Secrecy, surprise and seduction

Prompted by the surprise launch of the latest Apple gizmo Kathy Sierra has a characteristically well-written post saying you can take transparency too far.

What do you risk when you put up video of your meetings project notes, discussion transcripts, product development process details, or even just photos or a webcam of your “team at work”?

Mystery.

Seduction.

Do I really want to know what’s behind the curtain?

What if it sucks the suspense out of the whole thing? What if surprise and delight are intimately connected, and that removing all the surprise takes away much of the delight?

I see what she means, after all who wants a life with no surprises?

Still, it did remind me of a point someone made about the difference between Improv Comedy and Stand Up comedy. Stick around, I’ll connect all this up eventually.

So in a stand up show, the comedian tells a joke. Let’s say he’s a great comedian and it’s a great joke with a terrific, unexpected punchline. The audience roars… because the audience has been surprised. The comedian, on the other hand, isn’t surprised.

In Improv, the most delightful moments are when a player says or does something spontaneously, not actually trying to be funny, but suddenly everyone laughs. A connection has been made, some unintended meaning inferred, whatever. Now everyone gets a surprise, both audience and comedian. In that moment, it’s no longer him and us, it’s just us.

Now that’s a kind of surprise you don’t get by keeping secrets. You get it by being spontaneous, open and willing to play and willing to hand over control.

When I’m facilitating, these are the best moments… when I get surprised, when people surprise themselves.

I suspect something of this sort is what happens for the open source, let-it-all-hang out brigade. It’s not necessarily superior, but it’s different.

And I have to say, for every Apple-esque surprise from brands, I think there are a lot more anti-climaxes from marketeers who clumsily tease us, like they have a big treat in store, and then deliver something clunky becuase they haven’t really connected with us.

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