Seth Godin on Average

This is part of the Seth Godin on Story wiki. Check out my chat with Seth, dig deeper into the art and science of business storytelling.

In the Masters of Scale podcast curated by Tim Ferris, there was a fascinating insight from Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb. You’ll want to read Seth’s comments first, so I’ll save it to the end.

P.S. Also, asymptote was a new word for me. I’m writing it down here because writing things down helps me to remember them.

E is for Edgecraft: brainstorming doesn’t work so well, because most people are bad at it. They’re bad at it because their lizard brain takes over moments before a big idea is uttered. “Oh, no!” it says; “I better not say that because if I do, then I’ll have to do it.” And so brainstorming quickly becomes clever stalling and time-wasting. Far better is to practice edgecraft. Someone announces a direction (“we’ll be really convenient; we’ll offer our menu by fax”) and then the next person goes closer to that edge, topping it (“we’ll offer it by email!”), and so on, each topping the other in any particular direction.

Free Prize Inside (2004) – Seth Godin

Our economy has reached a logical conclusion. The race to make average stuff for average people in huge quantities is almost over. We’re hitting an asymptote, a natural ceiling for how cheaply and how fast we can deliver uninspired work.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (2010) – Seth Godin

QUALITY, like feedback, is a trap. To focus on reliably meeting specifications (a fine definition of quality) is to surrender the real work, which is to matter. Quality of performance is a given; it’s not the point.

V Is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone (2012) – Seth Godin


This is Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb. It’s worth reading…

If you want to build something that’s truly viral you have to create a total mindfuck experience that you tell everyone about. We basically took one part of our product and we extrapolated what would a five-star experience be. Then we went crazy. So a one, two, or three-star experience​ ​is you get to your Airbnb and no one’s there. You knock on the door. They don’t open. That’s a one star. Maybe it’s a three star if they don’t open, you have to wait 20 minutes. If they never show up and you’re pissed and you need to get your money back, that’s a one-star experience. You’re never using us again.

So, a five-star experience is you knock on the door, they open the door, they let you in. Great. That’s not a big deal. You’re not going tell every friend about it. You might say, “I used Airbnb. It worked.” So, we thought, “What would a six-star experience be?” A six-star experience: You knock on the door, the host opens. “Hey, I’m Reid. Welcome to my house.” You’re the host in this case. You would show them around. On the table would be a welcome gift. It would be a bottle of wine, maybe some candy. You’d open the fridge. There’s water. You go to the bathroom, there’s toiletries. The whole thing is great. That’s a six-star experience. You’d say, “Wow I love this more than a hotel. I’m definitely going to use Airbnb again. It worked. Better than I expected.”

What’s a seven-star experience? You knock on the door. Reid Hoffman opens. Get in. “Welcome. Here’s my full kitchen. I know you like surfing. There’s a surfboard waiting for you. I’ve booked lessons for you. It’s going to be an amazing experience. By the way here’s my car. You can use my car. And I also want to surprise you. There’s this best restaurant in the city of San Francisco. I got you a table there.” And you’re like, “Whoa. This is way beyond.”

So, what would an eight star start check in be. An eight-star check-in, I would land at the airport. I would show up and there would be a limousine waiting for me. The limousine would be like, know all my preferences. It would take me to the house and it would be like a total surprise. So, what would a nine-star check-in be? A nine-star check in, I would show up to the airport and there’d be a parade in my honor. And I would probably have an elephant you know waiting for me as the traditional Indian ceremony. I would ride on the elephant and there’d be this parade taking me to the to the house.

So, what would a ten-star check in be? A ten star check in would be The Beatles check in. In 1964. I’d get off the plane and there’d be 5,000 high school kids cheering my name with cars welcoming me to the country. I’d get to the front yard of your house and there’d be a press conference for me, and it would be just a mindfuck experience. So, what would an 11-star experience be? I would show up at the airport and you’d be there with Elon Musk and you’re saying, “You’re going to space.”

The point of the process is that maybe 9, 10, 11 are not feasible. But if you go through the crazy exercise of keep going, there’s some sweet spot between they showed up and they opened the door and I went to space. That’s the sweet spot. You have to almost design the extreme to come backwards. Suddenly, doesn’t knowing my preferences and having a surfboard in the house seem not crazy and reasonable? It’s actually kind of crazy logistically, but this is the kind of stuff that creates great experience.

See what I mean.


See Also:

On Attention | On Niching | On Oxymorons | On Permission | On Pricing | On Selling | On Ideaviriuses | On Strategy | On Your Story | On Tension | On Assets



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