“Art isn’t made as part of an even exchange, it’s your chance to create imbalance, which leads to connection.” Wow! What a great summary what it takes to be successful in today’s business environment. We need to unpack art, even exchange, imbalance, and connection.
In the last 20 years, globalization has made the world significantly more competitive than it already had become over the last 50 years. The technology of the Internet has given any customer anywhere easy-to-utilize, instant access to the entire global marketplace. Customers can search for any product and service they may desire, find dozens, if not hundreds of businesses offering those products and services, and very quickly ascertain the offerings, pricing, and social reviews of those businesses and their products and services.
Businesses that sell widgets and vanilla services will not stand out, and hence, will not survive. If you want to sell something, you have to sell art. Your products and services need to stand out, be attractive and offer a unique experience to customers. This is art. Art is also realizing that some of your customers will be off-the-charts excited about what you offer, and others will hate it. The days of marketing to the masses and the middle of the bell curve are over. We need extreme marketing for artistic products and services.
Baby boomers bleed even exchange. It is part of our DNA. Customers exchange money for valuable products and services. If you offered a baby boomer something for free – immediately the guard would go up. You would be met with suspicion, What are you trying to pull? At a minimum, your assumption would be that whatever was being offered for free has very little value.
The younger generations have quite different expectations. Younger generations expect to get a significant amount of value, for free, with no strings attached. If you want to sell anything to the younger generation, you need to provide lounge chairs and couches, lava lamps, free wi-fi and plenty of atmosphere, all in a convenient, high-rent building and part of town. The younger generations, who are becoming the dominant generations, do not buy into the even exchange.
Seth is referring to imbalance in the even exchange; in other words, deliver value for the sake of delivering value, with no expectation of getting paid back. This new business model, that is quickly replacing the even exchange model, is rooted in some pretty old principles. It makes me think of do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In the business that I am a part of, this new business model inspires me to imagine efficient ways of providing ongoing value that can scale effectively – without linear increase costs as the giving away scales up. Sharing knowledge means accepting the consequences of someone taking and using your proprietary information.
At first glance, that mode of operation may seem somewhat irresponsible; however, there are a few factors that turn that thinking on its head. One, your proprietary ideas may not really be that great after all. We may be protecting ideas that aren’t all that revolutionary; and, you may find someone already thought of it before you did. Two, in a global market, anyone and everyone can reverse engineer anything you do in a relatively short period of time. How long did it take Android to reverse engineer the iPhone? If one of the most brilliant people who ever lived, Steve Jobs, cannot protect his intellectual property, why would us lesser folk think we could do better. Maybe it’s wiser to give it away to those who can benefit from it. In Field of Dreams, Shoeless Joe Jackson says, “If you build it, they will come.” In today’s vernacular, that may read, “If you give it away, they will come.” It’s the new way of getting customers.
Giving away things that are valuable, with no expectation of getting anything back, will build a great deal of trust and goodwill. When people feel that they are being cared for, unconditionally, they cannot help but trust, and care back. It is the best way to develop community – give, without expectation of getting. If you want people to connect with you in a meaningful way, first connect with them in a meaningful way. Fill a void, solve a problem, inspire, lead, whatever it takes to make the connection. Meaningful, and lasting connections are the new currency in today’s global marketplace. Connections result in influence. Influence can not only build your business, but it can change the world.