Thought Experiments

There I was, dreaming of a glamorous sun-drenched life, having to wait around in London’s Waterloo station as a gale howled outside whilst my friend’s train was inevitably delayed by the NHS-proportioned inefficiency that is the UK’s rail network.

A touch too early to adjourn to the nearest bar, I popped into a shop with shelves upon shelves of magazines to browse away fifteen minutes.  But what to read?  Being a fella, the largest chunk of rags being ‘Women’s’ titles were of little obvious interest.  The next largest section, ‘General Lifestyle’ looked more tedious than an Oprah marathon of food-homes-gardens trash.  Then there’s ‘Men’s Lifestyle’.  Over a decade ago I lapped this then embryonic genre up, but today?  Yet more rubbish.  I was bamboozled to discover that almost as big a section existed on ‘Motoring’.  The ‘Sport’ area presented either pursuits so minor as to render them invisible, or with the majors, mags aimed at teenagers that have an inability to make their own minds up on anything and cannot spot when something is spin-ridden with the totalitarian control of a brand-owner that’s taken lessons from the Chinese.  The ‘Music’ section must surely be more promising.  But again, anyone that’s ever heard of an mp3 would be decades too young for just about everything on offer.  There must surely be a gap in this market for something other than ‘rock’ and ‘dance’.  Finally, the ‘Current Affairs’ section.  Like many buyers these days I suppose, I buy only when commencing a (plane) journey, then marvel at how truly little impression a £5 purchase makes on my life.  With these current affairs journals, they all have uninsipring covers.  It’s as if no-one actually visits the place where their mag is sold and wonders how they can distinguish their publication from the rest.  For this week/month at least, only one attempted to do this; Wired.  A mid-90s dayglo confection of themes around the word ‘free’ duly caught my eye.  I began reading the cover-story article by Chris Anderson.  Once my friend rocked-up, I made a mental note to continue reading online later.

It’s an essay which takes considerable time to digest, yet is a well worthy read.  The fella that wrote The Long Tail, now deservedly flush with a fortune no doubt, is setting about his next era-defining tome.  It’s all about how anything that enters a digital platform accelerates towards becoming ‘free’.

He delivers initial arguments with aplomb and even has a cheeky 3min video talking about his themes.  And it’s on this that I caught a sweet sales tactic.

Let’s do a thought experiment…”  He recounts a 1954 Nostradamus that espouses the wonders of inevitably free electricity.  That state still eludes, yet Chris Anderson suggests we consider what the world would be like if electricity were indeed without charge.  He paints a pretty desirable picture of improved living.

It’s a powerful concept.  I can imagine now encouraging my prospects to “do a little thought experiment…” and get them talking about what things would be like for them if one significant change from ‘now’ was in place.  Let’s say for a simple starter example, I’m discussing with them one of my products that helps them sell more.  “Let’s do a thought experiment where by the end of the year, you’ve beaten your target… how would that have been done and what will it enable you to put in place for next year?”  I reckon that can open up all sorts of positive discussions. 

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