Categories of Fun and Experience Design

"I'm bored." Two words we dread hearing from our kids, our students, our employees, and our customers. Wouldn't it be great if there was a handy pocket guide to putting the fun back into any situation? Last week I would have said "Don't hold your breath", and it's still probably not advisable, but by weaving together concepts from a number of realms I think that a usable set of tools is not out of reach.

The seed of hope was planted by She Who Must Not Be Photoshopped&trade's post on Congnitive Seduction. In the article Kathy points out that game designers are masters of the art of experience design, and references the work of Marc LeBlanc in particular. If you have any interest in experience design, go read this article right now! It's only 5 pages long, and you are cheating yourself out of a world of new understanding if you don't read it. Plus, the rest of this post will be incomprehensible without it (or more incomprehensible than my other posts; it's all relative). All done?. It was worth it, wasn't it?

The most important concept in the article is the MDA framework:

  • Mechanics: design-time characteristics
  • Dynamics: run-time characteristics
  • Aesthetics: player experience

The second most important thing in the article is LeBlanc's list of aesthetics:
  1. Sensation - game as sense-pleasure
  2. Fantasy - game as make-believe
  3. Narrative - game as drama
  4. Challenge - game as obstacle course
  5. Fellowship - game as social framework
  6. Discovery - game as uncharted territory
  7. Expression - game as self-discovery
  8. Submission - game as mindless pastime

These aesthetics are meant to be a non-overlapping set, and Marc points out that various game experiences combine various aethetics (variously). Some examples:
Charades: Fellowship, Expression, Challenge
Quake: Challenge, Sensation, Competition, Fantasy
The Sims: Discovery, Fantasy, Expression, Narrative
Final Fantasy: Fantasy, Narrative, Expression, Discovery, Challenge, Submission

The exciting thing about the article is that the MDA model and set of Aesthetics are generalizable beyond just gaming. Kathy drafted a general typology of cognitive pleasures in her post. Another categorization of fun was published by Pierre-Alexandre Garneau in 2001. His categories are similar, but not identical to the others (and none of the authors claims that theirs is the Grand Unified Theory of Fun). Here is a simple table in which I tried to align similar types of aesthetics.

NarrativeNarrativeImmersion (passive)
FellowshipSocial FrameworkSocial Interaction
 AccomplishmentAdvancement and Completion
 ThrillThrill of Danger
 Cognitive ArousalIntellectual Problem Solving
  Physical Activity2
  Application of an Ability2
1) added to the original list by MSU study team, but they make sense.
2) Purely physical fun not addressed by LeBlanc or Sierra

Looking at the list, there are some possible simplifications. Learning seems to align with Marc's notion of self-discovery. Yet learning isn't purely Expression. There are elements of Challenge and Discovery as well. In fact, most of the unique items on the other lists could be mapped to one or a combination of LeBlancian aesthetics. Take Thrill for example. It's a combination of Sensation, Challenge, and Discovery (heavy on the sensation). Try your hand at some of the others. For example, Garneau's Competition could be categorized as a combination of Challenge and Fellowship.

The point of the comparison is not to show the superiority of any one taxonomy. They each represent a useful level of abstraction for some purpose. Marc's is the most general-purpose, but requires the greatest adaptation of context to concept to be effective in the real world. Kathy's typology is designed as a practical list for people (like her) trying to develop passionate users for a product or service. Despite their differences, they both are designed as aids to understanding Experience Design.

A few years ago, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore wrote a book titled The Experience Economy Work is Theater and Every Business is a Stage. You probably remember it. The two most important ideas in the book (for me) were the ladder of economic offerings and the map of experience types. Let's take a look at them and see how our Taxonomies of Fun relate to them, shall we?

The diagram below outlines the difference between the categories of economic offering devised by Pine and Gilmore. The simplest offering, Commodities, is on the left, and the most sophisticated, Transformation, is on the right.

The four leftmost categories are pretty straightforward. When the book was written, Transformation was considered a nascent offering category. Not many people were billing based on lasting changes in other people's behavior - actually getting paid only when results were demonstrated. Weekly therapy sessions fall into the category of experience, since the patient pays whether they get better or not.

Pine and Gilmore defined the range of experiences along two axes:

The Passive vs. Active axis should be self-explanatory. Absorption vs immersion can be described this way: With absorption you're taking in the experience, with immersion you're diving in to create it.

I think we can all agree that most standard entertainment is passive-absorption. The show comes to you. In the opposite quadrant we have games like Final Fantasy and the Disney-themed derivative Kingdom Hearts, in which you wake up on the shore of an island and have to figure out how to navigate your way through a vast galaxy full of challenges, adversaries, and allies (most of them beautifully rendered Disney characters).

I can imagine Kathy Sierra doing her version of Munch's The Scream when we talk about Education being an Absorbtive experience! But be honest, most of today's education is just that. In the opposite (Aesthetic) quadrant we have a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art followed by dinner at the Rainforest Cafe.

Are we having fun yet? Which kind?

What would happen if we mapped the Categories of Fun onto the Experience Grid?

Come on! Try it. Click on the picture above to get a bigger version and try your hand at it. But remember:

Begin by asking yourself a few questions, like:
"Can you experience Challenge in a passive experience?"

"Can Flow be a part of an Absorbtive experience?"

"Which categories of fun apply to ALL types of experiences?

Here's my first cut at it: (click to enlarge)

I have to admit this mapping exercise was a lot less illuminating than I expected it to be. It turns out that Fun is Pretty Fungible&trade .

But that's a blessing in disguise, because it means we have great freedom in designing fun into experiences!

Which brings us back to the Mechanics-Dynamics-Aethetics model. One of the ideas in Marc's article is that game design should start with the desired aesthetics and work backward through dynamics to mechanics. That gives me an idea...

A while back, Kathy wrote a post about creating breakthrough products. She developed an equalizer-based model for comparing product features:

Kathy's equalizers included mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics. What if we applied the MDA framework and began with a purely aesthetic set of sliders?

Let's try it out. Here are some examples:

It sure is! With this tool you can start to visualize opportunities for breakthroughs...

...that Sudoku is begging for a second aesthetic factor. Which one looks ripest to you?

[To be continued; that's plenty to digest in one sitting.]

posted by Mike at 12:40 PM 2 comments


New Podcast Series at David Maister's Place

The first four installments of David Maisters new podcast series on Management are out, and as you'd expect they're very good.

My favorite is A Great Coach in Action, which is an audio adaptation of one of my favorite articles on his site. It's a great story about a pivotal, if highly uncomfortable, moment of his career. He gives us the blow-by-blow and then analyzes what his coach did exceedingly well. You can't argue with the results; David is now famous just like his coach said he would be!

[I resisted the temptation to put David's picture/link in this post. Use one of the more specific ones above. Go ahead. Now would be good; I'm done.]

posted by Mike at 11:59 AM 0 comments


Big Time Blogger Spooky Week Continues!

I was sure that Big Time Blogger Spooky Week had run its course, when I discovered Thank You over at David Maister's blog.

In case you missed my previous post regarding David, I said:
"David Maister is, in Spooky Action's opinion, THE guru of professional service firms. His book Managing the Professional Service Firm is the definitive text on doing just what the name says for firms in a myriad of industries and of all sizes."
David has only been blogging for two months, but he took the time today to thank everyone who had posted or linked to him in that time, by name, and with a link if he had it (including me, Fouro, and some guy named Rusty Scupper). What a class thing to do for someone who is big enough to not have to make such a gesture! That's why, in my blog, he's the guru's guru (no offense to !Tom!).

There's an immense load of valuable information on his site. I especially like his podcasts. They're required listening for anyone interested in becoming a Trusted Advisor!

Thanks, David!

[Yes, I know I'm stretching the 'spooky' angle, but it sure spooked me to get a thank you from someone I've admired for decades!]

Is there someone who'd be thrilled with a thank you from you?

Do it! Now!

posted by Mike at 4:43 AM 0 comments


It's Spooky at the Top of the Nanotechnology Hierarchy

Apparently it's Spooky Week for big time bloggers, and they don't come any bigger than today's participant: Glenn Reynolds. In his latest TCS daily column, Nanotech's Toxic Shock, he outlines his hierarchy of nanotechnology:
  • Fake (where it's basically a marketing term, as with nanopants);
  • Simple -- high-strength materials, sensors, coatings, etc -- things that are important, but not sexy;
  • Major -- advanced devices short of true assemblers;
  • Spooky -- assemblers and related technology (true Molecular Nanotechnology).
I am particularly pleased that 'spooky' is synonymous with Eric Drexler's vision of nanoassemblers.

Back in 1986, when only a few people were thinking seriously about nanotechnology, Drexler wrote Engines of Creation. In this intellectual tour de force, Drexler speculates on both the technology involved - including introducing the concept of molecular assemblers, as well as the societal impacts of these technologies as well (including potential pitfalls). Whether you agree with his vision of the future or not, the book is a towering intellectual achievement. Drexler uses clear logic to draw a roadmap of the future of nanotechnolgy long before any of the technology existed. It's fascinating and thought-provoking (chances are good that the first generation of humans for whom death is no longer physically inevitable has already been born!). Buy the book using the link above, or go to the EOC Homepage and read it in HTML or download the PDF (Note: several hundred pages of Courier font).

As you can guess, I'm a big fan of the Drexler vision of nanotechnology. Calling that vision "spooky" is a badge of honor for everyone here at Spooky Action!

Here's hoping that the value of this blog goes up by nanocents every time someone uses the term "spooky nanotechnology". Any guesses how long it will take before I get my first visitor via a google search of that term? I'll update when I get it. [One of the great things about having an obscure blog is you can still look at the daily detail logs during a 5-minute break. With time to spare to engage in the coffee cycle.]

Thanks, Instaman!

posted by Mike at 12:15 PM 2 comments


Unintentional Flattery

She Who Must Not Be Photoshopped&trade inadvertently goes all Spooky Action in her post Pushing Your Skills. First, she begins the post with a photo of a student working on Quantum Physics calculations. That's Schrodinger's equation on the board, and old Erwin's notion of entanglement is the basis for Spooky Action at a Distance!

Then she ends the post with this:

"You know, like nunchuck skills, bowhunting skills, computer hacking skills... Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills."

Yes! Gratuitous use of random characters to emphasize your point! Coincidence? I think not.

[Posted 10 days late]

posted by Mike at 12:25 PM 0 comments


When Bad Things Happen to Good Concepts - Attack of the Consensus Blob

Skip, over at Random Thoughts of a CTO, asks is there a downside to collaboration?
"I face this kind of struggle in many of the decisions I need to be involved in as one of the key project stakeholders with every project. I don't want to hurt feelings, egos, etc...to the point that when I really need to hear from those people they choose not to participate. On the other hand, too many cooks can spoil the pot, and we must move on especially with minor decisions.

I am a firm believer that collaboration and communication is essential if you want to have a successful project. I also believe it is good if the team can agree on many of the decisions because they will be more motivated to make the project successful and they believe in the goals of the project.

So is my organization suffering from too much consensus, or is this just a challenge that comes with the many benefits of collaboration, communication, team building and consensus?"
I think the key insight in answering Skip’s question is understanding the difference between collaboration and consensus. The former connotes working together to solve a problem or accomplish a goal. The latter implies that everyone agrees with that solution – or at least stops agreeing vociferously.

Collaboration is vital to solving complex problems or accomplishing stretch goals. Rarely does one person have the person have the perspective to see all of the unintended consequences of their decisions. A team of people with a variety of viewpoints and experiences will provide a better context for evaluating potential options.

Good context definition leads to good decisions. Sadly, it’s easier said than done. Each of us has a hard time separating “What’s the right thing to do?” from “What’s in it for me?” Our brains trick our minds into thinking the two are identical. And of course, the answers to those questions are highly dynamic, changing according to circumstance and mood.

[Ponder the consequences of that last paragraph for a minute before proceeding.]

Skip, being a Chief Information Officer, has certainly participated in projects where the users, upon seeing the finished product, say “that isn’t what I wanted!” or “that’s nice, but what we really need is…”. Everyone in I.T. has had this happen, and I suspect that everyone who has ever been involved in a project of any sort has had this experience, for the reasons outlined above.

Experienced project managers know that the key to preventing this problem lies in defining requirements well up front. Good problem solvers know that the first thing they need to do to succeed is clearly define the problem in terms of what will be different when it is solved. How can you reach a goal if you don’t know how to tell if you’ve reached it (and consequently how far away you are now, and if the changes you’re considering are moving you closer or farther away)?

This is vitally important in collaborative work. Remember, our individual brains are constantly working to align “What is the right thing to do” to “What’s in it for me”. Mark Brady at Fouroboros discussed this topic (in a more eloquent way) in his post about leadership and innovation:
”Any breakthrough effort must set the context—provide its overarching relevance—in such a way that tinkering and hedging with its intent are viewed as blasphemous to the core effort and ambition. There is a very simple reason that this requirement must be in place—people get in their own way; their best intentions have the unintended consequence of diluting the power and the definition of high ROI opportunities.

People try and find ways to make themselves relevant. It’s human nature, but it can tend to undermine the essential nature of breakthrough creative efforts. Imagine a group you’ve sat in during the embryonic planning stages. Did you witness people referencing their previous “similar” experiences on such and such, or perhaps, find them (or yourself) translating past work into future potential skill on the particular project under discussion?

Were they analogizing links to stuff they’d done in the past? Did folks wheel out ideas and “tweaks” that seemed, at least to some ears, to be tone deaf to the declared mission and ambition?

That’s because their minds are tenaciously looking to make connections between the idea and themselves, not between the idea and its ultimate benefactors. In many cases, we set to ‘flesh out’ a concept and end up, not growing it, but rather binding its feet

So maybe here's where group identity overcomes--okay, tramples--adherence to the idea. Belonging to the project becomes just as important (truthfully, often more important) as the intent of the project itself. In this way, unknowingly, we often nibble away at the original idea, at its power and purity, in order to maintain our connection to it. Our fanatical adherence to a noble and aggrandizing principle suddenly wanes because its realization and the execution may not need us. And it sucks to learn the future can, and sometimes must, happen without us. In this way, our ideas “abandon” us. Like baby birds, they flee the nest and fly.”
So what can you do to prevent a group from sabotaging itself? Mark again:
"If I have an intrinsically motivated goal that I must match/steer towards that all have previously agreed upon, then it precludes arguments down in the weeds. Take Mazda. When they design an exhaust system, or lots of things, they use Kansei as their pole star. It must feel right and sound right to the ear. It is Don Norman's emotional design, except 250 years older. I don't know if this is what the IT guy is referring to, but Mazda creates psychological markers (as do we) to go along with the physical benchmarks. And, the pyschological always holds sway. That is the final estimation and evaluation of a product or effort, so it must as they see it.

If people are arguing minutiae or turf, the effects must measured in terms of contribution to or detraction from the agreed upon Kansei goal. I know this helps me from time to time because it's often folks jockeying for "relevance" within a certain design or effort. Asking them to assess the impact of following their suggested course's impact on their earlier claimed goal of creating sensation or experience X slows them down and sometimes quells the inertia completely. It takes balls for mgmt to do this, but it works if you work it. Hard to argue a metaphysical truth you yourself have affirmed as righteous, even if it's as basic as "sounds like the Mustang in Bullitt."

[Sometimes those marketing folks' metaphors sail right over my head]

Good Consensus vs. Bad Consensus

Remember, the original intent of consensus was to provide an integrity / ecology check of a proposed decision. Does everyone agree that the proposal meets the goals without creating significant undesired effects? This works great when everyone’s playing nice. But that doesn’t always happen. People do jockey for relevance and redefine “what’s right” as “what’s in it for me”. The search for consensus then turns from focusing on the goal to focusing on what needs to be done to placate the recalcitrant group members.

Admit it. You’ve seen it happen. You’ve done it, too. You threw someone a bone, figuring they’d get with the program if they “had skin in the game”. And sometimes it works. But not always, and the placated often find ways to subvert their consent. I think Aristotle said it best:

The Role of Consensus in Change Management

That’s not to say consensus-building doesn’t have an important and legitimate role in getting people on board with a decision. Change management guru Robert Gleason is fond of saying
“People don’t resist change itself, they resist someone obscuring their rules for success.”
If your group has a common bond of trust, you don’t have to worry about this. People know that you’ll figure out the new rules together, sooner or later.

But if your group doesn’t have innate trust, group members are going to need know the new rules before they consent to the change. This is an important opportunity and obligation for the team. An opportunity because the changes likely effect more than just the team members, and the reluctant team members represent a number of their colleagues. If the team understands how to communicate the new rules for success to respective team members, they can use can communicate those same new rules to the larger population. Even better, they can have the team members – who have a bond of trust with their colleagues – communicate the new rules!

An obligation, because if you don’t work out the new rules with your team members, they’ll make up new ones on their own, and you may not like the results. Even worse, each effected person will make up their own dynamic set of rules, which probably conflict with everyone else’s rules, according to circumstance and mood. You’ve seen it happen, haven’t you?

And that’s why working out the new rules for success in the context of, and without subverting, the goal is crucial to ultimate success. And that’s why change management gurus get big bucks for facilitating big changes.

So, Skip, in judging how much consensus-building is appropriate in any situation, ask yourself these two questions:
  1. How much inquiry is needed to insure the integrity of our solution?
  2. How will we insure that effected parties understand their new rules for success resulting from the solution?

[h/t to Rob for the original link to Skip's post]

posted by Mike at 5:10 AM 6 comments


Marketing "More Space" - The Business Evolutionist Opines

Jon Strande, the Business Evolutionist, has taken up the More Space Marketing Challenge, and come up with 8 excellent suggestions! And to make the challenge even more interesting, he limited himself to ideas that cost ten dollars or less to implement!

Go to Jon's site and read the whole thing (I don't want to steal his thunder - and traffic).

A couple of comments:

Suggestion #4: Send copies to the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Inc. Fast Company, etc. for book reviews. Todd did send out 125 review copies of the book. I'm not sure if he included muffins, but that distribution generated 10 reviews, including one from Harvard Business School Working Knowledge.

Suggestion #1: [I paraphrase] Go to a local bookstore and find out what mutually beneficial arrangement can be worked out. I really like this one for the simple reason that it fits so nicely with one of the essays in the book: Lisa Haneberg's Breakthrough Experiences. One of the sections of the essay is on breakthrough catalysts. What's one of Lisa's personal favorite catalysts? Making Requests, both routine and prime. Jon's suggestion sounds like a prime example of applying that catalyst!

Suggestion #8: Look for local chapters of the Fast Company Company of Friends, and offer to be a guest speaker for them. In the beginning of Rob's essay for More Space, he discusses drinking 25 beers at his local BizJunkies meeting (hence the photo at the start of the previous post)[Note: he does stipulate that he didn't drink 25 at one sitting]. He discusses that are people as fanatical about business as others are about sports, they just don't get their own bars, because there aren't nearly as many Biz junkies as sports junkies. But they do exist, and I think that this group might be the WHO part of the answer to Dave Pollard's question. I think the "Company of Friends" groups might fit this category, too.

What about the "urgent need uniquely addressed" part?

Remember Seth Godin's blurb about the book?

Well, fanatics are always wanting to know the latest and greatest. And here it is, from authors that they can interact with via the internet. Now I know what you're thinking (Rob and Lisa). You assumed that members of these groups would already be fully clued to the wonders of More Space from your blogs. I would question that assumption. You undoubtedly get more hits in a day than I've gotten in total, but reaching out and sharing a little MMFI never hurts, and just might kindle the fire of More Space mania.

Great job, Jon!

posted by Mike at 12:39 AM 2 comments


'Twas Hubris Killed the Beast

I didn't see the new King Kong in theaters, but my son did. When the DVD came out last week, I asked him if he wanted to get it. He was lukewarm on the idea, which made me wonder...but we acquired a copy anyway and we watched it this weekend. I had seen articles in which Peter Jackson talked about being faithful to the original film. Yeah, right. I don't remember the original running three hours. And I don't remember any limb-sucking sabre-toothed pods, or super pole-vaulter natives, or any of the other clutter Jackson felt the need to add. I came away from the movie annoyed by it all.

Apparently, I wasn't alone.

James Lileks is a writer of immense talent, and in this Bleat he spanks Jackson so hard that future generations of relatives will be born with pelvic deformities. Excerpt:
"Take the battle with the T-Rexes. (Three!) Kong saves whatsername from a T-Rex, who’s just abandoned a nice big freshly-killed fellow-saur to run after what would, in Rex dining terms, be a breadstick. He chases her down through the forest, which she nimbly negotiates, but just as he’s about to eat her – he pauses, of course, to roar, one of those little ticks that evolution finely honed in their predatory instincts – Kong comes flying from the County of God-Knows-Where and picks her up, violently whipping her around, snapping her neck and pureeing several internal organs . . . no, strike that, she’s okay. So he battles the T-Rex, and then another one shows up, and everyone’s Kong Fu Fighting, his moves are fast as lightning, et cetera, until ANOTHER T-Rex shows up.

Kong pretty much dusts the guys, even though he takes a couple of bites on the arm – he shakes it off! He’s okay, folks! T-Rex teeth, which are capable of cutting through a fresh battleship, have no power over monkey skin. Then he pushes them down a slope and they go falling off a cliff, but he falls too, with Faye Rae screaming her head off, but vines cushion the blow. Yes, vines! Special lost-world vines capable of holding twenty tons of ape. Did I say 20? Make that 60, because two T-Rexes are also caught in the vines, and then there’s another fight for, oh, sixteen minutes or so. Eventually everyone falls to the ground and there’s another 48 minute battle, and at the end that’s when the blonde realizes that Kong has saved her, and she loves him.

Yes. She loves him. The heroine and the ape have special moments together. They watch a sunset. (The sun is an odd thing in this movie – it goes down only to pop right back up again; Kong begins his rampage on 46th street at about 9 PM and ends up dying on the Empire State Building at sunrise; I don’t care how bad traffic is, it doesn’t take nine hours to get to 34th street. Gravity also works in an odd fashion; it’s sunrise when Kong falls off the ESB, but mid morning when he hits the pavement. So I guess gravity is lesser around there, which explains why he took so long to reach the ground, and why he landed intact instead of blowing fur and monkey guts for a six-block radius.) They ice skate together – a scene that would stand as one of the more embarrassing moments of modern cinema had not Naomi Watt’s vaudeville-routine-for-Kong set that standard a few hours earlier. (She even does the walk-like-an-Egyptian move.) At the end she tries to save the big lug from a swarm of the giant ape’s most fearsome predator, Period Aircraft."

As the Instaman would say: Read the Whole Thing. And skip the Kong remake.

posted by Mike at 8:30 PM 0 comments

Marketing "More Space"

The Business Pundit, Rob May, has written a post asking for advice on how to market the book More Space: Nine Antidotes to Complacency in Business.
This would be a good time to discuss something about the book I've wanted to address for awhile. We've had problems getting the word out about MoreSpace, since we don't really have a marketing budget. The thought was that with all of our combined blog readership we would sell a few thousand books pretty easily, but I think we were less than 200 last count. So what can we do? Seriously, if you have any good marketing ideas, the MoreSpace writers would love to hear them.

I think in large part we were guilty of overvaluing the blogosphere, which is common these days. Blogs talk about things and we all get excited and bloggers are changing the world, and all the time middle America is asking what's a blog and why should they care. The only idea I have for selling more books is to put some cash behind a big marketing campaign, since that seems to be how books get sold. The funny thing is that 80% of the top selling business books probably don't belong there, but they were marketed well.

Having absolutely no marketing training and having sold a grand total of three books (via the Amazon Associates program), I am nevertheless ready to help out the More Space team.

I suppose a good first step would be to learn a little about the book. Oddly, this turns out to be harder than I thought. Rob's link goes to the 800-CEO-Read page for the book. A nice little introduction, including words from contributors:
What Contributors to More Space Have to Say About the Book

"Every single author has something new and interesting to say. For me that's more than enough. New and interesting are in short supply." - Seth Godin, author of Purple Cow and editor of The Big Moo

"The people! Some of the best and brightest that blogging has to offer. I love the pure diversity of the topics. It's not like it's all 'techy' (like it could have been), and none of it is really about blogging which is exciting. Yes, bloggers do talk about something besides blogging!" - Jeremy Wright, author of Blog Marketing

"I've never had the opportunity to write about business in such a personal way. I've always suspected there was a place where the personal and professional collided. Here is that space." -Jory Des Jardins

"The fact that all these people, none of whom are 'headline business thinkers', have such amazingly cool and interesting things to say." -Curt Rosengren
But I'm still not sure what's in it for me (Sorry, Seth, I need a bit more than new and interesting)? What do the authors say? Let's try Amazon. Yes, there it is at number 10. We click on the link and get - the same blurb, only shorter. And not a single review! Doh! Back to this later, but for now let's see if we can find out more about the content SOMEWHERE. Let's trying googling "more space". At number 5 is - the 800 CEO Read page. Already read that. Nothing else on page one. The Amazon link is at the top of page two; also no help. But down near the bottom of page two, just above the MySpace home page, is The More Space Project (Astronaut Projects).

Golly bob howdy, Vern! We've hit paydirt!!

They've got a blog, links to reviews, overviews of each essay with bios of each author, HTML and PDF versions of the essays, and mp3's, too!

You can say that again, boys! There's an amazing amount of wonderful material on that site! And there are a lot of people who could benefit from it. So why haven't more copies sold?

In the previous post, I discussed the importance of asking the right questions in the right way. The question here isn't why haven't more copies sold, it's how can the More Space folks sell More Books?

I don't like hard questions, but I know one when I see it. I also know that answering hard questions usually leads to new opportunities. For an explanation of Dave's question, go here.

I think Rob provides one possible answer to the question in his own contribution to the book, on page one no less. Do you agree?

While you're thinking about it, I'm going to dive into more of the book's content. I'll be back with more ideas later. Please comment liberally, especially with marketing ideas of your own!

[Note: Had I bothered to look at the SPONSORED LINKS in the google search results I would have found Todd's page quicker. Duh.]

posted by Mike at 12:33 PM 1 comments

When You Can't Ask Directly

Jon, over at the Business Evolutionist, writes about interviewing skills in The Long Interview. In particular, he talks about eliciting information that goes deeper than the surface details that people usually offer.

I've been fortunate enough to spend years of my life interviewing people about processes and experiences. For a good chunk of the early 90's I focused on processes in the legal profession (and lived to tell the tale!). One challenging aspect of these interviews was eliciting the things that could go wrong in the process. Lawyer interviewees could expound ad infinitum on every aspect of their work except that one. It's as though they had a cranial implant that prevented them from discussing problems. They'd stammer, or stare at you with a blank look, or search their minds for some way to paper over any difficulties. Anything but admit that problems did occur.

Unfortunately, you can't really understand a process until you know how to break it. We needed to ask the question in a way that preserved the infallibility of the interviewee. Here's our alternative:
Congratulations! You've just won an all-expenses paid 6-month vacation on a private tropical island. The only catch is that you have to leave tonight, and you won't be able to contact the office until you return. You have 15 minutes to train your replacement,and your bonus is riding on their performance. What do you need to tell them so they can succeed?
And we got all the information we needed about problems and contingencies to prevent them! In interviewing, understanding the context can be as important as the questions themselves. What barriers will the interviewee's brain put in the path to understanding? How can you eliminate those barriers? In many cases, your old friends WIIFM* and MMFI* will help you immensely, as they did in our interviews with attorneys. Lawyers spend their lives advising other people on how to avoid all sorts of possible problems, and were perfectly comfortable answering questions posed in those terms.

The next time you need to ask an important question, design it for the context in which it will be answered.

*What's In It For Me and Make Me Feel Important

posted by Mike at 7:35 AM 4 comments