Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lances and Tigers and Obamas – Oh My!

The neatest thing about watching (and supporting) the whole Obamania recently is what Barack is able to do to change the game of politics. As much as he stands for change, as much as he inspires with his speeches, as much as he's able to breathe a breath of fresh air into what's become a very stale process, he's done one thing that makes him a superstar:

He makes people do things they normally wouldn't.

People go to the polls (and will do so next week) because they get to vote for Obama. Rest assured – as much as folks may love Hillary or any other contender, Barack makes people put on their coat and head out the door to press the button next to his name. He's able to get people who usually don't cast their ballot to do so in his favor. He increases the number of participants, draws the circle wider, and gets more people involved in the conversation.

Getting people to do something they normally don't is valuable. Barack could ride this value all the way to the White House.

Lance Armstong and Tiger Woods do the same thing. They get people to watch cycling and golf who normally don't. I watched the Tour de France a few times because I got to see Lance ride a bike, and now I don't care who wears a yellow jersey. I watch Tiger Woods hit golf balls every time he takes to the course. And I'm sure that when he rides off into the sunset on his diamond-encrusted horse, I'll stop lazing on my couch on the weekend while tuning in to what Mark Twain called "a good walk spoiled."

Folks like these three are role models to many, and perhaps especially to the Gen-Y set. Use the entitlement word all you want. The fact of the matter is that we've seen in a few short years – while we've been coming of age and developing our value systems – what is possible when some dedicates themselves to being the best.

Not only does it result in fame and fortune, but it results in being able to go solely on a first name basis. That's what happens when you get people to do something they normally don't.

I want to be like these three. No, I don't want to ride fast through France, don a green jacket or run for President, but I do want to be the best out there – whether I'm getting folks to save the world or trying to sell the most widgets. I want to be the best realtor or the best nonprofit program director or the best at giving PR advice. I want to exceed – but not in the way those before me did.

I want to open up the game to a whole new world of participants. I don't just want to win or be successful. I want to radically alter how the game is played.

So if I'm a customer service rep, I don't just want to fix the problem quickly and get on to the next call. I want to make sure you never hesitate to call me in the first place because you know you'll get the help you need. So, even though you normally only by printers from my company, you'll start to by computers from us because you're impressed with the service.

If I'm a design guy, I'll be open and honest and tell you what you don't need as part of your new Web site, even though it means I'll earn less. But by bringing a new level of openness to the project, you won't go anywhere else, and you may even use me for your print services.

If I'm a coffee shop owner, I'm going to offer more than just free wi-fi and a good cup of java. I'm going to make it easy for you to work at my spot, with plenty of plugs and even a printer or fax machine if you need it. You normally don't have staff meetings out of the office, but now you're heavily considering it.

Getting new customers is often the hardest thing to do in business. In order to do so today, you can't just be good or come out on top once in a while. You've got to fundamentally change the game by getting people to do something they normally wouldn't.

After all, as great as Hillary Clinton, Phil Mickelson and Jan Ulrich may be, their one fatal flaw is that they simply tried to win as someone else was changing how the game is played.

Comments (10)

This is an outstanding post, and I don't say that just because I share your support of Obama.

So if I'm a customer service rep, I don't just want to fix the problem quickly and get on to the next call. I want to make sure you never hesitate to call me in the first place because you know you'll get the help you need. So, even though you normally only by printers from my company, you'll start to by computers from us because you're impressed with the service.

This would revolutionize the customer service industry. I'm not sure we'd know what to do if most call centers operated this way.

Getting new customers is often the hardest thing to do in business. In order to do so today, you can't just be good or come out on top once in a while. You've got to fundamentally change the game by getting people to do something they normally wouldn't.

Well said.

Thanks, Rob. Here's to hoping folks begin to not just think outside the box, but rip it apart and build a new one. Or leave the box behind and develop a tetrahedron or something...

I think this is one of my favorite posts of yours. It's so inspiring and completely accurate as to how to engage others and be successful yourself. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks, Rebecca. Favorite post, huh? I appreciate it.

Here's to hoping I don't follow it up with meaningless drivel about my miniblinds or something. :)

Your post is uncannily similar in theme to CK's current post. Thought I'd connect you guys up with each other:

http://www.ck-blog.com/cks_blog/2008/02/feel-like-you-j.html?cid=104948122

Thanks for the heads up, Nedra. I'll check out CK - I'm intrigued.

Ah, the desire to "win", such a curious game that men play (and yes women, too). The problem with "winning is that too many times people lose sight of what their goals, passion and audiences are. It becomes all about winning--which means one is playing "their game" not the path one should be trailblazing.

People are not bots (we marketers become so arrogant and lost sight of this, dunno why). People don't want the best of various alternatives. They want the one to which there simply is no alternative.

And they want to be part of something great.

There's just no faking this stuff and when a candidate, company or personality inspires, challenges and delights, the game is simply over (becuz that old game doesn't fly).

So glad that Nedra called me over--my pleasure to 'meet' ya ;-)

Thanks, CK. Nicely put. If there is no alternative, well, that's a great market to be in.

Since first learning about MLK, the civil rights movement, and the women's movement from my parents when I was in elementary school, I have believed that the reason people feel threatened by these movements is that they are motivated by thinking: what am I going to lose by sharing freedom with this 'other.' Fear. We're so afraid of what we will lose out on if we 'give' some of our rights to the people fighting for me- how can people not see that when everyone has freedom we are all that much richer? I think this applies to business- well if it costs more to run a business in an environmentally friendly way then I don't want to because my competitors will 'win'- to SCHIP- oh we can't help everyone get health insurance, even little kids- to feelings about so-called welfare queens. Fear makes us keep people at arms length and be unable to realize that those who need a hand up are human, just like we are.

Hopefully this makes as much sense to you as it does in my head :)

btw, Jen Lemen has changed my game, so very much. I'm a pessimist, through and through, yet having Jen's art and words to remind me daily of the hope and love available in a New Day has influenced my life deeply.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing a bit of your story, NYJLM.

I agree with you that fear can keep people from acting and making a difference.

I also agree with you about Jen. She's got a great ability to inspire.