Is it time to break kayfabe?

If you’ve never followed professional wrestling, the concept of kayfabe is probably new to you. It’s an old carny concept – you had to deceive people into caring about your staged fights by making them believe the fights were “real.” So even though everyone in the wrestling industry knew that the outcomes of matches were predetermined, nobody would admit it, for fear of being ostracized and blacklisted. Kayfabe was stronger than just not breaking character – it was a code of honor that nobody broke.

The fact is, wrestling knew its product wasn’t good enough to survive any level of openness.

That’s changed now. There came a point where information just flowed too freely, and stubbornly holding onto traditional kayfabe in the modern era made them look silly (you may argue that wrestling looks silly anyway, and you won’t find an argument here). So the industry had to change their product and their social norms, to make it so even with all its fans knowing the events were scripted and predetermined that they still enjoyed watching it, still followed it, still “believed” it on some level.

It’s obviously working. The product is selling well, surviving controversy and somehow staying relevant even while everyone knows the events are scripted.

Would your product survive? If your product managers, developers, testers, and support personnel all blogged openly about the product’s development, engaged with customers in two-way dialog about the features they wanted, talked candidly about the product’s strengths and limitations, and basically didn’t rely on smoke and mirrors and NDAs, would it still compete in your market?

Is your product good enough that “breaking kayfabe” would be a positive market differentiator?

If it isn’t, maybe it’s time to rethink something about your product.

If it is, why haven’t you done it yet?

(The truth is, I bet some product teams would panic at that level of openness between their engineering and field support organizations, never mind the customers.)