After an Audax Health Solutions board meeting last week, Rick Klausner, Nick Augustinos and I had a stimulating conversation at lunch that got me thinking.
Nick told us a story he had heard about someone in 1941 who vividly remembered that he was at a baseball park watching a MLB game when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The problem was, there was no major league baseball game being played on December 7. Nick’s story is an example of what psychologists later documented that humans do instinctively, which is to reconstruct reality into something that never actually happened – yet they unquestioningly believe it was real.
Nick’s story reminded me of a few times when Steve Jobs and I would hear engineers present Steve with a new concept they had created; a few weeks later Steve would turn this insight into the most beautiful prose as his own idea. Steve’s version was always so charismatic and compelling that, hearing himself describe it, Steve actually became his version’s most enthusiastic believer that it was his idea.
At Apple, Steve’s reconstructed reality became known as the Steve Jobs’ “reality distortion field.” I don’t think Steve was intentionally trying to take a colleague’s idea; it was just that Steve was so passionate about uncompromising disruptive innovation that he was focused on changing the
world, not where the ideas came from.
Back in my Pepsi days, when we were developing “experience marketing” (e.g., Pepsi Generation and Pepsi Challenge) we had a saying, “Perception leads reality.” As marketers, we often enhanced aspects of reality to make it look and feel better than it probably ever was. Authors, artists, motion picture directors and film editors justify this as creative license.
Reconstructed reality is a powerful way of influencing consumer behavior. There are many examples of political leaders and consumer marketers mastering these skills.
At Pepsi and Apple, we always set a very high bar for creative excellence. We agonized over and tweaked even the smallest details in our advertising executions and our product demos. A simple one-second glance of an actor’s expression could completely change the viewer’s perception.
I am fascinated by how natural some politicians are and how tone deaf others are, yet each may be trying to convey the same message.
Never underestimate reconstructed reality.