Business is a right-brain activity, Four Corners Business Journal, July 24-30, 2006

There out to be a more creative phrase, a less conformist way of saying, “out-of-the-box.” Isn’t it interesting that a phrase, meaning original and different, is so overwrought and overused?

I read a quote in Bliss magazine recently from George Steiner. In his book, Grammars of Creation, he says post-structural theorists have argued convincingly “that any origin, any trace or any originary phenomenon or concept, has been visited and many times written over. Origins are lost. And the beginning is always already underway.”

There is nothing new under the sun, so why are we creative types always trying to be new and fresh and original and distinct and unique and unlike anything else? Is it even possible? Can anyone really say they are doing something that no one else has ever done before?

In business, we want to break free of what others are doing; we want to carve out our niche. We aren’t your typical fly fishing store; we offer fly rods and equipment for only left-handed women who fish. Or not.

Maybe we are like banks. We are Third Bank of the Four Corners and we are going to put our bank right across the street from Second Bank of the Four Corners. We offer the same products—checking accounts, savings accounts, money market funds, and loans. The only thing different is at Third Bank we smile and give out chocolate instead of the hard candy they provide at Second Bank.

Yet left handed fly fishing equipment for women and Third Bank are both thinking “out-of-the box.”

Durango-based consultant, Jan Judy with Smart Choices, LLC, said in a seminar a few months ago, that all businesses are service businesses. The most important thing is how your business makes the client feel. It’s about the human connection. It’s about empathy.

In Fast Company in 2002 there was an article about IDEO, a firm behind the I-pod, the flagship Prada store in Manhattan and stand-up toothpaste tubes. IDEO helps companies innovate. They design products, services, environments and experiences. The genius behind IDEO is empathy toward the human condition.

Experiences. It’s what we want as consumers. It’s what makes a MAC better than a PC. The experience—the ease of use, the simplicity—the fact that you can plug in your digital camera and voila! Download photos.

Experience—it is companies like Build-a-Bear. Dress up a teddy bear? You could do that for a whole lot less at Michaels or Toys R Us. Today it is a hugely successful chain of stores, now advertising about the experience of spending time with your children picking out a bear and an outfit and putting it all together for cha-ching, well over $100 bucks. But hey, you work 60 hours a week, what else are you going to do to ease your guilt-ridden suburban mind?

The experience you have with a business is what makes you want to come back. So if it is because you are a left-handed female fly fishing aficionado and the company caters to your every whim; or you prefer the chocolate candies at Third Bank; or that you stopped being frustrated with computing when you bought a MAC; or that you want to create a teddy bear with your six-year-old, you will return to that business because of the experience.

Similarly, if you take your guests to breakfast at the local diner and have to wait too long for food that is cold when it arrives and gets colder as you wait for the server to bring you the flat wear that should already be on the table, chances are you will not go back anytime soon.

So, you want to be “out-of-the-box” and original and creative, try empathizing with your customer and spend some time thinking about ways to provide them with a unique experience that will leave them wanting to come back for more.

Leanne Goebel was the marketing and public relations director for a mid-size publishing firm in Denver for seven years. She has been a published writer for twenty-four years.

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