The great indicator of growth is that which cannot be tracked—word of mouth, person to person.
When an idea flows through culture...
When it spreads on its own...
How can you create something that does this?
I'll lay out the simple, difficult kernel of how this works.
It's the key to understanding early adopters.
And like any kernel, it's deeply filled with DNA and layers of complexity, even if it's wrapped in a simple to grasp statement.
(As a side note, the nuance between understanding what makes up a kernel, and those who just see its exterior, is the same difference between understanding what spreads and what doesn't).
To spread an idea in a noisy world...
There must be a surprise.
And in that moment of surprise, we learn something new. Right then and there, we change our worldview; we confirm our suspicions, we open a new door of possibility. We become aware of something that we didn't previously know.
Without a surprise, there is no education.
We know that education is essential for "user onboarding," but most onboarding misses the point. People see only the functional, sterile facets of education, and miss the deep ones.
Most onboarding teaches you how to use your application, how to drag and drop an image or find your settings.
Great onboarding transforms the way you view the world through the education and story of something you were unaware of.
I don't know anything about Golf.
I've only played a few times in my life, and I'm pretty much terrible. If I were to attend a tournament, I'd be entirely clueless and bored the whole day, probably thinking about how I was getting sunburned and wondering where the food carts were.
But if I were to attend that tournament with an expert, a lifelong fan who explained all of the subtleties to me, all of the hidden strategies of the game, the history, the rules, and the controversy between players...
I may suddenly find myself fascinated.
And, later, (maybe) find myself wanting to take up Golf, and engross myself in the sport.
Or maybe in the future, I would describe to others what is so interesting about the game.
So, one teacher might show me how to swing a club. Another teacher might show me the beauty of the sport.
This goes for anything else, from Origami, to hotpot cooking to Military history.
The more we begin to understand what makes up these products, stories, industries, and where the magic lies within them, the more we appreciate them.
We ask new questions.
(This is how you verify that the thinking has shifted).
To love is to appreciate subtleties, to find the shiny things most people miss.
Your product won't be for everyone.
But for a few, they will find it shiny, and they will pay with their attention.
These are the people who become great customers.
Not because you gave them a tool and showed them how to use it, but because you showed them something they'd missed, something beyond the utility.
Something they were surprised to learn.
And if you go about moving people this way,
Your ideas will spread for you.
Because what you showed them, they will share with others.
And then the most important aspect of the idea will spread...