One man, one blade, & twenty Microsoft execs

Theatrical presentation style brings big bucks...

It's a rare day when I post a direct link to another article (I like my blog to be as rich in original content as I can make it), but this was just too terrific. My treasured Service Innovation colleague Markus Hormess pointed me to this FastCompany piece.

The backstory: It's 2004. Microsoft has invited three brand designers to present identities for the Xbox 360. Two huge firms (responsible for clients like FedEx and Amazon), and a little company from Vermont, called JDK Design.

"... Some 20 members of the gaming division gathered to hear the back-to-back-to-back presentations. First up was Michael Jager, JDK's creative director. Standing before the tribunal, Jager illustrated his vision through a combination of street theater, design psychology, and cultural fluency.

Comparing the original Xbox with the Incredible Hulk, Jager used a razor to slash an X in a sheet of paper and then thrust his head through the hole. "
X today is all AARGGHHH!" he bellowed. Pure aggressive power. He then withdrew his head, flipped the paper, and revealed how that X could become a doorway, "an invitation to an experience."

Jager acknowledged power as a critical component separating Xbox from its competitors but urged the company to see it--and express it-- differently. "Our approach was to transition Xbox from this hulk of escaping power into this quiet power with elegance and grace," he recalls. "The analogy we used was Bruce Lee." And thus were two firms felled by a single stone.

"
We were all just blown away by JDK," (Xbox boss) Hall remembers. "As soon as Michael and his team walked out, I looked around the room and knew it was just a formality to sit through the other presentations.
(Quoted in part, edited for length, original here.)

What a terrific tale. One man with a theatrical mindset, a flipchart, and an good undertanding of experience meaning blows the big guys out of the water. And in doing so, he underlines several of my own personal business theses:

- 99 times out of 100, a flipchart is better than Powerpoint.
- Theater is a powerful route to emotion.
- The presentation is YOU!
- People buy from people, dammit.

Rock on, JDK!


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