Easily, my most memorable moment this past year was when my partner Jim
Gilmore and I released our latest book, Authenticity: What Consumers
Really Want, at our annual thinkAbout event.
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As I often say, great experiences – and therefore memorable moments –
require dramatic structure. So for me, this moment was set up by how
very long it took to write this book. It had a gestation period of
almost four elephants! In addition to the normal issues of researching
and writing a significant piece of work while continuing to run a
business, the subject of authenticity simply proved so amorphous and
difficult to get our arms around that it took forever to figure out and
get down on paper. And then when we did, we often found ourselves
talking at our models rather than writing prescriptively, helping
readers use them to help their businesses. That took one more re-write
beginning just about a year ago, but we finally did it, and finished
the manuscript in the spring – in time for Harvard Business School
Press to guarantee us that it would be available for thinkAbout, which
this year was held September 26+27 in Nashville, Tennessee (with one
participant from the Netherlands – Wim Krol of 2LCD Communications).
Great dramatic structure also requires crisis before the climax, which
we created for our thinkAbout participants. We held that first morning
of the event in the Roy Acuff Theatre at Opryland, and began just
talking with everyone about authenticity and why it was so important in
business today. After about ninety minutes of discussion and
interaction, we told them that Harvard had guaranteed us that the books
would arrive by now, so that we could personally hand out (and
inscribe) a book for every one there that day. Unfortunately, we said
tongue in cheek, there had been a problem in shipping, and that it
would take a feat of magic for them to make it.
Well, at those words, one of our participants jumped up and said
“Magic? Did you say ‘magic’?” He was none other than Giovanni Livera,
world-class magician and Creator of Experiences. The curtains opened up
on the stage on which Jim and I had been sitting while Gio grabbed his
briefcase, placed it on a bare table, opened it up, and pulled out – a
bowling ball. After dropping it on the stage with a thud, to the
amazement of the crowd, he then produced the very first books for us to
hand out. We motioned everyone up to come get their personal books as a
palette of them came out from the wings.
Every thinkAbout participant received a book – while Jim and I finally
got that sense of accomplishment that comes with an endeavor so long in
the making, and into which we poured so much of our heart.
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