How to create magic

Oh, Seth.
He wrote in “Who has a seat at the table?” this….

“When designing a new product or program, it’s pretty clear that a successful organization will invite:

The lawyer, so you don’t break any laws.

The CFO, so that you’ll understand how much this thing will cost and how well it will pay off.

The CTO/Tech folks, so you’ll spec something that can actually be built and will work.

And probably designers, marketers and lobbyists–all the people you need to bring the thing into the world.

But where’s the person in charge of magic?

In our quest to get it done, to survive the project, to avoid blame, to figure out a solution, it’s magic that gets thrown under the bus every time.

Who is obsessed with creating delight, with building in remarkability, with pushing the envelope (every envelope–money, tech, policy) to get to the point where you’ve created something that people will be proud of, that will change things for the better, that will make a dent in the universe?

It won’t happen on its own. It never does.

I think Seth is wrong.

I think the worst thing would be to put someone in charge of the magic.
The magic IS the service or the product. It’s not the thing on top, it’s not to be added afterwards. It isn’t the cherry on top of the cake.

It is the cake.

Here is magic I have personally witnessed..

  • An advisor leaving her desk, walking out the office, going down three flights of stairs and into a wet carpark where she sat inside an old disabled couple’s car to personally go through with them the tangled bureaucracy of applying for a benefit. She sat in their car with them so they wouldn’t have to attempt the lift, the doors, the desks, the weather. This wasn’t magicked up in a boardroom.
  • Same ladies, deciding that if they bought lollies to put on their desk to make available for harassed mothers with pre-school kids, it would keep them occupied and calm whilst speaking with the customer. No Chief Magic Officer created this spell.
  • Same ladies again, starting their own learning journals, independent of any (non-existant) organisational knowledge management. They just bought a cheap notebook and wrote down what they had learnt worked, and what didn’t, kept it on their desk and used it. A similar cheap notebook does not exist in the Executive boardroom, no magic is being created in there.

The magic isn’t in designing in the special features, it is designing in the people.
Design a good job to do, and people will do a good job.
Natural ingenuity, problem solving and caring are what people are good at. Design away the barriers that stop them.
When that happens the magic happens itself. Sod the Chief Magic Officer.
Here’s a reminder.
Managers, your job is to bake the right cake. If you do that right the people will provide the cherry all by themselves.


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6 Responses to How to create magic

  1. bulldozer00 says:

    I know that Steve Jobs said the “dent in the universe” thing, but the chance of finding a “denter” in the types of heavyweight orgs Seth’s message is intended for is…. zero.


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Yes, and I keep forgetting to make explicit that I’m always taking from a service perspective not manufacturing. I work in the public sector and we (are supposed to) help people, not make things. Making things is something I have little experience of apart from messes and food.


  2. This post is brilliant! I really think you are spot on…

    To ponder a hypothesis on any difference between the manufacturing and service industries… Removing barriers in a manufacturing realm will allow lots of magic to occur, from increasing effectiveness/efficiency of the operation, to having a key eye for an inspiring eye, to hearing what your customer really needs. So I think the magic will be visible in different ways.


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Cool, thanks for that. I think there’s a bit of an inferiority complex in continuous improvement in services compared to manufacturing. Perhaps it’s because new thinking tend to start in making stuff and filter a decade or so later into services. They’re always ahead. Perhaps that’s because it’s harder to hide products that are broken compared with services?


      • I think that is a good hypothesis… Also services don’t seem to get massive disruptions that can almost wholesale replace the status quo. How many service industries disappeared almost overnight? It’s relatively easy to add up the products that get relegated to niches…


  3. Allison says:

    Great post. I agree that magic happens when a person’s job allows him/her to do good work for customers without barriers. In my experience, software development teams are far removed from actual customers, resulting in poor user experience and feature bloat; the strategies to get closer to customers are fairly easy and are described in my presentation on removing barriers —

    Providing ‘magic’ service reminds me of Zappos’ “Deliver WOW”


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