Selling Explorations

What drives people to embark on explorations?

This seems like an interesting question to explore because, as business leaders, we use the theme of exploration all the time as a metaphor to describe the purpose of our jobs. Our language is filled with expressions such as “taking people on a journey”, “the curiosity of the explorer”, or simply the “exploration phase” of product development.

In our current state of constant uncertainty, we have also turned more than ever into explorers. Giving guarantees about exactly where we’re headed became really hard, not to say almost impossible. Where will you take the business next years, if it even survives?

In a way, getting people on board with anything new is like inviting them to join you on a journey filled with uncertainty.

So, how do we do this?

Different trips, different outcomes

Let's continue with my travel metaphor.

The first step might be to recognize the kind of journey you invite us to join. Then, set the right expectations so people who believe what you believe join you.

Trips to known destinations and proven modes of transportations are fairly easy to sell. For a predictable path to success, build your message with data, like your success rate and positive feedback from previous adopters. Here, people expect certainty.

Unknown paths towards known destinations require more creativity to sell. There is no previous success rate or feedback. You can’t predict the chances of success with accuracy. There is a lot more risk. But you have a feeling that it might work. Talk about that emotion. It’s the most powerful way to help people take a chance. Here, people will trade certainty against an active role in shaping success.

That’s what a good narrative does. It turns your audience into participants. People will embark on explorations if the narrative is about them figuring out the outcome.

God, gold, and glory

For historians, the basis for European conquests to the new world could be summarized into this: gold, god, glory.

Material gain, a mission, power: these were the motives behind this historical shorthand. The European explorers of the 15th century took action because they had heard stories that made them believe in a new narrative for themselves. Together, they believed in a new opportunity.

Similarly, could the opportunity for your organization be about recognition, shared values, and good fortune?

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