Monday, August 30, 2010

Illusion and Reality

Making Monday

It's been a while since we've contrasted makers and users (or, more formally, system keepers and system beaters). Today I want to explore the observation that system beaters create illusions where makers create real things.

In 1987 Paul Hawken published Growing a Business. His book offers what sounds like counter-intuitive business advice. For example, contrary to the conventional wisdom that people go out of business because they don't have enough money, Hawken argues that the real reason most small businesses fail is because they have too much money. Specifically, people spend too much time trying to look like they're in business instead of actually building a real business.

One slotted, three pronged widget (Wikipedia)
Also said to be a great floor wax and dessert topping.
I've been involved in firms where I listened to the leaders and founders say, with a straight face, that the most important thing was for us to appear to be a successful company because that would attract both customers and investors. In other words, if we maintained the illusion long enough, it would become reality.

Users or system beaters are far more interested in image than substance because things only serve as means to their ends.  For users, appearance and intention are more important that the actuality because actual things can be discarded when they're no longer useful.

Makers understand the world in completely opposite terms. Makers deal in the substance of a thing because they understand that the image can change. For makers, reality trumps appearance.

Where do you stand on illusion and reality?

 Image: Bill Longshaw /

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