. It's really important not to act like you're well-funded if you're intent on bootstrapping (and vice versa). You can read the Bootstrapper's Bible for free.
C is for Choice: I didn't coin the term the Long Tail, but I wish I had. It describes a simple law: given the choice, people will take the choice. That means that digital commerce enables niches. Aggregating and enabling the long tail accounts for the success of eBay, iTunes, Amazon, Craigslist, Google and even match.com.
D is for Darwin: Things evolve. But evolution is speeding up (and yes, evolving). While it used to take a hundred thousand years for significant changes to happen to our physical culture, the nature of information and a connected society means that 'everything' might change in just a few months. Ideas that spread, win and organizations that learn from their mistakes lead the rest of us. (from Survival is Not Enough)
E is for Edgecraft: Brainstorming doesn't work so well, because most people are bad at it. They're bad at it because their lizard brain takes over moments before a big idea is uttered. "Oh no!" it says, "I better not say that because if I do, then I'll have to do it." And so brainstorming quickly becomes clever stalling and timewasting. Far better is to practice edgegraft. Someone announces a direction ("we'll be really convenient, we'll offer our menu by fax,") and then the next person goes closer to that edge, topping it, ("we'll offer it by email!") and so on, each topping the other in any particular direction. (from the book Free Prize Inside)
F is for the Free Prize: People often don't buy the obvious or measured solution to their problem, they buy the extra, the bonus, the feeling and the story. The free prize is the layout of Google–the search results are the same, but the way the search feels is why you choose to search there. If engineers thought more about the free prize, we'd need fewer marketers.
G is for Go go go™: I just trademarked this one, but you have my permission to use it all you like. Go go go is the mantra of someone who has committed to defeating their anxiety and ignoring their lizard brain. Not a good strategy for airline pilots, but for the rest of us, a little Go go go might be just the ticket.
H is for broken: Isn't it just like a marketer to compromise when he should have organized better in the first place? There's a lot in our consumer society that's broken, but try to avoid getting obsessed with it. Far better to ship your own stuff that's not broken instead.
I is for Ideavirus: A decade ago a wrote a book that was free. It still is. It argues that ideas that spread win, and you can architect and arrange and manipulate your ideas to make them more likely to spread. Note that I'm not saying you can add gimmicks and spam and networking to spread your idea. I'm saying the idea itself is more or less likely to spread based on how you design it.
J is for just looking: When there's plenty of choice and everything is a click away, I'm very unlikely to take action, certainly unlikely to actually buy something from you. I'll do it tomorrow. Or the day after. Which means the only way you create action is to produce an emergency. Why now? Why not later…
K is for kindle: No, not the ebook reader. Kindle as in patiently starting a fire. The TV era demanded blockbuster launches of blockbuster products aimed at the masses. The internet responds better to bonfires that are kindled over time, to ideas that spread because the idea itself is the engine, not the hype or the promotion. First, ten.
L is for Lizard Brain: This is a huge impediment to getting what you want, finding your calling and satisfying your customers. The lizard brain is near your brain stem, including your amygdala. It's the part of your brain responsible for anger, revenge, fear, anxiety and reproduction. It's the original brain, the one that wild animals possess. Steve Pressfield has named the voice of the lizard: it's the resistance. The resistance rationalizes, hides and sabotages your best work.
M is for Meatball Sundae: This is the unfortunate combination of traditional products and services (designed for low price and good quality) with the high-growth nature of the idea-driven internet. When your boss tells you to build a viral campaign about some lame product gathering dust in the warehouse, she's asking you to build a meatball sundae and you should flee.
N is for NOBS: Otherwise known as the new order business school. My rant about this points out that for most people, a traditional MBA is a waste of both time and money. The two biggest benefits–the selection process of getting in, and the social process of networking–could be accomplished, in a Swiftian fashion, without any classes at all.
O is for Orangutan: I could have used the word 'monkey', but I already had an M listing, plus I love the way you spell Orangutan. Anyway, the primate is the best way to think about how people interact with websites. They're like monkeys in a psychology experiment, looking for the banana. Where's the banana, they ask? Of course, I don't know the monkey word for banana, so I'm paraphrasing. If your website offers a banana, people are going to click on it. If they don't, they'll leave. My argument for banana design is in The Big Red Fez.
P is for Permission: Anticipated, personal and relevant messages will always outperform spam. Obvious, but true. So then why do you persist in spamming people? Billboards, TV ads, phone calls–they all are defeated soundly by delivering your offers with permission. In fact, the biggest asset a company can build online is this privilege, the list of people who would miss you if you didn't show up. Here's the original interview (12 years ago!) in Fast C
Q is for Quitting: Sticking things out is overrated, particularly if you stick out the wrong things. In fact, I think you'd be much better off quitting most of what you do so you have the resources to get through the hard slog I call the Dip… The challenge, then is to not quit in the Dip, but instead to quit everything else so you have the focus to get through the slog of what matters.
R is for Remarkable: A purple cow is remarkable, because it's worth talking about. Not because you, the marketer said it was, but because I the consumer did. And in a world without effective, scalable advertising, remarkable products and services are the single best way to succeed. Here's a long essay from seven years ago.
S is for Sneezer: What do we call someone who spreads an idea the way some people spread a virus? Seek them out, cater to them, organize them.
T is for Tribe: Human beings evolved to be attracted to tribes. Groups of like-minded people who share a culture, a connection and perhaps a goal. And each of these tribes seeks leadership. The opportunity for marketers today isn't to sell more average stuff to more average people. The opportunity is to find and connect and lead tribes of people, taking them somewhere they want to go.
U is for Ululate: Not because it's relevant, just because it's the single best word in the English language. Can I sneak an extra C? The cliff business.
V is for Very good: No one cares about very good. I can get very good from just about anyone, and certainly cheaper than I can get it from you. We don't have a competence shortage, not any more. No, I'm only going to pay extra for the personal, the magical, the artistic and the work of the linchpin.
W is for Worldview: I first encountered this term via George Lakoff. Your worldview is the set of expectations and biases you bring to a situation before any new data appears. Some people hear a politician say something and hate it, while others are thrilled by it. Is it the thing that was said or the person who said it? Some people hear that Apple is about to launch a new product and they get out their wallets, others flee–before they even know what it is. If you don't understand the worldview of the people you're selling to, you will fail.
X is for Xebec: I hate it when A-to-Z listmakers cheap out on the X. Hey, a xebec is a three-masted schooner. And they're obsolete. Just like CDs, newspapers and a whole host of interesting but dated business models. Sorry. Imagine someone saying: "He's a nice guy, but that company he works for is a xebec."
Y is for You. You the artist. You the one who makes a difference. You the one who stands for something and now has the leverage (and access to the market) to actually ship. Go go go.™
Z is for Zoometry: Originally a term from zoology (pronounced zo-ology, in case you were curious), zoometry is the science of instigating and learning from change. This is the revolution of our time, the biggest one in history, and it's not just about silly videos on Youtube. One by one, industry by industry, the world is being remade again and again, and the agents of change are the winners.