Contagious in the Intention Economy

Ok, so I’m reading two books at the same time.  (Actually, three books, but let’s not count throwaway fiction.)  This is not unusual.  However, the fact that both books are so different, timely and interesting is unusual for sure.

So, why jump back and forth?  Because I love to let them sink in and – at the risk of throwing up in the back of my mouth for using this term – cross-pollenate in my mind.

Is this blog going to be a book review?  No, no worries there.  To begin with, I would actually have to finish them first.

I did quickly want to talk about how the two books are so timely.  First, Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger is pretty much the perfect book for my way of thinking.   I am a very intuitive thinker and decision maker by nature (I really dislike the connotation around “gut feel” but that might be a way to think about).  Like Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in Blink, sometimes it is hard to put my finger on why I know something is “right” even when I am convinced.  However, even if I use my intuition to make a big decision, I like to go back and really try to figure out why – to get to the science behind it.  I can’t really explain why I do this other than to make my “gut” smarter – if that makes any sense.

So what is the relevance?  Berger’s book is all about the “science” of things that go “viral” in society.  Specifically, he sought out the answer to – “Why do some products, ideas and behaviours succeed when others fail?”  He came up with six different reasons captured in the acronym STEPPS.  In the interest of keeping this blog (relatively) short and also not giving away the whole book, let me just focus on the bookends – each an S.

The first S is for “social currency.”  The idea – well fact now I suppose – is that people will only spread an idea (make it go viral or contagious) if it increases their social currency – makes them look cool, in the know, smarter and so on.  The second S is for “story” – self-explanatory.

Recently, I went on a trip to Hawaii and part of the trip included a zip line excursion with Skyline Eco Adventures in Ka’anapali.  Check out the video below.  It is not likely to become contagious, however, I think it might have gone viral if Pat (the guide) had taken me up on my offer to sing, Total Eclipse of the Heart.  Not to mention what it might have done for Bonnie Tyler AND The Dan Band.

The second book is The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge by Doc Searls.  This book was published in 2012, but the idea goes back to an article Searls wrote for Linux Journal when attending a conference called, The Attention Economy.

The idea in an Intention Economy is that as consumers we control our interaction with companies and not the other way round.  Don’t we already do that?  Not often if you think about it.  Companies manage us – think about how big the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) space is!  Searls puts forth the idea of Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) software – or a class a software to allow consumers to manager companies.  What a novel idea – companies responding to our needs and whims and not us to theirs.

Think about this in a travel sense (you knew I would get here).  All these pre-packaged vacations to tropical locations or eco-adventures or city tours … are they for us as consumers?  Not really.  I mean, sure, you might go and have a great time on any number of these, but they were put together for ease and convenience of the travel agencies (online or brick-and-mortar) and the tour operators.  Imagine if they let you put together your own tour – based on your preferences – and often at a much better price.  Especially if you got to shop it around!

In any case, the point is that the intersection of these two ideas is what will make this new economy take off.  Intention Economy (or VRM) companies that are so worthy of stories that increase social currency that they have no choice but to take off.  I know I don’t want to be ‘managed’ by the companies from which I buy products and services.  Do you?

Well, stay tuned if you want to join “The Fight Against Crappy Travel Planning.”  It is overdue.  Details to follow in the coming days and weeks.

‘til next time, Kirk out.

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