For 13 years, there has been an eclectic gathering of those eager to explore the nuances of the Experience Economy.  They call the event thinkAbout.  It is hosted by Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore in a new location each year.  They are the authors who described the shift to an experience-based economy in their 1999 book, The Experience Economy.  They argued that consumers today demand experiences, not just goods and services.

Members of the 2009 thinkAbout, Philadelphia - K. Macdonald

This is not a traditional gathering by any measure.  It is 48-hours of almost continuous structured and unstructured activities.  Breaks are used for sleep (if you must) and off-line discussions.  You are guaranteed to meet some very interesting sorts who are pushing the edges of experience in healthcare, architecture, banking, marketing, and training.  You are apt to run into someone re-inventing the campus visit, a visit to Santa, or the next funeral you attend.  Inc. covered the event in 2001, Fast Company in 2006 and TIME in 2008.  It is one of a kind.

What makes the gathering so interesting is that for 2 days the entire group drops everything to truly think about what they are doing … to exchange ideas on how others are doing it, and to explore how to do it even better.   The objective is simple … to think … hard.

After the annual thinkAbout, the attendees fan out across the globe to nudge their own businesses or their clients a bit further.  In some ways, their job has gotten easier.  A decade ago, an experience-based economy appeared a bit far-fetched.  Today it is more likely to be the inspiration for fresh thinking and the source of new jobs.

Pine and Gilmore write, “Those businesses that relegate themselves to the diminishing world of goods and services will be rendered irrelevant. To avoid this fate, you must learn to stage a rich, compelling experience.”  There will be an intrepid group trying to do this in Del Mar, CA this week.  Wish them well.

So where do you go to think about?

When do you take time to stop … and just think?