The Index and the menu

Published 1/20/14 on Seth Godin's Blog

The index and the menu

Google killed the old-fashioned cookbook.

Why bother searching through a thick, dull cookbook of recipes when all you have to do is type in two or three ingredients and the word 'recipe' online? The index, the now infinite magical index of the web, helps us find whatever we want, better and faster.

On the other hand, a generous, modern cookbook doesn't ask, "what do you want to cook?"  Instead,

 it says, "how about this?" A menu, not an index. 

Years ago, I was at a power breakfast in New York, a fancy restaurant jammed with masters of the universe and those that hoped to have a few minutes with one of them. The waiter came over and said, "what do you want?" There was no menu. Just tell him and they'll make it.

Looking around, I realized that just about everyone was eating one of three popular items. With an index but no menu, the room resorted to safe and easy.

And this is the challenge every organization faces in the uber-indexed world we live in. It's not enough to sit with a prospect and ask him what he wants. Once we know what we want, search finds it for us. No, we have to offer a menu, we have to curate choices, we have to dream for people who don't have the guts or time to dream for themselves.

This is frightening, because when you offer a menu, often people will get hung up on their status quo and just say "no." You can't get rejected when all you offer is an index, but getting your menu rejected is one of the symptoms that you're doing the hard work of making an impact.