July 27, 2004
News & Opinion: What if Everyone Talked the Same Way
People in your organization have a common language. They’ve got shorthand that helps them communicate. Words like “drop dead date” and “defects” and “deadlines” and “No” are fairly universal. It’s easy to shoot stuff down and stall and denigrate and turn great things into mediocre products and services because we all have those concepts nailed.
What we need, it seems to me, is a way to talk about the great stuff. A common vocabulary that makes it easier for groups to do the right thing, to create things worth talking about.
My last two books, both national bestsellers and both available from 800 CEO READ aim to do just that. Here’s a short glossary of the sort of conversations I’m hoping your people will start having:
PURPLE COW: Something remarkable. Something worth talking about. A Purple Cow is a product that markets itself because people want to talk about it. “Make this a little more Purple.”
FREE PRIZE: The element of a product that makes a product Purple. Turns out that most of the time, the thing we talk about isn’t the performance of the item. We don’t buy a Hummer or a Mini because of the way it drives from here to Cleveland. We do it because of the way it makes us feel. We do it because both of them are easy to talk about. Same with the TV sets on Jet Blue flights.
The Free Prize is the gimmick, the clever thing, the thing that makes something remarkable.
“Where’s our Free Prize? Where is the gimmick that once we put it into this thing is going to make it Purple?”
CHAMPION: A champion is someone who makes things happen. She refuses to just follow instructions. Instead, she does whatever is necessary to get that thing out the door, to make it real, to make it magnificent. Champion is also a verb, as in, “This won’t work unless you champion it.”
Don’t bother launching something innovative without a champion.
SNEEZER: Someone who tells other people about your Purple Cow. Sneezers have influence.
AVERAGE PEOPLE: They don’t need anything new from you. They have what they need and they don’t want much. The people who want to hear from you are the geeks, the nerds, the early adopters.
EDGECRAFT: This is the way you dream up fashionable stuff. Not by brainstorming, but by choosing an edge and going all the way to it.
Is it silly to make up words? I don’t think so. Coining a new word or a new phrase makes the intangible solid. It ensures that everyone in your group knows what they mean, and it enhances the importance of the important stuff.
The only reason I wrote Free Prize Inside and Purple Cow was to help the people who “get it” (that would be you) create an environment and vocabulary to encourage everyone else to come along. Jack and the folks at CEO READ can cut you an amazing deal on bulk books—the reason is simple: if everyone gets a copy of the books, everyone can start talking like us.
So go, make something worth talking about!
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.