Why experiences matter - insights

RedBalloon For Business

This week, Naomi further explores the power of experiences and reveals how to create a sense of purpose.

My whole business is fundamentally based on the transformative power of experiences, and recently, I had a great reminder of this on a very personal level.

A friend and I drove down together to a beach house in Jervis Bay. Just the two of us. The last time we’d been away together was thirty-five years ago. That’s a long time! We’d been wanting to catch up, but it just hadn’t been practical. The thing is, unless you put a date in the diary, your life simply… goes past. You really have to carve that time out for people.

We walked, swam, and giggled like teenagers.

A great mutual experience brings people together like nothing else. What we facilitate, at RedBalloon, are amazing experiences. For example, being able to ‘get off the grid’. A lot of our most popular gifts lately have been these sort of trips – getting away from it all, into nature, going for a hike etc. We make it easy to create these incredible moments for people.

Remember that old saying ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’? Similarly, I believe an experience shared is an experience enhanced. And science backs it up.

How sharing a situation results in amplification of feeling.

A fascinating study conducted by Boothby, Clark and Bargh at Yale University looked at how a shared experiences can amplify how people feel about the experience itself – for better or worse. They conducted two tests. In the first, they asked a group of people to eat some delicious chocolate alone and then again in each other’s company (without conversing). In the second experiment, the chocolate was unpleasant-tasting.

The study found in Study 1, “participants liked chocolate more and found it more flavorful when the experience of eating it was shared than when it was unshared, in the absence of any communication….” And in Study 2, “unpleasant chocolate was liked less when eaten with another person.” The researchers concluded “Even in silence, people often share experiences, and the mental space inhabited together is a place where good experiences get better and bad experiences get worse,” supporting the hypothesis that shared experiences are intensified compared with unshared experiences.

Lead researcher Erica Boothby later told psychologicalscience.org: “A pleasant experience that goes unshared is a missed opportunity to focus on the activity we and others are doing and give it a boost.”

Having a good time and creating fun (not fear) for employees

Not all experiences are fun. They can be challenging and confronting. And that’s fine, to a point. But obviously, here at RedBalloon we like to focus on creating wonderful times together – the ‘good chocolate’, if you will!

I remember when I worked for Apple many years ago, we did abseiling. We also did rappelling. I was scared stupid. And it was embarrassing for me.

I definitely took some learnings from that.

When I think about creating workplace experiences now, I believe what you do has to be inclusive. And, you have to make sure it’s something that is done within work hours. That’s only fair.

I think one of the reasons experience vouchers work so well is that people can get to choose their own thing. There’s that camaraderie of, “OK team, you choose what you want to do.” It’s so much fun that way.

Making memories to last through the decades.

You can only have one TV or iPhone, but you can never have too many experiences.

And as for that wonderful weekend away, well, I can still vividly remember picking up shells, watching the mullets, feeling the splash of the water.

My friend and I also spent time naturally revisiting our memories of that first trip which we’d gone on all those years ago. As we talked and talked, and reconnected, they came flooding back to us. It was so heart-warming.

That’s what a wonderful experience can do.

I guess that illustrates my point!

Asking ‘So What’?

In my book “Live What You Love,” I wrote about creating a fulfilling and meaningful life. Many people still ask me, what’s the secret?

It’s not that hard: you’ve just got to be deeply curious and you’ve got to keep asking the question: ‘So What’?

The way to understand ‘So What’ is to understand the impact you have on other human beings. Living a purposeful life is ‘What am I doing to make the world a slightly better place. What am I doing to help humanity?’ So it’s an external view.

Many business owners, get caught up in the ‘Me, me ‘me’ – I’m the best at this, I’m the best at that’, or ‘You should buy from me’, and actually I want to know why I should buy from you? Consumers are wanting to have far more of an understanding of the impact that enterprises are having, and it’s not just the ESG, they just kind of want to know that they’re good humans.

So living with purpose just means you understand human impact. Many people stop being curious or they say ‘I just don’t know. Just keep asking questions of yourself! You don’t have to formulate a question that sits with you for your whole life. It doesn’t have to be big and grand. Sometimes your purpose is, ‘I just need to feed my family.’ That is a contribution to humanity – making sure your kids are fed and watered and educated and make great citizens.

Living a purposeful life is about how we contribute to others, and always asking that question: So What? I mean, people are always talking about how great they are – So What?!

(As a side note, that’s what bothers me about all these Insta-famous people – what are they actually doing to support people, rather than just making them more anxious? But don’t get me started on social media!)

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