I was listening to the Alan Watts Podcast recently when I was struck by a distinction that Watts drew between a view of the world as having been “made” versus a view of the world as having “grown.” Watts, for those who are not familiar with him, was a philosopher who dealt, as philosophers typically do, with metaphysical matters. But it struck me that his distinction between making and growing applies well to the practical business of marketing on the new Web.
The traditional view of markets – much like traditional Western views of the world – is that we “make them.” We concoct our plans, develop our products and services, and foist them upon the world. In many cases, we even put all the mechanisms in place to make transactions possible. This is a role at which Wall Street, for example, has failed so miserably in recent history.
Traditionally, “making” has worked best for those who had capital and could manage to get the numbers on their side. Making is the world not only of Wall Street, but of Hollywood, the big Three automakers, big Tobacco, big Pharma, and all the MadMen who serve these types of organizations. Making still works, but it has gotten a whole lot harder.
One reason it is harder is because it is so much easier. Nearly anyone can engage in the traditional “making” process now for a fraction of what it used to cost.
But a related, and more important reason that making doesn’t work as well, is that “growing” is what customers, members, donor and all the other constituents that make up a market are coming to expect.
The Cluetrain Manifesto guys, to their credit, recognized long ago the way in which the Web was transforming markets into communities that grow rather than things that are made. This was, in a sense, the oldest new idea possible: back before the age of mass production and mass media, markets were pretty much always about conversations, always about a close relationship between buyer and seller, always about growing.
Growing is a trickier business than making, mostly because the person who wants to grow something does not have nearly the level of control that the person who wants to make something does. The grower is always dependent upon what she attempts to grow. But think of the potential rewards. I can make a widget, and as a result, I’ll have a widget. But if I take the time to carefully cultivate a widget plant, it may well produce a thousand widgets for me.
This last point seems particularly important in times when resources are tight, because it speaks directly to the type of return you might expect off of your efforts to connect with a market for your products are services. It’s worth pausing for a minute and asking yourself: Am I making, or am I growing?
P.S. – If you like the “growing” metaphor you might also like Annuals and Perennials – Cultivating Your Blog Content. And if you like what you read here on Hedgehog & Fox, in general, I’d truly appreciate it if you would tell others and also subscribe by RSS or by e-mail.