Creating an Antifragile* Out-of-Home Entertainment Venue

Creating an Antifragile* Out-of-Home Entertainment Venue

Creating an antifragile venue is all about identifying and understanding the core reasons why our guests visit our venues and, most importantly, how successfully we satisfy those reasons during each visit.

If we are assuming our venues are successful because we provide our guests with the opportunity to watch a movie, bowl, play games, or eat a burger, then we are failing to identify the real reasons why our guests visit.

In my view, these are the core reasons:

●      Have fun

●      Gather with friends and family

●      Celebrate special occasions 

●      De-stress and relax

●      Escape from ________ . 

Once we understand why our guests visit, we can make better decisions on how to invest our time and resources to enhance the successful facilitation of those reasons.  

Ultimately, our purpose is to create a third place outside the home and work…a place where our guests feel safe and welcome.  We will know we are succeeding when our guests substantially increase their frequency of visits to our venues.

Our guests’ core reasons for visiting our venues are unlikely to change, however, our experiences must continuously improve if we want to bring our guests back and attract new ones.  If any one of our experiences loses its ability to facilitate our guests’ desires, we must significantly improve the attraction or service so it succeeds or replace it with one that will.  

What is NOT in Our Control and What IS

Since we’re unable to control many of the challenges we face, our ability to think, learn, and adapt are critical skills that help us to survive –– and thrive –– during chaotic times.  An important key to adapting more quickly is our ability to recognize what we don’t control while focusing our time and resources on what we do

As we have learned during the coronavirus pandemic, we do not control all the variables that affect the viability of our venues.  Uncontrollable challenges are an inevitable part of business and life.  We cannot get distracted by challenges we do not control. 

Understanding What is NOT in Our control  

There are two types of challenges we don’t have any power over. The first are those regularly faced in operating our business like taxes, regulations, bogus or unfair reviews, competition (including when our competitors expand, upgrade their experiences, add new ones, or lower prices) and many other challenges we don’t control.  

The second type includes unexpected and random events such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, snowstorms, recessions, depressions, new regulations, COVID-19 and many more.  These types of events are commonly called “Black Swans.”  

Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s wrote two thought-provoking books called The Black Swan and Antifragile* (the word I used in this article’s headline).  “In The Black Swan, Taleb discussed that highly improbable and unpredictable events underlie almost everything about our world.”  

In Antifragile, Taleb “stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary, and proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner.” He continued, “The antifragile is beyond the resilient or robust. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same: the antifragile gets better and better.”  

Since we can’t control many of the ongoing challenges we face –– or the rarer and often unexpected Black Swan events –– we must focus our efforts on the things we can do that enable our venues to be more antifragile.

Understanding What IS in Our Control

The most important thing we CAN control or significantly influence is our ability to create and develop the very best out-of-home attraction and service experiences for our guests. By doing this, we enable our venues to build an unbreakable bond with our guests, as well as their friends and family.  

How Failure and Mediocrity Can Help Us Create Remarkable Experiences

You read that correctly: Not everything we do is going to be an instant success.  In fact, we learn the most when we go through the painful struggle of figuring out how to transform something that is mediocre into something 10 times better.  Why?  Because, each iteration on the path from mediocre to good, to better, and hopefully 10 times better, reveals something we needed to learn to more fully understand the process.  

Each failure, misstep, blunder, false hope, glitch or miscalculation is a riddle we must solve on our path to creating something truly remarkable.  Deep learning is a messy, confusing, iterative and often-painful journey, but a very necessary one if we want to dramatically separate ourselves from the competition.

Our industry is obsessed with talking about what seems to be working, but we rarely go deeper to truly understand WHY it is working.  Even worse, we spend almost zero time talking about our failures or why an attraction is only producing mediocre results.

This lack of analysis is very unfortunate because most failures, and especially mediocre beginnings, are just the first step on a never-ending journey to something that has never been done before.  Nothing magical ever happens when we simply copy what worked yesterday.

Our industry is the opposite of antifragile because we spend the vast majority of our time and money simply copying each other.  

To create an antifragile business, we must focus the majority of our resources on creating and continuously improving attraction and service experiences that our guests truly love and want to experience several times per month –– not just once or twice per year.  Our goal is to create an unbreakable bond with our guests by becoming their go-to out-of-home entertainment venue.  

To create an antifragile OOH entertainment venue, we must become an integrated and essential part of our guests’ lives.    

Taleb makes an important point I believe is very true: “An idea starts to be interesting when you get scared of taking it to its logical conclusion.”

We often avoid digging deeper and working harder to create something truly unique and new.  This is very alarming because that is the only way we escape the bloody red ocean of too much competition that many of us were dealing with before the pandemic. 

Once again, by understanding what is not in our control and what is, we can identify where we need to spend our time and resources and, most importantly, what we can do to create a more antifragile entertainment venue.  

Clarification/Update

Before I wrap up this article, I want to clarify something I said in my previous one.  I wrote that we will need to go back to the old normal of going out to have fun with our friends, family and fellow guests. I still believe this is true. We are human beings and sharing in-person, social experiences is a critical human need.  

I recently had a conversation with Ben Jones. He pointed out, “It’s crazy to think that things are going to go back to normal. The idea of normal isn’t something we should be talking about moving forward”. He believes things are definitely going to be in ‘a state of change’ and it’s not knowable exactly how they are going to flow and change. He also said, “We are entering a new abnormal time.” I think he’s 100 percent right, which makes our current OOH entertainment situation even more uncertain and scarier.

With that said, we can’t let this massive challenge stop us from focusing on what IS in our control.  Most importantly, we must take action to create out-of-home venues that are designed to be more antifragile.

What Is the KEY to Making Our Venues More Antifragile?  

The key is focusing our efforts on providing our guests with the best attraction and service experiences that help to facilitate their ability to:

●      Have fun

●      Gather with friends and family

●      Celebrate special occasions 

●      De-stress and relax

●      Escape from ________ . 

I believe the “new abnormal” is going to be about transforming our attractions and services into experiences that are more deeply embedded into our guests’ lives. In other words, socialization IS going to be the core driving force for our venue’s long-term success.

Coming up in my next article, a discussion of two topics:

1. Are we investing in attractions and services that can only be experienced out-of-the home and only in our entertainment venues? 

2. Are our attraction and services designed to maximize socialization?  

Following that piece, I’m going to write about why I think membership programs don’t work. The reason? It’s a design problem. We design memberships to benefit us.  Memberships appear to offer great value to the guest, but too often come with a serving of pain and negative outcomes. Part of the problem is in how we think about these programs and it is absolutely NOT about selling memberships. It’s about building a strong guest desire to come back in less than 30 days.

Thanks for reading!

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