When was the last time you exclaimed a genuine, happy “Wow!”? This is not a rhetorical question.
Actually consider: when was the last time you said “wow!”?
We crave to be wowed (in a good way). We seek experiences in which we can be emotionally and physically engaged, and prefer those experiences to the bland and uneventful kind. “Wow factor” is one of the greatest considerations in designing customer experiences these days, because a “meh” review is often just as bad as “terrible”.
“How was your date?”
“How’s the steak?”
“What did you think of the show?”
Naturally, we would rather:
– Read a deeply engaging book than a “meh” one
– Have a flavorful, delicious meal than a mediocre one
– Watch the performance of elite athletes rather than average ones (unless they are your kids)
– Work with someone who delivers excellence than with someone who does minimum necessary.
It may seem that some experiences have a potential for wow, while others are doomed to merely approach or meet expectations at best, without ever wowing. However, our ideas of what can and cannot wow are not universal.
Would you consider flying into space and orbiting the moon an inherently wow-evoking experience?
How about climbing Everest?
Visiting a fish market?
Going to a doctor?
There is a great deal of research on “wow factors” in patient experience, because it is not impossible to walk away from a doctor’s appointment saying “wow!”. As for the fish market, there are numerous fascinating Youtube videos of “flying fish” at the Seattle Fish Market.
Then, there is this interview by David Kestenbaum, the host of the radio show This American Life, who recently recorded a conversation with an astronaut Frank Borman. Borman’s description of his experience in space was surprising.
“Not that exciting.”
Being in space?
“Just different shades of grey.”
Everest? Whether it is the literal Mount Everest, or the metaphorical Everest of a career or relationship, one will only find on top of that mountain what he has brought there with him.
So, if Everest in itself does not have “built-in wow factors”, then, what matters in experiencing wow-ness?
– Expectations: to have or not to have? It depends whether you want to experience a WOW in success or in happiness. “Yes” to expectations if you want to be wowed by success; “no” to expectations if you want to be wowed by happiness.
– Focus on the journey, or focus on the goal? Allow yourself to be wowed by delicious experiences both on the journey and in reaching the goal, so that neither part feels like “a waste”. Wayfinding in the process of reaching Everest can hold just as much wow as actually reaching the Everest.
– Align with what matters to you. If you want to orbit around the Moon more than anything else, watching your baby take her first steps will not do as much for you as being in a spacecraft. If you want to stay home and watch your kids grow up, orbiting around the Moon will not hit the spot for you.
– Wow is assigned, it is not inherent. If you don’t place value on attention to detail, you will not be wowed by customer service in Japan (unjustly so, but that is just my opinion). If you love watching someone do their job well, you may be wowed by a super-attentive crossing guard.
So, next time when you go to one of the most interesting jobs in the world, and all you could think of is quitting, next time you bring your child to a 4-star restaurant, to an Air and Space museum, or to the best production of Shakespeare, and instead of being wowed, your child says “I am bored!!!”, don’t judge harshly.
Evaluate expectations, decide how you want to enjoy the journey and what the end game really is, decide what you value, and assess whether your project is truly in alignment with your heart’s desire.