Monday, December 06, 2004

The Greatest Show on Earth

I just logged in to read "Go Ask Alice," and realized it's been three weeks since my last post. In that three weeks, we celebrated Thanksgiving in the US, my long-suffering wife and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary, and we took our five year old grandson Jake to the circus.

I don't know if you've been to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus recently (or ever, for that matter) but they now have a special event one hour before show time. You can go down on the arena floor and meet the performers, see the jugglers and the acrobats close up, shake hands with the clowns (and get free red plastic noses), and examine close up some of the incredible costumes that the performers wear. This last was of special interest to my wife, who does theatrical and special event costume design and creation.

So what does this have to do with the Scan? Just this---the owners of the circus have realized that people expect more in entertainment today. They don't just want to come into a 20,000-seat mega-arena to be entertained from 200 feet away. They want to get close to the action. They want to see the performers as human beings. They want to see for themselves that the animals are not being mistreated, PETA notwithstanding. The lesson is that even with amazing amounts of spectacle, human scale is important.

As we design our services and our facilities, we need to mix the personal with the awesome. Ol' Phineas T. Barnum would still recognize his namesake, but he'd also understand that you have to put it all into context.

Next week, it's off to Cleveland State University to do my last Scan program of the year. Since my last presentation, we've seen the announcement of the Google Scholar program (do you really need a hyperlink to THAT one?) and an AC Neilsen survey (sponsored by eBay) that claims that 40% of Americans now participate in online communities. The best part about doing these Scan presentations is that no two are ever the same: as the environment changes, so does the presentation!

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