Johann was a cookie virtuoso.
His cookie emporium was famous across town, most especially for his Single Chocolate, Double Chocolate, Triple Chocolate, Quadruple Chocolate, Quintuple Chocolate and Sextuple Chocolate miracles.
His ingredients were impeccable, his equipment custom-designed and his staff were his favourite family members. Everything was safe and secure in Johann’s business.
And then, Johann awoke one morning, blasted with an obscene inspiration.
He wanted to make a rice cookie.
Not a cookie with rice flour, that had been done. Not a cookie with rice puffs, which was shameful and populist. No, a cookie with grains of rice in it. In a fearful, excited daze he walked into his kitchens.
Two hours later, he summoned Annoushka, his cheerful plump wife. She found three trays of cookies thrown out in the rubbish, one tray on the bench, and a manically grinning husband.
”Try this, my plum,” he said. Accustomed to being the bakery’s taste tester, she obediently picked up a small pale cookie and took a toothy bite. She paused. Her eyebrows creased together. She chewed thoughtfully. She ran her tongue around her mouth. She sucked her teeth. And then she said,
”I have never eaten anything like that before.”
“The texture is crunchy and smooth at once. It isn’t sweet, it isn’t savoury. It’s not dense or moist. It is… different.”
Johann smiled and then his smile fell. ”Yes, it’s very different. But I don’t think we can sell it.”
”Why not?” said Annoushka, while tentatively eyeing off another cookie.
”Because, my plum, it does not have chocolate or pecans or raisins or fruit pieces or cashews or any of the things people expect from a cookie. It doesn’t even have sugar in it! Only rice. And who would buy a rice cookie?”
Annoushka disagreed. And since Annoushka was in charge of marketing and retail strategy, Annoushka got her way.
Johann had a sleepless anxious night after Annoushka put a large ad in the paper.
It said, ”We bet you’ve never had a cookie like this before. Come try our astonishing Ricecapade Cookie. You’ll be amazed.”
Johann was distraught. He moaned, ”No-one will buy them, everyone will think we have gone mad, and Jormqvist across town will gain all our business and he will laugh in his damned beard at us. What have you done, my plum? Why did we have to tell everyone that we have lost all sense? We could have just made the cookies and hidden them up the back or something!”
Annoushka, used to life with a cookie virtuoso, ignored him and rolled over to get enough sleep. She knew tomorrow would be a busy day.
And she was right.
That night, exhausted and happy, Johann said, ”That was… gob-smacking. Did you see how Jormqvist turned up to gloat but he couldn’t even get to the counter? Ha! You are brilliant, my plum.”
Annoushka smiled. ”I am. And so are you.”
They embraced for a long, long moment and then Johann said, ”There is something I do not understand, my plum. Today we made triple our normal sales. Some of them were from those who came to try our Ricecapade cookie and bought it. But many of those sales seemed to come from people who never even looked at the rice cookie, but just bought a Quintuple Chocolate pack. Why so?”
Annoushka replied, ”Creating something unusual, daring, innovative or bold will get you attention. But the attention often wanders from what you created to who created it, and what else you’ve made. Some people may buy the unusual, daring, innovative or bold offering. But more people will likely buy the older, safer, more predictable one.”
”So once you get their attention, they still buy what they want to buy?”
”Yes, my dear. Cookie innovators will buy the new and untested recipes, and more people will go for the predictable Quintuple Chocolate. But neither group would be paying attention if you hadn’t created the innovative thing.”
”You’re a genius, my plum.”
”You already said so. Now come to bed.”
When was the last time you created something from the bleeding edge?
For me, it was last week: while somewhat sleep-deprived I wrote a sales page that made me squirmy and uncomfortable. The first line in it is Being stuck in your business is like a permanent case of blue balls.
I implored my brain to come up with a metaphor that was less intense and weird, and my brain refused to comply.
I went to my inner circle, including my just-graduated Pilot Light group, to get their feedback, and they told me it was awesome and hilarious and they would probably buy it.
And so, despite feeling jumbly and wrong about it, I hit Publish and told my wonderful Rise and Shine newsletter subscribers about the new offering and the process behind it.
To my complete lack of surprise, I got interest. One sale of the new Delogjamification service, to someone who loved the process of getting unstuck being handled in a light way, and conversations about other services, like Goddamn Radiant – a service I have been offering for a year-and-and-half without ever updating the sales page. (Although I will, soon.)
This has been the pattern every single time I have pushed my creative boundaries.
First, I freak out.
Then, I do it anyway.
And lastly, I get interest… most of it in something other than the new and scary thing.
I do not think this is a me-specific pattern.
But I want to know. So come to the comments and tell me:
When was the last time you created something that made you a bit nervous?
And what happened when you did?