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.

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