Don’t Show Your Work to Customers.

If you’re an original leader, someone with a vision who can move from idea to action, then you, like me, must fight the urge to put all the “how-to”  magic of what you make in the middle of the product experience.

Customers will never see a lot of work that goes into making a product or service. Small decisions that may have been debated by a team, the fruit of which you see people enjoy, is enjoyed without the knowledge of your effort.

Those standing on a ship, sailing, don’t know much about the shipbuilder.
Those driving a car don’t think about the welders – or the robots – put it all together.

When you make something, there’s a temptation to show users and customers the blood and sweat that makes your product possible – you want to share how you did it.

There’s a place to tell the maker’s story. It’s just not in the middle of someone using your product.

A magical product experience happens when customers forget about what you made. They just use it.

Your DESIRE Vs. Your Customer’s: They’re Not the Same

Your impulse is to show value; the customers’ desire is to get value.

You want to show the hard work to prove worth; the customer just wants the worth.

One of the mantras I’ve heard in writing is “Show, don’t tell.” There’s magic in showing instead of telling people how awesome what you made is.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” -Anton Chekhov

Lighting Lamps in Winter

I listened to Robert Green’s controversial book The 48 Laws of Power while driving from Bend to Portland, Oregon, a few years ago. The book was long, as was the weekly 210-minute drive. I heard many stories.

In one story, a monk in winter with snow on the ground would wake early before sunrise to light lamps in a garden. He would then erase his footsteps so that guests visiting would not be aware of the work he’d done.

This story stuck with me because it conflicted with my expectations. I worked in a highly corporate company at the time.  It seemed you wanted people to see what you were doing to know your value.

As I’ve been building my own startup, I’ve reflected more on this story.

The lesson: people find joy in seeing a lamp lit in the winter snow, without the distraction of seeing the footsteps and thinking about the process.

The way to have this insight with whatever you build is by learning to see the world from your customers’ perspective. To create a valuable product experience, let go of the need to show your value, and focus on creating it.

Also published on Medium.