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Crossing from the early adopters to a larger group

I’ve blogged many times about the chasm.

That’s Geoffrey Moore’s term for the gap between the small part of the market populated with people who like to go first, and the larger group of people who want to get involved with something that’s proven, popular and effective.

The early adopters ask, “is it new?”

The early majority ask, “did it work?” and perhaps, “what’s everyone else doing?”

Longtime readers of this blog know that I do my work for early adopters. The smallest viable audience is sufficient to make an impact, and it allows me to focus on the people who are enrolled in the journey forward.

But if you delight the early adopters, they spread the word. That is how the chasm is crossed–not with fancy ads or clever hype, but because the people who are engaged do the generous work of telling the others.

We’re launching the first lessons of the tenth edition of The Marketing Seminar this week. With more than 10,000 alumni, it’s the most popular workshop on the Akimbo platform. And it works. That’s why the 8,000 people who took it after the initial launch decided to join in. Not everyone goes first. Almost no one does. That’s how our culture changes–when the few early adopters tell the others. And so each of us has to persist and continue to show up in the marketplace, doing the work and earning the trust of people who don’t get a thrill out of going first.

People don’t show up when you launch.

They show up when they’re ready.

Time to get back to magic

Most of the time, the phrase is, “it’s time to get back to work.”

This means it’s time to stop being creative, stop dancing with possibility, stop acquiring new insights and inspiration–and go back to the measurable grind instead.

Maybe we’d be better off saying, “I need to get back to making magic.” Because that’s what we’d actually like to be getting paid to create.

“Is that the most important thing?”

If you want to have an argument, to raise tempers or to distract, the easiest thing to do is start bringing up things that are easy to argue about.

Not the things that are important.

Because the important things require nuance, patience and understanding. They require an understanding of goals, of the way the world works and our mutual respect.

If someone keeps coming back to an irrelevant, urgent or provocative point instead, they’re signaling that they’d rather not talk about the important thing.

Which is precisely what we need to talk about.

Getting the joke

“But why is this important?”

When we encounter a fashion, a film or some other cultural artifact that the critical establishment has celebrated, it’s easy to not understand it.

Taste, after all, is unevenly distributed.

But you don’t have to like something to understand why someone else thought it was important.

To move the culture forward, we need to have the empathy to imagine what others are seeing, liking and talking about.

Once you get the joke, you don’t have to laugh at it, but it definitely makes it easier for you to tell the next one.

Questions for the founder

A friend shared a new business idea with me yesterday. Some business model questions came to mind, asked here rhetorically. If you get them right, everything else is easier:

How will you get new paying customers?

Why will your paying customers tell their friends and colleagues?

Will this business work at a scale that you can both achieve and are happy living with?

Is it easy to start?

If it is, what will keep others from starting it?

How do you avoid a race to the bottom where you’re trapped making a cheap commodity as a middleperson?

Will it get easier as you go? Why?

What incentive do customers have to stick with you instead of switching to a cheaper or more convenient choice?

Businesses that are cheap to start, depend on providing a useful service at a cheap margin and are largely fungible or invisible are often difficult to turn into thriving enterprises. Customer traction, the network effect and emotional connection can change this, particularly if you build them in from the start.

 

The absurdity of a Scrabble hierarchy

People who are very good at Scrabble are not more kind, better judges of character, more facile with soft skills, better long-term thinkers, more fun at parties or much of anything except good at Scrabble.

Of course we don’t decide on who should have positions of authority or who should be trusted based on their skill at Scrabble. It’s simply a game.

Perhaps the same could be true for beauty, celebrity or the acquisition of wealth.

Are you a marketer?

Do you try to persuade people of your point of view?

Do you interact with customers? (Or patients, subscribers, fans or citizens)…

Are you a designer?

Would life be easier if your boss understood you better?

Is there a policy you’d like to change or a candidate you’d like to help elect?

Are you hoping to make things better?

Then you’re a marketer.

Proud of it.

Might as well learn to do it better. Because the work matters.

Today’s launch day for the tenth session of The Marketing Seminar. It’s the most effective, widely proven and popular workshop of its kind. I hope you’ll check it out. (Today’s the best day to look for the purple circle). It’s our last session of the year, and this is a great time to join in. That link gets you a significant time-sensitive discount at checkout.

So far more than 10,000 people in nearly a hundred countries have shown up and connected, contributed and learned to improve their craft.

We’d love to have you join us. (Check out what nearly 100 alumni had to say).

Bad choices

If made freely, a choice feels like the right thing at the time.

But we realize it was a mistake later, once the moment passes. We don’t know now what we learned in the future.

Bad choices can be caused by:

  • Poor information
  • Shoddy analysis (including cognitive glitches and reliance on sunk costs)
  • Peer pressure
  • Manipulation
  • Hustle
  • Power imbalance
  • Focus on the short run
  • Indoctrination
  • Superstition
  • Unexamined biases

Take a look: each of these is the product of outside forces and can be unlearned and insulated against. The good news is that we can get better at our choices.

“Taking” lessons

What an accurate and horrible term.

It’s hard to imagine that most people would look forward to taking lessons. In the piano or arithmetic or anything else.

You take medicine. You take your punishment. It’s unwanted but grudgingly accepted.

The term gives away the intent behind it.

Learning is different. Learning is something we get to do, it’s a dance, an embrace, a chance to turn on some lights.

You don’t take a workshop. You are part of one.

In support of the hard-working teacher

Sometimes I talk about the education-industrial complex on this blog, rarely with kindness. I captured much of that in Stop Stealing Dreams.

Readers will see that not once have I criticized a hard-working teacher who meant well. That’s because it’s the bureaucratic industrial system that’s at fault here, not the teachers.

Now more than ever, with teachers scrambling with remote learning, personal health and the shifts in our culture, they matter.

Teachers matter because they have the guts to buck the dominant test and measure system. Because they show up with care and energy, and because they lead.

By time spent, what percentage of the typical school experience is spent on: tests, test prep, comportment, homework, memorization, the curriculum and the social pressure of fitting in?

And what percentage is spent on daydreaming, inventing, creating from scratch, doing it without a manual and finding new solutions to difficult problems?

I don’t think it’s an accident that we spend a fortune on high school football and almost nothing on creative writing hackathons.

Change is going to come from parents and from teachers who care. The system defends the system, and the system requires adherence and stability.

The massive shift to remote learning opens the door to slip in the kind of challenging problem solving and connection that we need right now. We have to hurry, though, because surveillance and more testing is probably right around the corner.

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