“Everyone must begin to trust their dreams because out of that trust is born the artist, and the artist is the role model for the entrepreneur we now need.”
– Ernest Hall (entrepreneur and musician) from The Creative Economy: How People Make Money From Ideas
I was in a meeting recently with some members of my company’s executive team. It was a brainstorming session regarding the “big picture” roadmap and how we can effectively drive our customers to use the more advanced features and options our product has to offer in order to improve their businesses.
My two cents amounted to this: we need to think more musically.
When you begin learning about melody and harmony as the organizing principles behind the establishment of a key, you begin to realize that notes, in and of themselves, don’t mean anything. A note only begins to make sense when there is another note before and after it. And, in harmonic terms, a note only begins to take on “meaning” when additional notes are added on top of one another. An E played by itself does not suggest anything. It could be a note of any number of millions of melodies, and it could be either the root note or the add9 of any number of chords. It could be the V or the I, the ii or the VII…
Until you give a note context, you have not actually created anything. A note by itself is nice, but it is only when you combine it with certain other notes that you have created something of value. Context creates the music.
Don’t give customers features, give them several features that combine to create a solution. Play them chords.
I struggle with purchase venues:
Let’s say I would like to purchase an album by Ray Charles, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. The first thing I need to do is decide where I should go.
– First, I need to find a place that has the album. For the sake of this argument, I know that Amazon and my local record shop both carry this album. So where do I make this purchase? What factors do I consider?
– Personally, I first think of cost: where can I get this album the cheapest? As it turns out, Amazon has the album for $10.99, and I can get it used for as low as $5.99 through the Amazon Marketplace. Then my mind wanders: maybe I should buy this album at my local record store, even though it’s more expensive at $12.99, simply to support my community and local businesses. Notice what’s happening: I start to hold moral obligation over the most competitive seller. I’m considering rewarding the losing offer simply because I feel they deserve the money more than the larger competitor.
– Then I think: Amazon was once a fledgling company that would have failed without the support of people willing to take their business away from the dependable, larger chain stores like Best Buy, Sam Goody, and Coconuts. At what point did Amazon “cross the line” and become the very store that I am now “protesting?”
– More importantly: Is it right to protest the more competetive, successful seller simply because they are larger and more successful? My gut tells me that no, it’s not right. Capitalism is founded on Darwin’s principle. ‘Survival of the fittest’ and all that jazz… So, then, how are smaller store expected to enter the market and compete?
The answer, I feel, lies in the buying experience. As long as new competitors can bring an appealing buying experience to the market, they will have a chance to succeed. The real brand loyalty, and conversion, comes from consumers who are willing to pay a premium for a fun shopping trip, even if it means paying more for the same item you can get for cheaper somewhere else. I don’t believe that morality plays as big a part as I previously thought. For instance:
– In the morning, I buy coffee at “The Bean” on 6th Avenue (not Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts) because I like the smell of the rustic wood decor mixing with fresh roasted coffee beans. They also have a cool little garbage can built into the “condiments” shelf, and the cashiers are cute.
– I primarily buy books at St. Mark’s Bookshop because I like the idea of reading a book that has already been read, even if it means dealing with water-damaged pages and penciled-in notes on page 22. It’s as if me and some unknown stranger are both carrying around the same images and knowledge after having read the same physical set of bound pages. Also, the door is antique and I can find great older editions hidden on the shelves.
– On Saturdays, I eat breakfast at “Bagel Zone” on Avenue A because I like the accents of the African staff. Also the tables, chairs, and old-world-style decor makes for a relaxing morning. They even bring your order to your table. And while the coffee is, in fact, particularly good, the bagels are not. But I eat here anyway.
I tend to value a great experience over cost-saving benefits. So capitalism is still in effect: may the best business win. I simply don’t consider the best to necessarily be the cheapest.
Believe it or not, this post takes its inspiration from the blog by the authors of Mavericks At Work, a book about originality in the business world. The post is called “Freedom=Success (And Not The Other Way Around).” It points out a prominent shift in the way people want their lives to be:
While we still care about money, security, and mastery, we’ve come to put creativity, meaning, and freedom on the same plane
This is a crucial to the lives of artists, writers, and musicians. This means that there is a paradigm shift at work, one that is starting to measure success by the amount of personal freedom an individual has, not their position or payroll. I see this article as a sign for creative minds to finally unleash their ideas and dreams, and to pursue them with as much pride and dedication as your friend ascending the neo-corporate ladder.
I urge you to read the post, and to think about what this means to the creative community: a group previously forced to divide their time between their passion and their paycheck.