The Getting It gap

The Getting It gap

I was reading this post by a Mac software developer on the challenges of creating new products that you know will fit into people’s lives even though they don’t know it. He calls it “The Getting It Gap.” He uses the iPod as an example where many people didn’t understand the appeal of yet another expensive music device back in 2001 and were quite happy with their low-capacity, easily scratched CDs. Yet Apple saw what people would want if only they knew why they would want it.

While the obvious lessons about hyper-consumerism can be drawn even as we acknowledge that its questionable if anyone actually needs a digital music player, I think the “Getting Gap” idea offers something for those of us who have something else to offer: the Gospel.

What’s interesting to me about this nostalgic trip down memory lane is not so much that I was dense about the iPod and what it could do for me, but that Apple went right ahead and developed the thing anyway. I imagine that most people suffer from this same habitual resistance to new ideas, especially when the new ideas are trying to replace habits that people believe are already optimal. The density I describe here represents serious marketplace inertia for any company that develops game-changing products. How does an innovator convince ordinary people that they’d be happier on the other side of this mental gap?

And most interestingly of all, how does an innovator convince themselves there’s a gap, and that getting people over it will change the world? I only got over the iPod gap with the benefit of a physical object I could hold in my hand, a set of headphones, and some seriously rocking tunes. Apple got over it considerably sooner than that.

Many of us consider ourselves innovators, albeit on a smaller scale than a company such as Apple. So try to imagine a product, a philosophy, or a way of life. Hold it in your hands and examine it carefully. I know you’re sure you don’t need it, and you can’t imagine what you would ever use it for. Neither can anybody else. But in a few years we’ll wonder how we ever lived without it.

Don’t we Christians and Catholics suffer a “getting it” gap with the rest of the world? We can’t imagine our lives without our faith, without God, without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, yet it’s sometimes hard to understand why other people can’t “get” why that’s such a good thing.

Perhaps what we should be doing is standing in their shoes for a moment and see with their eyes. Then figure out how to convey what we have in a manner that not only makes senses, but makes a compelling argument. Why hasn’t your life been complete until now? How will this fulfill you in ways you never thought possible?

It’s not exactly a new approach to evangelization, but it’s important to step back once in a while and re-examine our own approach to ensure that we’re not pushing people away by our ham-handedness or obstinacy or arrogance or plain impenetrability. In other words, we don’t want to be Microsoft’s Zune.