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A mismatch of expectations

Seth Godin’s blog post this morning, called “I hate this restaurant,” is really excellent. I would encourage you all to read it. In it, he talks about a mismatch of expectations. More specifically, he gives the example of somebody going to a restaurant and not liking what’s on offer, and therefore being upset. It’s not that the food was bad or that the restaurant has failed, it’s just that the person didn’t get what they were expecting. There’s a mismatch. And this, of course, happens all over the place and not just in restaurants. In his view, this failure is caused by a few different factors that ultimately result in us — the people that are involved in everything from the arts to business — having to make a decision about the kind of operation we would like to run. Below is an excerpt of those things. For the full post, click here.

This failure comes from a few contributing factors, all amplified by our culture:

First, you can’t know if you’re going to like an experience until you experience it. All you know is your understanding of what was on offer. And because there are so many choices and there’s so much noise, we rarely take the time to actually read the label, or we get carried away by the coming attractions, or we just don’t care enough to pay attention until we’re already involved.

[And marketers are complicit, because in the face of too much noise, they hype what’s on offer and overpromise…]

Second, because many people are afraid. They’re afraid of the new and even more than that, afraid of change. Most people in our culture would like to be entertained not transformed, lectured at instead of learning.

Third, the double-edged sword of giving everyone a microphone means that we’ve amplified the voices of dissent at the same time we’ve given people a chance to speak up about their desires. This means that mass culture is far more divisive than it ever was before, and it also means that bubbles of interest are more likely to be served.

And so the fork in the road:

You can either turn your operation into a cross between McDonald’s and Disney, selling the regular kind, pandering to the middle, putting everything in exactly the category they hoped for and challenging no expectations…

Or you can do the incredibly hard work of transgressing genres, challenging expectations and seeking out the few people who want to experience something that matters, instead of something that’s merely safe.

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