watch "mind the information gap" on vimeo
In reading "Driven" and "Made to Stick" I stumbled across an incredibly interesting idea. It's called Information Gap Theory. Dr. George Lowenstien wrote a paper about it in 1994 and it works like this: when we come across something new that is not explained by our previous knowledge or experiences, an information gap is formed. If you are a designer, creator or communicator, understanding how to use this gap will have great rewards.
Before I tell you how to put it to use, let's explore the gap with a story. Let's say you're a pentagon, and your entire world, all your of your previous experiences, everything you know, everything you think about, is pentagons. Then one day you come across a hexagon. A hexagon is not very different from anything you've previously experienced, so a small gap in your information is formed. This gap is easily rectified by explaining the hexagon as a pentagon with six sides. You quickly close the information gap and move on.
Next you come across a polygon. This polygon is so unlike anything you've ever seen before that it creates a huge information gap, and a problem occurs: when the information gap becomes this large it creates fear and people, I mean pentagons, loose the desire to close the gap and don't engage with the new product or service, I mean polygon. They either ignore it or run in the opposite direction as fast as possible.
Then you encounter a dot. It's like a pentagon but has a beautiful, continuous, smooth curve and no harsh angles. It is similar but also different from anything you have previously experienced and it creates a medium sized information gap. The power in medium sized information gaps is that they inspire curiosity. They are small enough to be crossed but large enough to create interest and this is the key to putting Lowenstein's Information Gap Theory to work for you: When you are building your next new product, service, or ad campaign, aim to create medium sized information gaps.
It amazes me how many new product developers, marketers, and advertisers create the wrong sized gap. They either create a "me too" product or service which creates an information gap that is too small and uninteresting. Or they let their engineers and creatives add wild, bloated, and unnecessary "features", and create a huge information gap that inspires fear over the size of the gap and size of the of the learning curve.
Each of us has an inherent desire to learn and explore, to the degree that you can create medium sized information gaps with your audience, with your new website, widget, and or marketing campaign, you will be successful! Thanks for watching and I look forward to your feedback!