Business as Art
Businesses spend their days rationally analyzing their markets and products and services, trying to predict what will best serve their current customers and extrapolate from that what may serve future customers.
But instead of creating things the marketplace naturally gravitates to this seems to pull these companies to the middle of the bell curve—the most likely product or service that will satisfy the market based on this rational, scientific, mathematical process whether it is in their managerial minds, via the corporation’s product development model, or through an algorithm.
They then offer this sensibly derived, statistically safe product or service that the market should theoretically desire, if they acted rationally. But often they don’t—demand the product or act rationally.
Instead of creating products and services of edgy passion, companies build products and services from the safety of rationality and try to put an emotional spin on it afterwards through advertising. The market sees through this much of the time.
But the greatest breakthroughs are almost never rationally based either in their design or purpose or in the market’s desire for them.
Instead of this boring, standard process consider Tesla cars. When Tesla came to existence the entire automotive industry was selling but a few hundred electric cars each year and mostly under the coercion of the federal government. It was but a thorn in auto manufacture’s sides, who were sending to market overpriced, tiny, boring, sensible modes of transportation that only a few had any interest in owning. It was a dead end product with no market.
Here comes crazy Elon Musk jumping headlong into the automotive business. A fully irrational move as there had not been a new automotive manufacturer survive in the US market beyond the “big three” within the last 100 years. And to add to this unreasonable action he dives fully into the least likely segment of the automotive market to have any demand: electric cars. To top it off he does not build logically based functional little boring cars, which is what the tiny market for electric cars should rationally desire. He creates some hyper-fast, expensive sports car.
The edgy attitude and image of Tesla versus the typical electric car has caused a visceral reaction in the market and is forcing Tesla to ramp up production to 500,000 plus cars in 2018. When was the last time this happened in your industry?
To put that into perspective in 2008 when Tesla introduced their first car electric car sales in the US were essentially non-existent. I could not even find electric car sales statistics for 2008; the earliest I could find was 2010 with cumulative sales of 345 fully electric cars. Going into the electric car manufacturing business was an irrational decision.
If that weren’t enough he simultaneously attacks an industry tied up in technology, contracts at hundreds of millions of dollars, and extraordinarily scientific and asset demanding infrastructure: space travel and rockets to the International Space Station.
Musk could take SpaceX public and add many billions of dollars to his net worth. But he doesn’t for one major reason: he does not want a board of directors and stockholders interfering with his desire to populate Mars. The most cutting edge rocket technology company perhaps ever is based on the irrational drive to populate Mars.
Simultaneously attacking two impossible industries nearly destroyed both of his companies and him personally. Yet we now know what happens when you fly to the sun and live to tell about it.
Steve Jobs decided his computers were all about creativity when everyone else’s was about automating math functions and spreadsheets. It was completely irrational for a binary machine to do much more than running numbers. His attitude was that being irrational—crazy, is perhaps the most rational thing to do to succeed in business.
When Picasso, Van Gogh, and Dali began each effort it never came after meetings and surveys and focus groups. They had a vision, and particularly in Dali’s case perhaps a hallucination, and then either created a work of art nearly instantly or toyed with and painted over or destroyed and began again with their creations taking months or years—whatever was needed to make it their best and come as close to their original vision as possible. These creators went unmatched in their day and now and still into the future.
Instead of edgy creation and business as art most people in most industries rationally derive the concept of the product least likely to offend their affiliates or even the industry as whole. This leaves us with two million boring real estate agent websites, stagnant marketplace offerings, and a perpetual decline in brokerage authority.
Instead of creating something so over the top that it terrorizes the competition and delights the marketplace the real estate industry watches as the occasional outsider does this, then throws rotten vegetables and disparages them. Individually many of these cutting edge companies will fail; yet collectively they will succeed. They will succeed in creating the change the marketplace desires and established real estate companies fear.
Instead of deriving products and services based on rational analyses and pasting emotionally based commercials on top of them, perhaps you will be more successful treating your business as art: creating products and services based on passion and then rationally deriving the steps needed to bring your vision to life and truly delighting the market.