Flawsome: Loathe the term, love the concept

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After reading Dude, that association is so flawsome on ASAE's Acronym blog, I got to thinking about the whole flawsome concept, which Trendwatching.com explains thusly:

"Consumers don't expect brands to be flawless. In fact, consumers will embrace brands that are flawsome: brands that are still brilliant despite having flaws; even being flawed (and being open about it) can be awesome. Brands that show some empathy, generosity, humility, flexibility, maturity, humor, and (dare we say it) some character and humanity."

Think about how this trend is playing out in the meeting space (and not, all too often). What springs to mind? If you were fortunate enough to be in San Diego in January for the PCMA annual conference, you would have seen flawsomeness in action (here's just 9 ways they shook it up). And EventCamp? Oh yeah, about as flawsome as it gets.

Why are the organizers of these two meetings willing to take the risks that hopefully will result in better learning, better relationship-building, and generally just an overall better experience? They embrace the two things that Trendwatching has identified as key drivers of flawsomeness:

1. Consumers—and meeting participants are consumers of what you're making—want the brands we buy to be human. Not the brainchild of some cold corporate entity driven by profits, or of some hidebound association ruled by a board of good-old-boys who have no idea what today's professionals really struggle with. We want personality, quirks and all. We want to feel cared for and about, and when we do, we care back. And when we care about something, we accept mistakes for what they are: Stepping stones to triumphs. EventCamp organizers seem to have an easier time with this, being a loose group of individuals who are passionate about learning, and not a formal association with all the baggage that brings.

2. You can run, but you can't hide. In today's 24-7, wired-to-the-gills world, don't even bother to try to appear to be flawless. No one is, and chances are your audience already knows about the problems with your program. So why not admit them, embrace them, and remember that no one loves perfection, much as we say we strive to achieve it. Think about that girl in high school who had it all—looks, charm, perfect grades, sports, whatever it was that made you think she had the perfect life. So, how much did you like that person? Uh huh. Then think about how you would have felt about her if you knew she struggled with her weight, or family life? (Sidenote: The Trendwatching article points to Four Seasons, which in January started posting guest reviews from TripAdvisor and comments from Facebook and Twitter onto its hotels' home pages. Here's one example. It also noted that Starwood is collecting customer reviews internally and posting them to its Web sites as well. Bravo to both chains for bowing to the inevitable transparency and trusting that consumers can take the bad reviews with the good.)

PCMA and EventCamp both have been very up front about what they're doing, and why they're doing it (beta testing it so you don't have to). Which is another thing Trendwatching recommends brands do. Not throw something out there that's not yet ready for prime time, but soft launch a new idea, gather feedback, tweak, and try it again. Or chuck it if it didn't work, acknowledging to the audience that, well, not everything will pan out the way you hoped it would.

And if what you do doesn't make everyone happy? If some don't embrace your meeting's flawsomeness? That's OK too. It's not like everyone's thrilled with the program dynamics your organization set in stone in 1952 and hasn't touched since. Depending on who you're looking to attract, you may want to play up the fact that you're not for everyone, the way the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater did when it proudly posted a voice mail left by an irate theater-goer who got the bum's rush for talking on her cellphone during the movie. If you want to talk during a movie, this is not the theater for you, and they had no problem sharing that ethos with the 2.5 million people who viewed that YouTube video (if you watch it, be warned there's some cussing involved). Another example of turning a flaw into a virtue that Trendwatching points to is the Domino's Pizza turnaround, which while I'm not a fan of their 'za, I give them great credit for. There also are some great examples of what not to do in the Trendwatching piece.

It's really just about being open and honest, willing to admit mistakes and move on, and, though the article didn't mention this part, I think it's important to add being willing to apologize when those mistakes cause problems for others and do what you can to make it right. I've always tried to live and do business that way (though not flawlessly, of course), but it's good to know there's a name for it now. Even if it is cringeworthy.

What's flawsome about meetings you've participated in? How can we get over our fear of failure and embrace our flawsomeness in all its glory? Or should we keep perpetuating the myth that everything's perfect, that the duck's feet aren't paddling like crazy to make it look like it's gliding effortlessly across the pond?

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