Just as schooling fish fool their predators by forming a giant swarm, many single-person makers often fictitiously present themselves as teams, not as individuals, in a hope to appear more authentic.
Perhaps we are insecure about appearing as individuals because bigger customers might not take a single person seriously. So we invent imaginary teams to avoid the discomfort of flying solo.
For instance, startups say ‘contact us’, when they really mean ‘contact me,’ or lay out ‘our mission’, instead of ‘my mission’. They put on an awkward charade in a hope to appear more serious.
In my view, pretending to be a large team is not only unnecessary, but also counter-productive for the success of a product. We should not be afraid to stand naked as an I rather than a we.
A product openly made by an individual maker stand a better chance of establishing personal connections with the users. Such connections matter because users today are tired of superficial, ready-made products.
Knowing that there is an actual person behind a product, the users get to take a glimpse of the that person’s idiosyncrasies, and personalities reflected on the product. Such personal connection makes it all the more enjoyable to use something.
Take rap songs for an example. Listeners and rappers, too, connect personally through songs. Listeners can vicariously experience what rappers have gone through in their lives all from the rhymes they spit. I doubt that listening to rap music will be enjoyable without such experience.
By inventing an imaginary we, individual makers obstruct the personal connection. They force the users to stare at shadows of a non-existent team, rather than the actual person behind the product. Their users are but prisoners of a Plato’s cave.
In a Plato’s cave, prisoners perceive the reality only by gazing at the shadows on the wall
As a result, the user experience becomes dull. Instead of connecting on a personal level with the makers, users interact with an indifferent, tasteless product. That way, a product is reduced to nothing more than a piece of code. But a product yearns to be more than that.
Authentic user experience comes from the real connection between the makers and the users. And the solo makers are well poised to establish it because they are able to connect with the users on a more personal level.
Hiding behind the facades of imaginary teams, makers forgo the opportunity to connect with their users. Doing so, they are effectively choosing to erode the strongest competitive advantage they have over large teams.
A maker should become I more than she is we, so that a product can become more her product, and its missions more her missions. Otherwise, her efforts amount to nothing more than just another impersonal, off-the-rack product.
The users seek authentic experience through a personal connection, and an I can bring it, rather than a fictional we.