May
20

POW! Right Between the Eyes!

A few months ago, I was invited to be part of the Post2Post Virtual Book Tour, created by  Paul Williams of Idea Sandbox. I think it's a great idea – a wonderful use of this online community.  And, it gave me the chance to read a really interesting, fun book – POW! Right Between the Eyes: Profiting from the Power of Surprise and to have a conversation with Andy Nulman, the author. Andy's premise is that Surprise (he always capitalizes it) is the most powerful tool for success in the business arsenal.  Now, I have to say he hasn't convinced me of that!  BUT he makes a darn good (and very funny) case for his point of view. And, perhaps more important, by the end of the book, I had a much broader and more nuanced understanding of Surprise as a business driver: it made me look at my own business differently. And that was surprising! Images

So here, without further ado, is my Q&A with Andy:

Erika: Hi, Andy!  Let's start with a big-picture kind of question. What’s the biggest misconception you’ve found people have about Surprise?

Andy: That it’s frivolous, superficial, the stuff of kiddie parties or peek-a-boo games.  While Surprise indeed democratizes by “kidifying” us (namely it lowers resistances and weakens defences by bringing out our “inner child”), it is a powerful, sales-inciting and relationship-building instrument that is woefully underutilized by business.

To that end, in an attempt to better understand the effect of Surprise, and better apply said effect in a more corporate environment, I have worked with neuroscientists at the Institute of Emotive Psychological Studies at the renowned Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden and commissioned a unique 12-question test that evaluates an individual’s Surprise Factor.

Erika: So, given that people have this misconception about Surprise – that it's frivolous and superficial – how can companies that have “reliability” or “trustworthiness” as part of their brand best incorporate the Power of Surprise?

Andy: I hate to answer a question with a question, but why does Surprise have to compromise either one of those attributes?  I think people trust and rely on products and services from companies like Apple, Virgin, Target or even Oprah (and one must consider her conglomerate a “company”), and they have exploited the Power of Surprise as part of their DNA for years. 

All Surprise is, at its core, is a way to cut through an increasing cloud of corporate boredom, connect with one’s customers, give them something to talk about and ultimately, solidify a company’s relationship with them.  And because of that, I think that it’s an essential tool to establish not merely the two attributes you listed above, but a deeper and more profound bond between company and customer as well.

Erika: Please talk more about Surprise as “the lubricant to Yes.”  Mostly because it sounds so sexy…

Andy: Oh Erika, I love the way you purr “please.”  You’re such a kinky little blogmistress.  But  you want me to talk more, right here in public?  Uh, perhaps you can meet me in the more private recesses of my own blog a little later on, with a lava lamp and a bottle of Sonoma red.  Until then, here’s what I can reveal without getting arrested by the blog morality squad: 

In business, there’s no term that matters more than “Yes.”  It’s the sweetest sound of all, a three-letter symphony, the universal key that opens all locks.

And Surprise helps get one to “Yes” faster.  It does this by delivering a special feeling that I call Euphoric Shock.  It’s the moment that jumpstarts a modern marketing relationship by “upsetting” one’s system, putting it into a state of flux.

This internal stirring and accompanying euphoria reduces resistances, leaving a happy, excited customer that makes fewer demands, asks less questions, and is almost completed by consummating a transaction.

There.  Now I’ve got to take a cold shower.   

Erika: Whew! OK, here's another thing: I’m still not clear about how to create “the constant flow of Surprise” – Can you say more about that?

Andy: No I can’t.

Okay, I’m kidding.  One Surprise is never enough.  It sets the stage, but it demands an encore…again and again and again.  It’s very demanding as a concept, but the payoff is well worth the effort.  Ultimately, Surprise needs to work as a continuum; people should be left wondering “What WILL they think of next?”…and it’s up to us to deliver upon it. Surprises are like pearls; one is nice and impressive, but a long string of them is magnificent and admired.

Problem is that once someone succeeds with a Surprise, they think that a flow means “do the same one over again.”  There’s nothing worse than that; it’s like trying to light a firecracker twice.  You can’t re-package a bang.

Erika: You talk about putting on "Virgin Contact Lenses"; looking at your situation, your business, or your challenge as though you've never seen it before. Can we put on “extended-wear VCLs” – make ourselves more surprise-receptive overall? And would that be a good thing?

Andy: Just like ignorance is bliss, innocence is foundation.  A major problem in business is that experience taints our views and our actions.  If we all saw the world as a new place on a constant basis, there’d be so much more innovation, and way more solutions to our problems.

 I truly believe that life would be so much better with the extended-wear version (I really dig that notion, by the way) of Virgin Contact Lenses.  If we all had the memory spans of a goldfish, who knows how more advanced we would be?

Erika: What do you love most about Surprise as an art and practice?

Andy: That it works.  And that it allows me to be flippant in interviews.

Posted in Thinking


About Erika Andersen

Over the past 30 years, Erika has developed a reputation for creating approaches to learning and business-building that are custom tailored to her clients’ challenges, goals, and culture.
Read More...

Visit Erika's Forbes.com Blog


Latest tweets

  • Loading tweets...


Be Bad First

Get Good at Things FAST to Stay Ready for the Future
Learn More...

Leading So People Will Follow

Proven leadership framework that creates loyalty, commitment and results.
Learn More...

Being Strategic

Plan for Success; Out-think Your Competitors; Stay Ahead of Change
Learn More...

Growing Great Employees

Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers
Learn More...