Episode 029 : The Experience Economy : Business is Theatre with Jospeh Pine II

Joseph Pine II is an internationally acclaimed author, speaker and management advisor. Joseph has spoken at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, at Ted in California and today is a Lecturer in Columbia University’s Technology Management Programme. He is not an academic, however, having worked for IBM for 13 years, Joseph specializes in helping people see the world of business differently through his many ground breaking books beginning with the award winning, Mass Customization: The New Frontier In Business Competition, including Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want and most recently, Infinite Possibility: Creating Customer Value on the Digital Frontier. He is most popularly well known for his bestselling book, The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage which was recently name one of the 100 best business books of all time by 800-CEO-Read.



  • What is your Zodiac Sign?
  • Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey
  • In terms of the book which says Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, can you expound on that a little?
  • If we are in the experience economy and we are on a stage, how do we find out what is our true character or is our character based on the persons we interact with?
  • What are some important considerations for an entrepreneur or an online business owner you to be successful?
  • In a government institution where they move slow, the employees seems like they don’t want to be at work, how can that be translated into a way that as a government, your citizens of the country are running to pay their taxes because the service experience is amazing and is there an economy that exist like that?
  • What is the one online resource, website, tool or app that you absolutely cannot live without in your business?
  • How do you stay motivated every day?
  • What are some of the books that have had the biggest impact on you?
  • If you were sitting across the table from another business owner and they said to you that they feel they have great products and services but they lack the constantly motivated human capital, what’s the one piece of advice would you give them to have a successful business, specifically as it relates to constantly motivated human capital?
  • What is one thing in your life right now that you are really excited about – something that you are working on to develop yourself or people?
  • Where can our listeners find your information online?
  • What is one quote or saying that you live by or that inspires you in times of adversity?



  • Joseph that his Zodiac Sign is a Libra if he remembers right on the cusp of Scorpio.


Yanique stated that one interesting fact about a Libran is that they are very free spirited and asked Joe if that’s a true characteristic of his personality and Joe disagreed and shared he believes he’s free spirited in being creative and innovative.

Joseph Pine II stated being free spirited is not a true characteristic of his personality, he is however sort of buttoned up and introvert and a free spirit is very much of extroverts, so he would not say that describes him. If you think of characteristics of a free spirit is being creative and being able to think of new things and do things differently and that part he would ascribe to. He feels like his purpose in life is to figure out what’s going on in the world of business and then to develop frame works that first describe what’s going on and then prescribe what companies can do about it. Joseph shared that his birthday is October 22.

  • Joseph stated that he was very much into computers very early in Elementary School and so he got an Applied Mathematics Degree; he joined IBM and worked there for 13 years. He started off in a very technical job and moved up into management and into a special project he did for a computer system called the AS/400, was to help run a group that helped customers bring customers in the business development process of the system and he discovered at that time that every customer was unique that they want to use the system in different ways and put together different hardware, different data, different software, just unique. He moved into strategic planning and that sent him on a discovery of how they would resolve that issue, how they could design systems for the uniqueness that he saw and that led him to the book “Future Perfect” by Stanley Davies it came out in 1987. In it he had a chapter on Mass Customization and when he read that chapter, it was like the heavens opened up and the angels sang, it explained everything that he saw going on and when IBM sent him to MIT for a year to get his Master’s Degree in Management of Technology, he decided that he was going to study that topic the whole, he was going do his thesis on mass customization and then he was going to turn his thesis into a book and that’s what he did. The book came out in 1993 and really defines that fact that we can give every customer exactly what they want but do it at a price they are willing to pay, so you have coequal imperatives of both mass and customization, the individual customized plus low cost efficient operations. He worked on that and he left IBM in late 1993 to see if he could do it on his own, 23 years later his wife is still not sure if it’s going to work out but so far so good. Early on he discovered that if you customize it good, you automatically turn it into a service and if you customize a service, you automatically turn it into an experience and if you design a service that is so appropriate for a particular person exactly the service that they need at this moment in time then you can’t help but make them go “wow” and turn it into a memorable event and that is an experience. That lead him to discover the experience of the economy, where they would have an economy based off of experiences where goods and services would no longer be enough and companies would need to do is to stages experiences for their customers, and so he took on Jim Gilemore as a partner in 1996, they started to develop ideas together and that resulted in their book The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage in 1999 and that really laid it out and that set the stage for the entire movement towards customer experience and operation towards user experience and towards experience marketing and marketing all of that is fundamentally based on the fact that they are shifting into an economy where experiences have today become a predominant economic offering. When they first wrote the book in 1999, they talked about the nascent experience economy, the coming experience economy, they came out with an updated edition a few years ago and they changed all that language saying “no it’s here, it’s now, we are in worldwide, we are in an experienced economy” that’s what consumers are looking for. Since that time, they also discovered that in a world of paid for experiences people often question what is real and what is not and increasingly they don’t want the fake from the phony, they want the real from the genuine, and so they came out with the book in 2007 called Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, the new consumer sensibility describing how companies can get customers to perceive their offerings and by extension their places in their company as authentic. In 2011, he also came out with a book called Infinite Possibility: Creating Customer Value on the Digital Frontier, so that goes originally to his technology background, looking at how digital technology is being used in experiences and recognizing that what it is about is fusing the real and the virtual and that’s what that book’s about. Joseph also mentioned that his partner Jim Gilemore has come out with a new book called “Look” about the observational skill, it’s a great book on how you can bring different kinds of observational skills into your personal practice and into your company.


Yanique commented that she recently read a study done by New Voice Era that said “up to $62 Billion a year is being lost by companies collectively on a global scale because of poor service.” She stated that assuming that the service is based on the experience they have had, so it’s no longer the price or sometimes the quality of the product, they will work with you if you are willing to make certain amends but how they manage that whole experience with the customer really depends on whether or not they stay with you.

Joseph agreed and stated that it is important to recognize that each of the offerings he’s talking about is distinct economic offerings. You grow an economy based off commodities, the things you pull out of the ground or raise in the ground, animal, mineral, vegetable and then we shifted in the industrial revolution hundreds of years ago into an industrial economy where goods, physical things became the predominant economic offering and in the latter part of the 21st century, we shifted into a service economy and that’s where quality became job one, that’s where services became important and the research that Yanique points to is about services which are the intangible activities that you perform on behalf of an individual and that’s why mass customizing a good turns it into a service because you’re doing it for an individual not inventorying it, doing it on demand. Now what we are shifting into is an experience based off experiences. Experiences are in fact a distinct economic offering as distinct from services and services from goods, they use goods as a prop and services as the stage to engage each and every person and by creating a memory which is the hallmark of the experience. It’s important to differentiate that, you don’t want to talk about the service experience and they are distinct things. You can have a service; you can surround that with an experience and the term you are using “Customer Experience” it’s important to understand what that should mean. Most people use the term they mean “let’s make it things nice and easy and convenient” and all of those are good characteristics but they are service characteristics, you’ve got to go beyond nice and easy and convenient if you want to create a true distinctive experience.


  • Yanique stated that in terms of the book Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, she stated that she does a lot of customer service training and the why how the mind processes things and that’s based off what she hears from the participant. When you say to them, you have to pretend like you are on stage that contradicts the whole authenticity approach. They should come to work and pretend but at the same time you want them authentic, be true to who they are and be true to the quality and culture the company stands for.


Joseph Pine II stated that it’s a very common misconception of acting is that it is fake, that it is pretend, that’s not what real acting is about. You can have people that pretend when they are acting. The book they talk about the real fake makers and basically defines that people can perceive your offering as real – real or fake – fake but also as real – fake or fake – real and acting can be any one of those four as well, so a lot of people that are fake acting which really is pretending.

His favorite example is Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Fish Market You Tube Video he was just there leading an Experience Expedition with clients 2 months ago. Pike Place Fish Market is a fish market, it is moralizing the fish video, and the most best selling business video of all time and what they do is getting fish out of the sea and putting it on ice in an open market so they are commodity traders but how they sell that fish is with wonderful theatre, they have these different routines to engage guests, often 20 to 40 people around the fish market waiting for someone to buy because that’s when they have their signature moment, when you order a fish, they shout of the order like “7 flying to Minnesota” and all the others shout back “7 flying to Minnesota” and then they throw that salmon across the counter, 15 to 20 feet where somebody catches it and wraps it up for you and people love seeing that happen. These people understand that they are on stage, they understand that they are acting but they are very real, they go home smelling like fish, so the fish video goes through 4 different principles, they are all acting techniques. They talk about play, the notion that you are on stage, you are there to have fun and give a great experience for the audience. They talk about “be there” which is a standard acting technique that you need to be there in the moment, you need to forget about everything else and focus on the task at hand and that’s what actors have to do. The other is chose your attitude, acting is fundamentally about making choices, about choosing what parts of yourself to reveal to those in front of you, we all know we act differently in front of our boss than we do our subordinates, we know we act differently in front of our friends than we do strangers, in front of our parents then we do our children, it’s not that we are being fake or phony, it’s just choosing what part of ourselves to reveal and that’s what real-real acting is.

  • Joseph Pine stated that in general and this relates to authenticity which is you have to true to yourself is one of the 2 key standards of authenticity that create that real -fake matrix and the other is you have to be who you say you are. The character must come from within; the character that you are and that you bring that to life. Another great example of acting is the diner in Chicago called Ed Debevic’s, it’s very famous and it’s shut down for the moment. It’s a normal corner diner, it’s not a high end place, he and his partner Jim Gilemore went there once for lunch and the guy at the front who met them had a nametag that says “Smiley”. So smiley was his character, not sure if it was his real nick name or a character he subsumed but that was a guy that can be smiley and he was smiley. He met them with a big smile and he asked how many people was in their party and he picked out menus and he proceeded to walk them through the restaurant and every once in awhile he would stop and one time he stopped at a table and asked them how they were doing and they would cooled their heels behind him he interact with another customer, at one point he started to talk around the table, up the chairs, up the tables, back down the other side and they kept following him until he finally delivered them to their table right at the front of the restaurant. It’s a wonderful, engaging theatre and it is that character that he created call Smiley. Speaking of phone interactions, one of the companies that is famous for great customer service that he thinks rises to the level of an experience in Zappos in Las Vegas, where they sell shoes on line and they are famous for their call centres where people would call in. Joseph met their Chief Culture Officer, Jon Wolske and he came up from being a phone representative himself, contact centre employee and he said that what he would do as he played in a rock band when he was younger, he would take on that rock band persona, he had things around his cubicle that talks about being a rock star, whenever he gets a call, he would look at that image that says “you are a rock star” and that would be the character that he played but that was a character that was a part of himself, he wasn’t trying to be something that he’s not.

Yanique stated that she is a big fan of the movie “the Fast and the Furious” and Vin Diesel has a very jovial personality and she has been watching him offline in some of his snaps he puts up on Snapchat as well as Instagram and even on Facebook and he seems like a very relaxed, easy going and jovial person but he doesn’t play those characters in “the Fast and the Furious” he’s serious and person in the family who doesn’t smile too much. She said that is very interesting that if you get a role that epitomize your true character, it makes it that much easier and more believable for people to connect with you.

  • Joseph shared that for online entrepreneurs, the key thing to understand is what business are you really in. So understand if you want to be in the goods/ services business or truly in the experience business and then you need to think about how do you create that experience. The number 1 thing is time, like Zappos said. Most companies with their contact centres, they measure how little time customers spend with their representatives. They want them off the phone very quickly, they think it’s costing them money, at Zappos, they don’t measure that. In fact, everyday they celebrate which customer representative got to spend the most time with a an actual, living, breathing customer and it’s usually in the hours and that doesn’t bother them a bit, they don’t think about the dollar signs clicking off about cost, they recognize that they are doing the right job for the customer and that customer is going to be one of their raving fans, they are going to tell other people about it, they are going to come back again because they gave that great experience over the phone and so that can be done online, that can be done in a small business, it’s again recognizing what is your stage, what is the theatre that you are going to put on there.
  • Joseph Pine II shared that an economy like that exists few and far between because being a government employees have so many differences than normal employees, you don’t have the profit motive that causes you to want to do a good job, you don’t have the fear of losing a job or the business if you’re not doing it well, the people you are interacting with aren’t “customers” cause they are not paying you, the government is and so all those things make it incrediblly hard for government employees to really do a great job. Every once in awhile you get what’s call a natural, you get someone who is just naturally vivacious or outgoing or having a service attitude that does want to do a great job and will turn into a great experience interacting with them but for a government entity to do that, that’s very few and far between. Joseph stated that the one that always come to mind is that he and his partner Jim gives out is “An Experience Stager of the Year Award” every year at their annual Think About event. It was be their 19th year September 21st and 22nd in New Orleans. One time they gave the award to a government entity and that was the Cerritos Public Library in Cerritos, California outside of Los Angeles. The Head Librarian Wayne Pearson, he got tired of people telling him that the internet was going to commoditize his business, people were saying “why are going to libraries in the future when you get over the internet every book that’s ever been published, every paper that has ever been written, every thought that has ever been thunk.” He wanted to create this reason for existence for libraries, so he created what he calls “World’s First Experience Library” Cerritos Public Library – Best Library Experience Video and architecturally it ‘s very distinct, it’s the first use of titanium in any architectural structure in the United States of America when it was built in 2002 and they have a basic theme, every great experience needs to have a theme it doesn’t have to be in your face like the Cerritos Public Library, doesn’t have to be fantasy like Disney, it’s simple “The Organizing Principle for the Experience” and the theme for the Cerritos Public Library is “Journey Through Time” that a visit to the library ought to be a journey through time, so they have different areas in the library that are themed after different points in time, a classic period, a modern period, an ordeca period and they have rituals based off of that like when it’s time to close the library, everybody starts to put away their books and gather up their stuff and they go down to the main lobby where this huge screen and every night at closing time they play the scene from the movie, The Sound of Music where the kids are singing, they all sing along and by time the last kid sings good bye, the library is closed and they go again another day. The town has over 3,500 of them are in the library every day. This is a government entity that understands that it’s in the experience business and that comes directly from Wayne Pearson and it’s continued on to this day.
  • Joseph shared that the one online tool that he couldn’t live without would be Google because he is constantly doing research, he is constantly trying to figure out what’s going on in the world, looking for new examples, seeing what people are doing and that always gives him new ideas which eventually lead to new frame works. Often his Google goes into Wikipedia to be able to research something in deep but he also has Google alert so anybody that’s in the praising experience economy or mass customization or authenticity business context and also chief experience officer, he’s a big promoter of the fact that companies should hire chief experience officers to lead their offerings and turn them into a true distinctive experiences. He is also on Twitter and he learns a ton just seeing what’s going on, a lot of example through that and connecting with people, he has gotten a lot of business through that.
  • Joseph shared that the biggest thing is to see the effect that they are having in the world. Sometimes it’s very direct in consulting with an organization, he helping them to create an experience plan for example. You can go and visit them when it’s fully implemented and you see the difference that you make and other cases when he’s giving a speech somewhere and you see the light bulbs go on in people’s head and they come up to you after and say “wow this really makes sense” and they talk about how they are going to make a difference in the world. One of the things they have is an Experience Economy Expert Certification Course, 4 and half day of emerging in the experience, publicly every year in August in the United States of America, privately in house around the world and they have over 200 certified experts and they see the difference they are making and sometimes they are the owner of the business so you see what they are doing differently, sometimes they are internal consultants helping the business and sometimes they are consultants to other clients and you see what a difference they are making there. On Twitter, he has people talking about what a difference his book makes, he may not be having any interaction but his books are out there, the ideas are out there and people are taking them on, he doesn’t hear of everyone that does but people are bracing the ideas and making a difference in their business which allows them to hire more people, which creates more jobs, which moves the economy on. So the fact that he knows that he is making a difference in the world is highly motivating.
  • Joseph shared some of the books and first one is “Future Perfect” by Stanley Davis it was written in 1987 and one chapter that inspire mass customization his book Infinite Possibility: Creating Customer Values on the Digital Frontier was actually inspired by another chapter in Future Perfect. Another great book that had a tremendous effect on him is “The One to One Future” by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers and that book came out in 1993 and he read it and said “wow, this is talking about in marketing, what I was talking about in operations” if you could mass customize then you could also have a one to one dialogue with individual customers, what could you create. When he was done reading the book, he discovered that Don lived 2 towns over from him in Connecticut at the time. He then called him up, got together and they figured out what that would do is create a learning relationship with customers that would grow and deepen overtime and allows you to lock them in because you always knew more about them than anybody else and you see that come into fruition today with all the companies using AI today to predict what people want. Another great book is “Computers as Theatre” by Brenda Laurel and it really make the case that you need to think about computers not as a tool but as a medium for a stage. He learned a lot about theatre and dramatic structure from reading her book, it’s a great book and he had his class at Columbia University read a portion of it.
  • Joseph Pine II shared that understanding that work is theatre and so what you need to do is to come up with that play/drama that you want to create, that’s what your strategy is about, what is your drama that you want to create in the world. And then you need to direct your workers to action, give them roles to play and help them characterize those roles and give them the where it all to be able to perform them, actors rehearse, give them backstage time and then you need to create an employee experience that is as good as the experience you create for customers, so they have the where it all to perform your drama on your business stage.
  • Joseph Pine II shared that he doesn’t have people; their business they call “2 Gurus and a Marketer” Jim Gilmore and their partner Doug Parker. They had a partner meeting and came up with some things that they are excited about. One of them is that they are working with some companies to create some videos, to be able to take their ideas and bring them out there further than they can reach with their speeches and consulting and their books. They are working with a company that brings custom learning to individual people in businesses wherever they are and so they are going to work with them to create new modules that they can then help people in their jobs, frontline personnel create that great, wow experience for their customers, so over the next 6 months they are going to do that, increasing the reach to make more of a difference, helping many more people embrace The Experience Economy.
  • Joseph stated that there is a famous quote by Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”




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