Before iPod Genius, there was Shuffle…and it was good enough

One of the many clever iPod/iPhone features is “Genius,” which automatically creates a playlist of related songs based on a song that you pick. You pick a song by the Police and you’ll get a playlist with U2 and Sting and Bob Marley.

Apparently, Genius is pretty sophisticated, but I don’t think it has to be.  The first 10% of accuracy would be enough, because our minds would tell the story that would do the rest of the work.  Need proof?  Back when we all had to settle for Shuffle – a completely random playlist created from songs from your music library – people would inevitably claim that their iPod was psychic, somehow “knowing” the right song to play at the exact right moment.

The point?  Our minds (specifically, our right brains) are constantly trying to make sense of information by telling a story that’s consistent with whatever we’re seeing.  You cannot walk through the woods and make sense of every individual tree…you’d go crazy.  So you process a few trees until your mind tells you, “This is a forest.”

In the same way, it’s enchanting to think that a mindless iPod knows the perfect song to play at the party.  It’s your mind picking out what it wants to see.

For you left-brain, analytical people out there, who are persuaded by (and want to persuade others using) mostly facts and logic, it’s easy to forget how much your audience needs a story.   By imagining your own mind and how you process information – and the sequence of facts that would make sense to you – you completely abandon something powerful that is working in your favor: that the person sitting across from you, hearing these facts for the very first time, wants nothing more than to tell themselves a story.  It’s the best way for them to make sense of what you are saying.

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3 thoughts on “Before iPod Genius, there was Shuffle…and it was good enough

  1. I agree, I believe people connect best when they have a story to connect to. “reality” is what they are focusing on at that particular time..ignoring the other trees and possible songs that could be played. Per the book, Rapt, “we are what we focus on”. There is nothing better to get someone’s focus than to tell them a story or involve them in your story.

  2. Great lesson for copywriting, and also alludes to the fact that the most powerful stories are those we create ourselves. The art is in providing just enough preliminary information to allow the reader to “write” herself into the story so that it becomes “her” story, not yours.

  3. Interesting perspective. I hadn’t thought of it quite like this. But as good as shuffle was, I do like Genius better. Maybe Shuffle was good enough, but that’s unlikely to halt the innovation or drive for more sales.

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