Familiarity

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As I was out in LA and Portland this past week I had the chance to reflect on the comfort of familiarity. For the past 13 years I’ve attended Adobe MAX (or its previous forms). This post isn’t really about the conference, but the experience around it.

The past three years the conference has been in LA, and will be in LA again next fall. The second year in LA I wasn’t pleased about it – I like going someplace new. This year that changed. This year the familiarity was comfortable and good. I knew I would eat lunch at the In-N-Out by the airport. We knew restaurants, bars and clubs we wanted to hit downtown and in Hollywood. We’ve started to make some traditions in just three week long trips. There have always been MAX traditions, but now the space is part of the tradition. The familiarity also let us explore a bit further afield finding new venues because we understand the city.

When I got to Portland I had a similar experience. I spent a week in Portland this spring and as soon as I stepped off the plane into the airport I felt comfortable. It was familiar. I knew where things were in the city which let me hop out to the suburbs easily on the bus and then wander to four different places in the evening. Several of the Portland activities were suggested to me and all had similar qualities. Being familiar with what to expect from a suggestion was easily as important as having been to a place.

I’m wondering how this impacts the spaces I manage. How can we facilitate a sense of familiarity and comfort that applies both to the regular and the first-time guest? How can we use that familiarity to push people slightly out of the comfort zone? How do we curate an atmosphere that lets people make a suggestion or invitation and for the new person to make some valid assumptions? No real answers yet, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Next year I know I’ll be back in LA and also in DC. I’m pretty sure I’ll get to Portland again as well. I can’t wait to see what continues to make these cities feel like home even for a week.