can often be difficult to describe so we've developed some stories
that help illuminate how it effects people's lives and why it's
so powerful. None of these products, services, or experiences
were developed explicitly with a meaning strategy but all have
connected with at least some of their customers on this deep
level. These stories didn't make it into the book, unfortunately,
but we've made them available here...
my daughter’s birthday.
seven and has always had a thing for stuffed animals. She, and
her best friend Meg, love to stage melodramas with their toys,
giving them names, detailed characteristics and roles to play
in an imaginary world of their creation. She and Meg love to
dress their animals in different costumes and accessories. Sometimes
that seems like the most fun of all for them.
her birthday, I take Gina and Meg to a new “Build a Bear
Workshop” that’s opened a few blocks away. My sister
said it would be perfect for her. Sort of a store, sort of an
arts ‘n’ crafts factory it seemed the ideal place
for an energetic, sensitive and creative girl like Gina to express
in and am instantly enchanted by the colors, and the inviting,
soft quality of the “store.” I can’t exactly
describe it, but I feel like I’m in a fantasy land or,
at least, some place different than reality. After moving a
few feet into the space, I see that there is a simple structure
organizing everyone’s activities. There are stations clearly
visible that will guide us in the creation of a custom-made
step, Gina and Meg walk through the “Choose Me”
station, where they find the exact bear type they want…
To the “Hear Me” station, where they choose the
sound they want their bear to make when squeezed…
To the “Stuff Me” area where they control how soft
their bear will be by choosing its stuffing…
To the “Fluff Me” station where the girls blow dry
the bear to freshen it…
To the “Dress Me” arena where they swoon over hundreds
of different outfits and finally decide on a few that are “right”
for their particular bear…
and finally to the “Name Me” stations, where Gina
writes the story of her bear’s life, with a little help
As I pay
for the bears, I notice above the counter the “Bear Promise.”
It gets right to the point when it says, “My Bear is Special-
I brought it to life.” That’s when it hits me—this
may be a store that sells bears, but it’s also an environment
that creates experiences. At a superficial level, of course,
she’s making something new, in a joyous environment, and
it’s fun. But, it also provides three things that are
deeper, more meaningful. It seems to recognize that, even at
a young age, some girls have a rudimentary understanding and
deep appreciation of their potential to give life. It provides
the raw materials and gentle guidance to create beauty. And
it reinforces my daughter’s desire for personal expression.
away from the store with the two happy, bouncing girls, and
I appreciate the ambition of the place. Everything in the store
shaped and built on the girl’s experience, leaving us
all with an impression of achievement and delight that goes
well beyond the actual bears. This is truly something special.
The business person in me can’t help but wonder if they’re
profitable. I wonder how Morningstar rates them.
feels like home.
ago, I got on the bus in Michoacan, to head to the Mexico City
barrio where my uncle Miguel, his family, and half the people
I grew up with have established themselves. My friends Jose
and Rodrigo introduced me to Carolina a week after I got there,
and helped me get a job at trucking company, too. I would never
have considered coming to the city without knowing people on
whom I could totally depend.
gotten married to Carolina a year ago, I knew I’d need
to, eventually, make a place of our own. My in-laws wanted to
help, though they didn’t have much themselves. Neither
did Uncle Miguel or my friends. Fortunately, I was able to stake
a claim on some land adjacent to my uncle’s place.
done pretty well at the hotel, and had some money in my pocket.
I wanted to do something worthwhile with it, but wasn’t
sure what exactly. Of course, I wanted to build a house on my
land, but concrete was expensive. Still, with Carolina expecting
I knew I needed to do something- we were already enough of a
burden on my in-laws.
seen the name “CEMEX” on cement bags, but didn’t
know much about them. Then one day, six months ago, Uncle Miguel
told me about a friend of his who was part of a kind of cement
buying club, sponsored by CEMEX, called “Patrimonio Hoy.”
The friend said it was a great way to build better places for
So a bunch
of us, including half of Carolina’s family, went to a
meeting to hear more. What they told us sounded fantastic. We
would form a few groups that would collectively purchase enough
concrete to build a one-room house, say, or add a room to an
existing place. Each group would pay for the concrete week by
week, and, as a group, we’d receive the concrete and help
each other build.
together, the price was much more affordable. And, just as important,
everyone got to improve their houses. Patrimonio Hoy helped
all of us think through how to organize ourselves so that we
could efficiently build one place after the next. Soon, the
whole community was looking better. And Carolina and I now have
the first floor of our house completed.
world has changed for us. We’re all closer than ever,
and I know in my gut that we made the right move coming to the
As I sped
through security in my own line and walk into the Concorde lounge,
the air was noticeably charged with excitement—and there
were only four others there, so far. By the time the lounge
began to fill with people and I was snacking on hors d’oeuvres
and champagne, the air was electric—the kind small children
feel waiting for Christmas morning or for their turn on an amusement
park ride. In fact, I felt a giddiness that I can’t really
explain and that I haven’t really felt in a long time.
what it was like waiting to board the Concorde.
was interrupted by an audible gasp from an elderly woman sitting
near me. I looked to her and then followed her eyes out the
window as the plane was towed to the gate. Her reaction was
honest and reflexive. I knew by looking into her eyes (her hand
was over her mouth) that she had looked forward to this for
years—that she didn’t think it would ever actually
happen. She had spoken for more than half the people in the
lounge who were all peering silently out the floor-to-ceiling
windows as this graceful plane was towed into place.
just a matter of time, now.
the Concorde, I was in a bit of a haze. I tried to take in every
sensation, inevery sense, and imprint it in my memory. This
was the one and only chance I’d have to ride this legend
and I felt pretty lucky. The Concorde stopped flying forever
just a few weeks later.
the plane was cramped and small, the leather seats nice but
no bigger than standard economy seating. To be honest, I didn’t
really notice. Nor did I care that the 30 year old entertainment
system carried exactly 7 channels of music—hardly advanced
by 2003 standards. None of it seemed to matter. As old as these
planes were, as unimpressive the interior styling and accessories,
once we taook-off and the afterburners kicked-in, I felt that
I was a part of the future—even if it was a retro vision
of a future past.
no real sensation of Mach 2. The red LED display ticked past
two times the speed of sound but the flight itself didn’t
feel any different than any other. The service, of course, was
wonderful, as was the food and drinks, but by the time we were
finishing-up, it was already time to land in New York. The view
out the tiny windows was hazy so I couldn’t even make
out the curvature of the Earth.
none of that mattered. Nor did it matter that this was an expensive
ticket and that it wasn’t even enough to make the flight
profitable despite the full airplane. That the sensations of
the flight were rather ordinary was surprising but not a disappointment.
I think, perhaps, this is the way supersonic travel should be:
ordinary, regular, routine. Every flight should be supersonic;
should steal time from the Earth’s rotation; should inspire
lifetimes of anticipation. Every flight should be this special
and this ordinary.
was the only truly spectacular part of the flight. When the
plane crossed over land in the USA, barely three hours after
leaving London, it made two steep banks and is on the ground
in minutes. I know how long the approach takes in a 767, 777,
747, and 757. It’s fairly slow and meandering. Not the
Concorde, however. Bank once and when the plane levels you are
noticeably lower to the ground. Bank again, and you’re
right at landing altitude. A minute later and you’re landing.
The entire process was fast and deliberate. You can imagine
what the plane looked like as it cuts through the air. People
on the ground would still look up and marvel at this beautiful
form—unlike most every other plane in the sky.
thought that came to my mind as I walk off the gantry: Let’s
do it again!
think I’m crazy.
dress in the costumes (well, except once for Halloween) but
I do identify a lot with the Star Trek world and spend
a significant amount of my free time in it. I’ve seen
every film and episode at least three times (and probably many
more) and I’ve read many of the books, been to a conference
once, and now spend time writing my own stories and posting
them to “fanfic” sites on the Internet. I’m
not a fanatic or anything—really—and you’d
never know it to look at me or work with me, but the Star
Trek Universe means a lot to me, I guess, on a deep level.
you laugh and point, though, realize that over 50% of US citizens
admire Star Trek and say that they’re fans. They
don’t have to be “Trekkers” or huge fans but
they appreciate something about it. It’s really not so
different, when you think about it, than all the fans of NASCAR
or professional sports. The next time you see a 49ers fan walking
down the street wearing a Steve Young jersey, realize, that’s
no different than a Star Trek fan walking down the street with
a Starfleet uniform on—not that I would be caught dead
doing either. : )
I got into
Star Trek as a kid. It was all about the adventure
and the weird aliens and situations. It was fast fun and very
entertaining. By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation
was running for a year or two, however, I realized that it was
more than just fun. The show made a quantum leap in quality
and the stories were increasingly about important issues to
society (ours and theirs) and relationships between people.
For me, it became something more inspiring than merely fun,
at least for me. Well, and a lot others, obviously.
time the next series opened, I saw in the characters, stories,
and ideas, something that touched me on many different levels.
Whoopi Goldberg once explained how important the original series
was to her while growing up. Seeing Uhura (the Enterprise’s
communications officer) portrayed as a smart, brave black woman
with more to contribute than being a maid gave her hope about
the future and her place in it. My own reaction was that, maybe,
things can improve in the world and that we will solve the problems
that face us as a civilization. This reaction was confirmed
for me when I read The Ethics of Star Trek, which outlines
the underlying ethical themes in the shows and films. Not only
was it a vision of the best that humans could achieve, but almost
a blueprint for getting there.
OK, I know
that sounds like a pretty high expectations, but that’s
what I truly get out of the whole Star Trek thing.
Day-to-day, it reminds me to treat others and the future in
a better way. I started writing my own Star Trek stories
in order to explore my own ideas within this fictional world.
They probably aren’t good enough to be published but that
doesn’t matter to me.
the company that owns the Star Trek brand, didn’t
see it that way, at first. They saw fan fiction (my stories
and the hundreds written by others every year and posted on
the Web) as a threat to their “property.” They tried
to sue us amateur writers and shut down our sites. But, they
recanted some. It’s an uneasy truce, at times, but one
that benefits all sides. I’ve written my own characters
into the stories, literally making a place for myself in this
world, because it means so much to me to make this vision of
the world happen. We may never have the cool technologies or
meet aliens, but the values built-into the show are the best
we have to offer. Why wouldn’t someone want to be a part
first got on the Web, it was 1997 and I think I was 14. My whole
life revolved around futbol then. My favorite company was Nike
and my favorite team was Brazil’s national team, even
though it was sometimes difficult to catch games in Korea since
not all of them are televised. Still, I would hunt-out television
stores with satellite dishes and walk the aisles four hours
trying to piece together an entire game.
got on the Web those first few times, of course my first stop
was nike.com. It didn’t find what I expected. Everyone
back then were doing those Flash movies (you know, the kind
everyone immediately skips). That was fine since most of those
things sucked then anyway (or crashed whichever browser you
were using). There was a little of that on the Nike site but
it was more like a magazine. They had revolving stories about
their special shoes—the ones made for a specific athlete.
I had already bought the Air Jumpman Pros (I’m a big Michael
Jordan fan even though my sport of choice is futbol). There
was a story on the development of the shoe, it’s features,
and the designer who made them—and why they fit Michael’s
needs. There was also a story on Ronaldinho and Romario, the
two stars of the Brazilian national team. It was great.
thing on the site was this thing where you could answer a question
and it might be posted to the site for everyone to see. I remember
one on “why do you play?” and there were all of
these answers by other kids just like me, along side answers
from famous athletes. That was cool. I answered a lot of these
“pulse” questions but mine never made it onto the
site. That’s cool, I’m sure there were a lot of
people doing the same thing.
just great that Nike cared about what its customers thought,
instead of being totally wrapped-up in the athletes they sponsor.
That’s kind of the message you get from the TV ads and
the ads in magazines and billboards. It’s all about the
celebrity thing sometimes. On the website, though, it was more
than that, It was still exciting and cool, but it was mostly
about the fans and what we thought.
this thing for Spring Training that year where they interviewed
a bunch of kids who went down to watch and made baseball cards
with their photos and info and put them on the site. For the
US Open that year, they did a whole thing on the site where
kids could send messages to Tiger Woods (I’m not a big
golf fan, but hey, IT’S TIGER WOODS!).
still cool and MUCH bigger, but it’s also more corporate.
They still have stories about the shoes but all of the cool
stuff where they wanted to hear from people like me is gone.
It’s more like television: there’s a lot to watch
but no place to contribute.
one of those awful days at Oakland International (yes, I’m
flying again). You know, where you stand in line for an hour
or so while everyone struggles to get their shoes off and their
laptops into the plastic containers. I caused a real commotion,
and a stern warning from one of the security guys, when I went
around to the back of that assembly line your stuff gets placed
onto, to get a piece of my luggage that fell off. I really hate
that "under pressure" thing when you've got all those
people behind you, just trying to get through.
I was taking JetBlue to JFK. We boarded the plane, and I settled
into my leather seat and waited for take-off. I’ve always
liked JetBlue, ‘cause it’s so consistently easy
to deal with. You feel like a human being instead of a sheep.
From the moment you get on the plane, there’s a certain
calm, and clarity to the whole thing. Maybe it's the colors,
which put me at ease. The seats are roomy and comfortable. And,
I can’t explain how they do it, but there just isn’t
the sort of luggage-stowing torture I’ve had on other
the flight was a breeze. Their website is crystal-clear and
talks to me in a relaxed, offhand yet businesslike way, just
like the plane itself. Again, like a human being, instead of
a statistical “consumer.” I don't talk about my
"dignity" very often, but these people seem to respect
I’m sitting there, enjoying ESPN, when this guy gets on
the public address system and announces that he’s the
CEO of JetBlue. He welcomes all of us, and tells us that he’ll
be one of our flight attendants. Then, he starts passing out
As he’s walking down the aisle, he asks people how they’re
doing, not bugging them to tell him what they like and don’t
like about the airline, just doing the normal things a flight
attendant would do. Some people congratulate him on how much
they like JetBlue, others had complaints, but most just enjoy
the fact that the guy in charge seems to get that he's dealing
with people. You get the sense that this is one airline that
actually focuses on me, instead of filling the seats.
I really feel at home in Ft. Wayne?
was in college, I never imagined I would someday be selling
enterprise software, of all things. It sounds like a cliché
now, but back then I wanted to be a novelist. I spent a whole
summer at a café in Florence, writing in that decrepit
journal, drinking way too much espresso, and getting to know
a bunch of like-minded bohemians hoping that graduation could
be put off another year or two.
I’m much more practical now. And, leaving the whole practicality
thing aside, I actually like your work. Traveling around the
country, meeting exotic people (and the people in small towns
seem awfully exotic to me, since I’m from New York), I
find that a lot of that youthful spirit of adventure still means
something and still has room to operate.
other hand, Ft. Wayne, Indiana might be pushing the “exoticism”
a little far. I check into the Comfort Inn, call my client,
and get everything arranged for our meeting tomorrow morning.
I’ve got some time to kill, so I work out, but feel restless.
I get in the car and drive down this characterless, endless
six-lane highway with the same old fast-food and “family
style” restaurants I see on all the other highways I seem
to stay on.
I see the Starbuck’s, and something just changes. I drive
into the parking lot, and the moment I walk into the place I’m
transported back to Florence. I can’t say why, exactly
(Starbucks is a fairly far extrapolation from Florence), but
I’m at home. Maybe it’s the smell of the freshly-brewed
espresso. Maybe it’s the delightfully-disheveled look
of the pile of newspapers over in the corner. Perhaps it’s
the dreadlocked young woman behind the counter with the nose-ring
and the right attitude.
your double espresso, sit down on the plump couch, pick up the
crumpled newspaper (how many people have read it already? I
wonder), and just imbibe the vibe. The guy next to me looks
up and smiles. We get into a great political conversation, something
I really needed but didn’t realize until it happened.
feel “at home,” not in location but in “place,”
nonetheless. Others, like my girlfriend, think that one Starbucks
is identical to the next (and view that negatively), but to
me, that’s what makes it comfortable. I know I can always
find my place and meet people I’ll enjoy talking with.
where I go, I depend on Starbuck’s to evoke a feeling
of the place I really live.
passed away suddenly a few years ago. Once we’d all gotten
over the initial shock, my daughter, who lives in Bangalore,
suggested that I consider selling the house and moving out their
it a lot of thought. There was no question that the house, which
was too much for Rakesh and I even when he was living, just
didn’t make sense for me now. And they were right to be
concerned about me living by myself. I’ve always been
a gregarious person, and I didn’t like rattling around
in the house by myself. The neighbors seemed to change every
few years, and there was no one close by that I could call if
there were some emergency.
other hand, Bombay is my native place. I value my independence,
and I’m rooted here. I love to garden, and couldn’t
see myself moving to some retirement place in Bangalore, filled
with old people, where I couldn’t grow things or see a
blue sky. I also just didn’t see myself as some old widow
going to live near her children to wait until the end comes.
So, I looked
for some other options, and discovered Deccan Commons, a “co-housing”
community that had been built on the outskirts of town. I learned
that, since the 21st century, they’d become a popular
option for people like me, who like to be around other people
without being a burden.
the idea is a modern version of a village, with a wide variety
of ages and occupations. The individual houses are built in
clusters, without walls between them. There’s a lively
community center, which includes a large dining room, exercise
facility, library and daycare center. I liked the concept so
much that I sold the house and bought a charming little bungalow
out even better than I’d expected. Now, not only do I
get to garden, but I have a group of women in the community
who work with me. We’ve been able to plant such an amazing
variety of things! Also, and this has been a pleasant surprise,
I’ve been “adopted” by two delightful younger
families, who insist I eat dinner with them at the community
center. Not that I need my arm twisted—I love being around
young people—and here, I get to play auntie without having
to change any diapers. It’s wonderful!
occur to me back in my old house, but my priorities have changed.
I never realized how much I longed for more people around. I
thought I was happy with my neighborhood, mostly because it
was familiar. I was really worried about leaving it. However,
I’ve rediscovered community and everything in my life
is brighter for it.
realize how much I needed others or that my life was missing
something. I still like my reading and time alone, but I seek
out others more than I used to. I love being needed to help
cook a community meal or when someone besides my daughter asks
for advice. I’m involved in others’ lives more than
I ever thought I could be—or wanted to be.
Interestingly I never thought much about it when we lived in
our house, but the design of an area really does have a big
impact on how neighbors interact. Here at Deccan, the design
of the community just makes it so easy to interact with people
who quickly become friends.
have to interact if you don’t want to (there’s no
pressure at all). But for those of us who want to be connected
with others but, also have our independence, this seems just
about perfect. As a matter of fact, my daughter, who, at first,
was disappointed and (I think) a little hurt when I chose Deccan
over Bangalore, has totally changed her opinion. Now, she’s
looking at a co-housing community for her family. I don’t
think I can talk her into coming back to Bombay, but you never