May 16, 2016


Lemme tell you a story - at the end of the story, see if you can recognize who "Amazon" is, ok?


It's the mid-1980s. In summer, between college semesters, I worked as a playground supervisor. 

There were about forty kids who frequently attended the playground ... from tiny five year olds to a sixteen year old ... let's call the sixteen year old "John". John probably didn't have many sixteen year old friends, so he'd come to the playground and basically bully half the youngsters and befriend the terrified half that remained. He was an inherently good kid, but his stress oozed all over my youngsters.

I'm tired of having to deal with John. One evening we're playing a game I made up ... Russian Tag ... a version of Dodgeball with bowling pins and human targets and a veritable plethora of playground balls flying in all directions. And there's John, on one half of the court, terrorizing the kids on my side of the court. So when a playground ball bounced my way, I decided it was time to launch the ball toward John.

I loaded the playground ball, cocked my right arm back as far as it could go, and unleashed an eighty-mile-per-hour missile with coordinates locked-in on John's tummy. 

John deftly dove to his left, so fast in fact that he was already out of the trajectory of the missile when the ball left my hand.

And right behind John, literally five feet behind John, stood a five year old named Harold (or Howard or Herman or Tyler or whatever - we'll go with Harold for fictional purposes).

Harold's head aligned perfectly with the GPS coordinates of John's tummy.

And unlike John, Harold did not possess the instinctual ability to remove himself from the path of a playground ball screaming through the air at nearly eighty-miles-per-hour.

It's amazing how high a playground ball will carom up into the atmosphere after careening off of the meaty forehead of a youngster daydreaming about butterflies. In the milliseconds after the ball compressed against Harold's forehead, a "PWANG" sound reverberated across the playground. But before anybody could turn around and say to themselves "what the heck made that sound?", Harold tumbled to the ground.

Then the whelping began. From me!!

"Harold, I'm so sorry".

Harold walked over to his bike, wiped the tears from his eyes, and rode his bike home.

I didn't see Harold, the future of my playground, again.

John showed up the next morning, ready to bully half of the kids anew.

Ok, after reading my moderately embellished story, please answer a series of questions.
  • Which playground leader represented your business in the story?
  • Is there a business that you are competing against that is like a bully, like John in the story? Do you call the bully "Amazon"?
  • Which spherical object represented a multi-channel / omnichannel response to a bully?
  • Who represented new customers (aka the future of the playground) in the story?
  • Is it possible that you had the best of intentions when fighting Amazon, and instead, years later, the bully exists, emboldened, while you pushed aside the future of your business - new, younger customers - by trying to fight the bully?
  • What steps would you take to get Harold back to playing at your playground?
  • What steps should you take to endear yourself to new customers, when thinking about your business?
  • Is it possible that we respond to a bully the exact wrong way, just like in the story above? Might there be a different way to compete against a bully?