I Got Your Mojo by OPHOTN on Flickr There are some products and services that have it. You can't quite put your finger on it, but they do.

Then there are others that don't. And, on the surface, it looks like they are doing everything right, but it doesn't feel right. It's forced. It's....gah...hard to explain.

It's mojo.

The dictionary defines mojo as: a magic spell, voodoo, personal magnetism or charm. People also use it to describe their creative juices, athletic performance, sexual desire, among other things.

We've heard mojo used in popular culture, originating from African American roots, to describe a person who has 'it' - you know 'it' - that certain je ne sais quoi that draws people in. It is a charm, but a very authentic charm. You can't manufacture it. It isn't about beauty or whether you own a Porsche or how expensive your clothes are. Someone just has it or they don't.

In the case of a web app, mojo is even less obvious. It isn't rounded corners or using open source or the colours you use on a page. A site that has 'it' can be gawdawful and totally closed, yet people are clamoring to get in. Of course, good design helps and most sites that have mojo on the inside, reflect a certain mojo appearance.

So, then, what is mojo? I've started to hear it discussed in a couple of places, but the one that really resonated with me was Bo Burlingham's description in Small Giants:

...Whatever mojo was, some smart people evidently thought that it was important, and that Clif Bar had it. In any case, it was something he needed to pay attention to. From then on, "mojo" became his watchword, and I could understand why. Having once had the honor of introducing the legendary blues man Muddy Waters at a concert—"I got my mojo working but it just won’t work on you"—I thought the word seemed just right for the mysterious quality I’d seen in Clif Bar, CitiStorage, Union Square Hospitality, and the other companies I’d looked at.

It was a quality that you could apparently lose by negligence. In his wonderfully engaging book, Raising the Bar, Erickson said he thought Clif Bar’s mojo was "something about the brand, product, and way of being in the world that was different. I realized that mojo was an elusive quality and needed to be tended carefully.” Hoping to sharpen his thinking, he’d given people at Clif Bar a homework assignment. After relating what had happened at the trade show, he had asked each of them to choose a company that had once had mojo and lost it, and then explain why they felt the company had had it and how they believed it had been lost.

But I do believe it comes down to a couple of things that may or may not determine whether you have mojo, but are pretty essential to it:

  1. Have a higher purpose. I know I've said this before, but it's essential to mojo to believe in something beyond your own needs.
  2. Don't be a commodity. Commodities don't have mojo, they compete on price, efficiency and speed. Mojo is terribly inefficient. (I'm planning to write more on commodity vs. craft again soon)
  3. Work as a team. If your employees aren't feelin' it, your customers won't either. Treat your employees as members of a team. Reward passion.
  4. Be part of the customer community you are serving. Use your own product, interact, use competitive products, work to further the industry you are in.
  5. Operate on passion, not ambition. Ambition is great for making barrels of money on undercutting and destroying your competition, climbing to the top of the corporate ladder, etc. It ain't mojo.
  6. Give a damn. This is kind of tied to everything else, but people with mojo never have to have "because it's the better thing to do" explained to them.
  7. Commit to excellence. Obsess over details. Experience. Be bothered by one customer's bad experience. Work hard to do better.
  8. Get slow. Ever notice how people with mojo never seem to be rushed or distressed? They seem reflective, introspective, they take their time. Think slow food, slow marketing, etc.
  9. Believe in your gut. Stop thinking 100% with your head. Fritz Lang once said, "The mediator between head and hands must be the heart!" We really don't value it enough in the world of business. I suppose heart isn't as profitable...but I'm not advocating maximum profitability here...

This is really just a start and comes from, well, my gut. Any more?

Nollind has a nice article on Cultural Mojo here as well where he predicts the future of Mojo Consultants. Although that would be like Richie hiring Fonzi to make him 'cooler' (I think that was an episode, actually). It just doesn't work that way. I think he's right, though. Companies not clued in will hire people who are and totally ignore their advice.