Monday, May 21, 2012

It Is A Lot Of Fun To Sample And Buy Things Where They Are Made

In the harbor in Monterey, California there are two stores that sell salt water taffy. One store is a clean showroom where all the candy is displayed well and neatly tagged. The other store is a slightly messy place. The owner put the salt water taffy making machines near the entrance by the window. The machine is noisy and hot when it runs and place smells of sugar. When you enter the store, the candy makers offer you free candy from the last batch. People drop the wrappers on the floor. People stop and watch the candy machine, blocking the doorway.

And yet, the messy store with sticky candy everywhere is always crowded and sells a lot more candy the other store.

I wondered why. It dawned on me that it is so much fun for people to see the things they buy being made. It is a lot more fun to sample something right after it is made. It is of course impossible not to buy once you taste the candy. If a particular candy is sold out the owner makes more of the same candy right there in front of you.

The owner of the first store is like the IT team that wants to maintain a clean intranet page where all the content is neatly organized, and tightly controlled even if no one finds the content interesting, useful or engaging.

The owner of the second store is like the online community manager who engages people, enables conversation, encourages content creation, manages a slightly messy and sometimes confusing front page but provides value for all the participants, while making it a ton of fun for the people involved.

Which one do you want to be? The clean but boring shop that sells less or the slightly messy but fun shop that sells more.

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