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Solving Chunky Spaghetti Sauce with Social Media

One of my favorite TED talks by Malcolm Gladwell is a brief lecture on the evolution of chunky spaghetti sauce. Watch the video below:

Get it? Chunky spaghetti sauce didn’t exist before Howard Moskowitz’s innovation not for lack of desire, but because customers had no vocabulary to even describe the desire deep inside their soul. Their worldview didn’t even have chunky spaghetti sauce in it, so there was no way for them to ask for it.

This is so important, and not just from a product marketing perspective. At Stephen K. Hayes’ Evocation event, one of the exercises we did was to envision and document our ideal day in our ideal life, assuming we had a magic wand to make true anything we wanted (with logical exceptions, of course, like not allowing someone to simply explode the planet). What was interesting to me as we shared our visions of a snapshot of ideal life was that for some of the participants, their lack of knowledge (through no fault of their own) created worldviews of an ideal life that were still limited – not for lack of desire for an ideal life, but because some of the things that would make their life truly ideal don’t even exist in their perspective of the world, so they had no idea that their vision could have been even more ideal.

For example, I was listening to one participant share a desire that in their ideal life, their home would be adjacent to a national park. The idea that you could be so financially self sufficient that you could buy the equivalent amount of land outright (on eBay no less) and own it yourself was outside their worldview, so it wasn’t in their plan of an ideal life.

So how do you solve for a problem that you aren’t even aware is a problem? How do you expand your vision to include the existence of things that haven’t been brought into existence yet? I don’t have a perfect answer for this, but I can say that things like social media have been part of the solution for me, at least in some areas.

Being an active participant in social media allows me to communicate with people far outside my areas of expertise and far senior to me in their own life journeys. Being able to see how Jeff Pulver runs a conference gave me a whole new perspective on running PodCamp. Meeting and talking to incredibly successful business folks gives me better ideas on how to make the Student Loan Network better at what we do. Chatting with multi-book best selling author David Meerman Scott gives me insights into how publishing works. Randomly experimenting with things like podcasting lets me interview experts that might otherwise have little interest in talking to me.

Talking about social media’s ROI is certainly a valid and important part of the growth of social media and what’s possible with it. That said, the conversational part that lets you learn more about how other people live and the worldviews they have – worldviews that can enlarge your own perspective on reality and what’s possible – is a vital part of social media not to be discounted.

Photo credit: jshj

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