What’s better than getting the living daylights scared out of you?
OK, probably a lot of things.
For some people, surprises are absolutely terrifying.
But there’s actually a lot of value in that, Tania Luna of Surprise Industries tells Business Insider.
In fact, Luna and her sister, Kat Dudina, have built an entire business devoted to surprising people and companies like Google, Etsy, and Bit.ly.
Some of these surprises could involve zombies, circus performers, fire-eaters, spy training, target practice, mazes, and speakeasys. It’s all about getting you out of your comfort zone.
“Usually we as people decide what we like and don’t like,” Luna says.
But Luna, who has a background in psychology, says that it’s important to sometimes let fate decide for you, or to simply throw yourself into new, unplanned situations where you don’t know what the outcome will be.
That’s the idea behind New York City-based Surprise Industries, which Luna and Dudina started back in 2008. The goal is to help people grow, and learn more about themselves and others.
“It was ironic for me because I violently hated surprises,” Luna says. “But [Kate] likes surprising people.”
Now, five years later, Luna says she genuinely feels like a different person.
Surprise Industries initially set out to host public surprises and charge about $US25 per surprise, but has since started to focus a lot more on companies.
“Part of it had to do with my own personal transformation, and allowing myself to give up control,” Lunia says. “We started working with companies, less from the perspective of ‘this is fun,’ and more from, ‘how does your company handle surprises?’ Are they able to handle uncertainty and ambiguity?”
Surprise Industries especially sees itself as a training center for tech companies, Luna says, because change is such a norm and happens very quickly in the tech world.
“We never thought [Bit.ly and Etsy] would need us because they already seemed so comfortable with surprise,” Luna says. “We realised they’re the best clients because they get the need for it and they understand that you can’t really run a business the same way as you did 20 years ago.”
Starting next year, Surprise Industries will start to work exlcuively with anywhere from 10- to 12 companies per year. The idea is to help these companies create silly and weird, but professional cultures where people aren’t afraid to make mistakes, Luna says.
“Being interesting, playful, and weird helps you make more money,” Luna says.
Surprise Industries has been profitable since 2011 and has a projected 2014 revenue of $US450,000. To date, the company has planned over 2,500 surprises.
“It’s interesting that it almost feels like from what we see in NY, tech companies set norms for things like cultural value,” Luna says. “Even things like perks in a company. I think a lot of that has to do with becoming better and better. They have to get better at handling surprise and uncertainty. They have to operate like a bunch of explorers. It will be very exciting to see more companies catch up. It’s so much more open. There are so many more opportunities for individuals to feel empowered and express their ideas. To me, that seems like a much happier place to work.”