46. I’ve learned that I’m in the Transformation Economy

I spent this weekend running the very first edition of the College of Extraordinary Experiences – an experience design conference featuring larp elements, rapid prototpying workshops and participants from many different industries. And a secret dungeon bar, but that’s to be expected, I guess.

Our Headmaster for the COEE was none other than Joe Pine, who in the late 90's coined the term “The Experience Economy”. Yes, the Joe Pine from Gilmore & Pine and the book bearing that title. He was great, and a pleasure to work with, and he also said something in one of his speeches that has first sunk in now.

In their model describing the progression of economies, Pine and Gilmore run the reader through a series of steps, and Joe talked abljt those steps at COEE.

  1. If you take things out of the earth or the sea, you’re in the commodities business.
  2. If you process those and sell them, you’re in the goods business.
  3. If you deliver a service, you’re in the service business.
  4. If you stage an experience, you’re in the experience business.
  5. If you guide a transformation, you’re in the transformation business.

To put it in other terms, here’s a coffee example.

- If you sell the beans, you’re selling a commodity.

- If you package them and sell them in a store, you’re in the goods business.

- If you brew someone a cup of coffee and sell it, you’re in the services business.

- If you run coffee-tasting events, you’re in the experiences business.

- And if you turn non-coffee drinkers into coffee fans, you’re in the transformation business.

What makes this interesting is that I came to realise that I’m not in the experience business. I’m in the transformation business. Larp has the power to be truly transformative, and we see that demonstrated again and again. People go to larps and come out on the other side changed. Not always, but often enough for it to matter.

This weekend we gave some high-powered people with little or no previous contact with larping a glimpse of our world. We had goblins at the castle, the participants were in costume, and there was a narrative and a fictional frame. It wasn’t a full-on larp, but it was closer than at any conference I know of.

And the one participant, who came a week before and participated in Fairweather Manor 3? He got his mind blown (his words, not mine) and came out a changed man. He hadn’t just had an experience. He’d undergone a transformation.

Is this going to change what I do? Probably not. But it will change how I talk about it. I’ve felt comfortable with the label “experience designer” for years. Now, I can honestly say that I am perfectly comfortable with saying that I am part of the transformation economy.

And after having done COEE, I understand why that’s the next step on the Pine & Gilmore ladder.

I’m still going to keep the title “Larp Guru” on my business cards, though. ;)

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Director at The College of Extraordinary Experiences, Coach at McKinsey & Founding Partner at The Global Institute For Thought Leadership. Author of 31 books.

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