The only blog that I subscribe to is that of Seth Godin. Wikipedia describes him as an American entrepreneur, author, and public speaker who has written fourteen bestselling books on topics including the post-industrial revolution, how ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership, and changing everything. Seth Godin introduced the concept of “permission marketing.”
What is Permission Marketing? We’re all familiar with traditional advertising on television, radio and now the internet. According to Seth, these are classified as “interruption marketing” which tries to grab the customer’s attention while they are doing something they prefer. The same goes for pop up ads on the internet. An example of Permission Marketing is asking someone if you can include them on your list for receiving your e-newsletters. It’s mostly used by online marketers as well as some who do direct marketing and send a catalog or brochure in response to a request. The point is engaging a customer by providing them something they are anticipating. The transaction becomes personal and relevant. With Permission Marketing, you’re going beyond having a transaction with your customer. Instead, you’re having a meaningful relationship with them.
Seth’s blog is perhaps the most popular in the world written by a single individual. His post on Saturday, Feb 2 talked about a paracosm which Seth defined as an ornate, richly detailed imaginary world. Growing up, I remember creating imaginary worlds with my brother and cousins. Our toys were stashed in my father’s office in the home of my childhood. It was the only room with enough storage for our stuff. We would drag the toys out into the living room and take over the entire first floor. There was a rock garden below the stairway, and this added another dimension of possibilities for our afternoons spent in the fairy kingdom, the village of the future or the lost city under the sea.
Seth also wrote in his post that “whether you’re a three-year old with imaginary playmates, or a passionate inventor imagining how your insight will change just about everything, a paracosm gives you the opportunity to hypothesize, to try out big ideas and see where they take you.” This is used widely by managers and teams at established organizations when they try to come up with new strategies to keep moving their organizations forward. However, more often than not, their behaviors reflect that of a rigid institution when challenged to envision the future without the key components that made them successful in the first place. They feel they have to remain loyal to what Seth calls “their founding precepts.”
Is it really about loyalty? Or is it about feeling insecure about abandoning what has always been perceived as the pillars of the organization? Could it be about fear of not having a safety net? Seth gives the example of the publishing industry. Imagine a world without books published on paper. To a major player in that industry ten or fifteen years ago, not having printed books was inconceivable. But as you all know, a new business model has since emerged which changed the entire world of books.
At this point, my question is — What does your paracosm look like? Who are the major players? What do they care about? What must you take away from your current reality? What can be added? What emotional responses ensue? Why is it important to imagine this world where new challenges and new opportunities converge?
My message has always been consistent. An organization must have a compelling story behind its mission to stay relevant and valuable to the community. What is also consistent throughout our lives is change. And in order to stay relevant to the lives of the people in our community — the people we serve, the volunteers, the board members, the advocates, the donors, the people who care about the work you do — in order for your organization to continue doing the work that matters to them, you must always anticipate change and imagine its impact on your organization and your community. Change must always be part of your story. If you’re able to re-invent your story and live it, you will be able to empower your organization to remain at the helm directing your future and the future of the community you serve.