175. Why Legitimacy And Trust Are Huge Problems For The Experience Industry (And How To Fix It)

“Yes, Linda?”

“Well, we’ve worked with the consultants at Booze Allen Hamilton in the past, and that’s been good. How about we bring them in?”

“Peter, you’ve been quiet. Damn it, man, now isn’t the time for silence! We need ideas, and you know a million people. What’s on your mind?”

“… Experience Design bureau? What the hell is that?”

“Well, it’s a bit new, but as I understand it, they think of the experience rather than the product. Not sure I get it myself, but they’ve done some really impressive stuff.”

“Forget it. We need serious suggestions. You got anything else, Peter?”

“How about Escape Your Own Reality? They started in 2015 with a single escape room in Atlanta and now they’re running almost 400 escape rooms in the Middle East. They helped British Airways find new ways to make money on their brand and I read that their deal with Hyatt brings in more than 600 million dollars a year for the hotel chain. I know someone, who went to school with their founder.”

Does this sound hauntingly familiar?

It’s been more than twenty years ago since Jim Gilmore and Joe Pine took the corporate world by storm with their writings (and talks) about “The Experience Economy”. Since then, experience evangelists have spread the gospel from Australia to Alaska — we should no longer think only of commodities, products or services, but instead of experiences.

If you don’t already have it, this book is a must for your collection!

We have a legitimacy problem in the experience design space

The horrible truth is that there’s a huge disconnect at play here.

And don’t even get me started on Meow Wolf. (Seriously, if you’ve never heard of them, google “Meow Wolf”. You won’t be sorry!)

But even so, it’s hard for people like Peter Holst-Beck to get in front of boardrooms and executives. Of course! Who’d ever think of bringing in an experience designer, when you can hire McKinsey?

Full disclosure: I work as a coach at McKinsey, so I’m happy whenever anyone brings them in!

Experience Design has a legitimacy problem.

We don’t have enough prestigious names in our corner

Harvard Business School. Stanford. State Departments. Oxford. Maersk. Morgan Stanley. CBS News. Ford. British Airways. These are just a few names on the list, and it goes on and on and on. There are many ways to gain respect in the corporate world, and these are just a couple of names that are nice to have on your resume.

“Top Ten Most Famous Logos” | From the Designbro blog
We do have Disney in our corner. And that is definitely something!

We need to pioneer, partner and piggyback

Luckily, this is something we can change. It’s not going to be easy and it’s going to be a long hard struggle, but we CAN actually make it better.

  • Pioneering. We have to create our own institutions and grow their reputations. We must band together to strengthen each other by being many instead of few. We need to support the existing networks in our space and signal boost them. In short, working together amongst ourselves to present a stronger front towards the rest of the world.
  • Partnering. We need to find allies who can help us while we help them. We have to connect with existing institutions, resources and brands and co-create with them. We must accept trade-offs and compromises, so we can move forward, because if we don’t expand our bubble we’re tiny. That means learning how to speak the lingo of others to be understood, and accepting that they don’t know ours.
  • Piggybacking. We also have the advantage that since we don’t have a strong identity of our own (yet), we can ride on waves others have created. We need to use phrases such as “… like X, but Y” instead of trying to re-invent the wheel. We have to accept that it’s easier to get in the door if a bit of nuance is lost. And we must latch onto trends and find a niché in them. Once you’re at the table, it matters less how you got there.
What an award show looked like in 1929 — not too shabby!
  • It means creating and supporting organisations not because of what they can do now, but for what they may become in the future. The first Oscars back in 1929 didn’t matter much to the world, but now, they are hugely important on a global level. Let’s start things like the WXO on that path.
  • It means getting over ourselves and realising that we are stronger together, even when our allies look different than we’d like. Partnering with a utility company might not feel as sexy as partnering with Disney, but if you want to change the world, you need to look for impact rather than glamour.
  • It means swallowing our pride and saying yes instead of no, when prestigious institutions do something similar to what we do. Explaining Star Wars as “a bit like Star Trek” may be blasphemous to some, but it makes it easier to connect with someone who is very new to space adventures.

Zig Ziglar is right

Finally, I know that it’s a bit crass talking about this like it’s only a matter of selling, because it’s so much more than that — but there is something to be said about this quote from the American sales legend Zig Ziglar:

“Every sale has five basic obstacles:

no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.”

The rest of the world will gladly take care of the first four.



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Claus Raasted

Claus Raasted


Director at The College of Extraordinary Experiences, Coach at McKinsey. Author of 34 books.