These days, it feels like every damn thing I do is called a journey.
I’m not buying a drill. I’m on a home improvement journey.
I don’t need to make a different choice. I’m on a change journey.
I’m not visiting my doctor. I’m on a wellness journey.
I don’t deposit money into my bank account. I’m on a wealth journey.
The list is endless and exhausting.
What sin did the journey commit to become basic business fodder? When did an exciting trip to an exotic place get attached to every activity and area of my life?
Which, you guessed it, is also a journey.
According to Dictionary.com, journey has multiple meanings.
From travelling from one place to another, usually taking a relatively long time; to a distance, course, or area travelled or suitable for travelling; and lastly passage or progress from one stage to another.
Yet, it’s the last meaning which now dominates. Turbo-charged by businesses looking for ways to accelerate their understanding of what customers want and elevate transactions to something with a higher purpose.
The term “customer journey” first appeared in 1991*, and by 1999 had entered the business lexicon accelerating through the 00s to where it stands today—tacked on to everything that moves with a frequency akin to terms used in a drinking game.
What started as the steps someone takes to buy a product or service morphed into “journey” as customer experience acolytes worked to make their methods more meaningful. And I fear journey’s march still hasn’t peaked. Last week in an are you kidding me moment, someone suggested calling changes to new processes and policies an “implementation journey”…
Maybe it doesn’t matter where or how often journey gets used. But I think it does.
The word journey has associations that feed organisations relationship fantasies about people, and people’s delusion they deserve delight at every turn. Add the contact high people get from participating in the process of ‘journey mapping’. Where purchasing becomes a seamless flow of actions and decisions, removing pain, so only love remains.
Which sets people up for disappointment on all sides of the journey mirage.
Because most people don’t think about what they do as a journey, and the pretence forces connections that will never exist outside the aspirational maps created in those workshops.
Because people aren’t due delight at every turn, and reinforcing that expectation makes keeping promises a game of oneupmanship where everyone loses.
There is an alternative. Call things what they are. I know that sounds old school and much less enticing than exploring a “journey”. But sometimes I’m just buying a hammer.
Deal with it.
* Going on a journey: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0148296320308584
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