Focus Focus or Hocus Pocus

From Chapter 10: Bees and Raccoons in, The Experience Design Blueprint: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.

Focus Focus or Hocus Pocus

copyright bee image from The Experience Design Blueprint by Gregory OlsonAn illusion leaders often face is that people will heroically do the impossible while under continued pressure. The schedule never relaxes and more is piled on until finally bodies give out and minds fatigue. Bees are industrious, attentive animals but you won’t see a bee pulling an all-nighter. They work and then they rest. I’m not sure if they recreate like cats and crows, but it’s interesting to ponder what that might look like. The point is that nature always eventually wins. If you doubt that revisit the section on the wheel of life.

A balanced life doesn’t solely benefit the individuals concerned with maintaining a work life balance; it helps the organization, too. A healthy balance in the organization provides the capacity to:

  • consider and pursue strategic alternatives
  • form and then nurture effective partnerships
  • recruit and cultivate talent
  • research new capabilities
  • explore new opportunities
  • solve nagging old problems
  • develop and then support products and services
  • provide customers with remarkable experiences
  • be thoughtful in making and keeping promises to the various stakeholders

Similar to an individual, if your organization pursues too much with too little, performance suffers. The signs become apparent if you look for them. Execution gaps appear, conversations are not held, scheduled dates slip, personnel leave in search of better neighborhoods, customers defect, etc.

“One cannot manage too many affairs: like pumpkins in the water, one pops up while you try to hold down the other.” Chinese Proverb

If you’ve ever returned from a tradeshow, event, customer visit or vacation to find everybody too busy to hear what you’ve learned, then your firm probably lacks absorptive capacity. Simply put, the mental gas tank is full and cannot take in or effectively make use of additional information, no matter its significance. This is sad and all too common.

Slow Down in Order to Speed Up

Sometimes you need to slow down in order to speed up. Bees returning to the colony to perform their waggle dance are not ignored, cast aside because of an imminent release, upcoming event, or looming earnings call. People in your organization should not be ignored either, but they are routinely set aside, held up, marginalized, or encouraged to remain silent. This isn’t likely to be formalized, but recognize that it occurs.

No matter if your organization has 10, 100, 1000, 10,000, or 100,000 people, imagine the potential for all of those people to perform better together, always leaving a little time for an informative and effective bee disco.

Recipe #42: Practice Self Reflection

Reflect on your own style. Ask yourself if you are more like the conjurer that chants, “hocus pocus” before you pile more on the organization, or if you’re mindful of results and can be heard chanting, though sometimes silently, “focus, focus.” So, why do we struggle so much when all of this seems to be making sense? For that, let’s turn to Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall.

About the Author

book image of The Experience Design Blueprint from Gregory James Olson - DelightabilityGregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. This excerpt is part of Chapter 10: Bees and Raccoons. If your organization wants to improve its innovation culture and empower high performing teams, then you owe it to yourself to read this chapter. Read the full color print edition or on any Kindle Reader App supported device using the free Kindle Reader application. Already read this book? Thank you, now learn more about Delightability or connect with Gregory on social media.

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Mayor Holds Office Hours to Tune Into Small Business Owners

Being Connected is Not the Same as Being Plugged in

Being connected and plugged in are not the same thing. Think beyond technology and connectivity. Think of the Vulcan mind meld (RIP Leonard Nimoy) where you can effectively channel the thoughts of another. If you could do that with those you serve, you’d be plugged in to their needs. This always in touch state is one of the characteristics of having an effective promise delivery system, the invisible system by which we all make and keep promises. Every individual and organization has a promise delivery system; government is no exception.

Stakeholders are key

Promise delivery systems often break down from the start by failing to recognize one or more stakeholders. An easy example to pick on is most any publicly traded company. Plagued by short term thinking they often place shareholders first, ignoring other stakeholders like customers and employees that ultimately determine the health of the organization.

image of City of Los Angeles with small businesses of all types and sizesIn the case of local government the stakeholders often ignored are those that are under-served or have little voice or representation. It is easy to think of the mentally ill, or veterans experiencing homelessness because those audiences, while highly visible, are not highly vocal. In urban America, my home town of Seattle included, our street corners showcase this human suffering and the broken promises delivered from our government’s failed public policies. Imagine if the fire department never showed up to your burning home. That is what it must feel like for the marginalized stakeholders in our communities.

Imagine if the fire department never showed up to your burning home. That is what it must feel like for the marginalized stakeholders in our communities.

image of coffee shop meeting - ch 14 world of work has changed in book the experience design blueprintThere is another audience that is underrepresented, and is often similarly ignored, taken for granted, and largely invisible to government, namely small business. You hear it often, that small business is the backbone of the economy. Small business creates more jobs more quickly while large organizations may continue to shed jobs, bolstering profits and earnings along the way to their short term utopia. Small business owners are usually so busy working that they too join the ranks of the invisible and marginalized. This is especially true of small businesses that have no storefront, operate virtually, often invisible to the public, and out of mind of city government.

An Inspiring Leader Connects with Small Business Owners

image of official seal of the city of Los AngelesSo, I find it refreshing and impressive that Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, California holds office hours with small business owners. Providing access to small businesses sends a message that small business is a key stakeholder to the health of the Los Angeles community and economy. Holding office hours with small business owners also helps the mayor stay in touch with the changing external environment that might be more readily detected from the perspectives of individual small business owners. These “eyes and ears” around the city serve as sensors in the ground helping to keep informed, the city’s promise delivery system. With this information the city can shape and shift strategy and be more mindful of the promises made to the small businesses that call it home.

Conversations in Your City

How about in your city? Are small businesses included in the conversation? If you are in city leadership, are you holding office hours? Are business of all types and sizes equally welcome? What “sensors in the ground” are you establishing in order to keep informed? And, once you are informed, how do you apply the learning (doing the Vulcan mind meld) across various departments so that the city demonstrates a well coordinated promise delivery system that keeps attuned to the small business community and business landscape in which they operate?

About the Author

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. Chapters in the book that especially pertain to this post include: Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System; and Chapter 9: The Neighborhood. Read the full color print edition or on your Kindle Reader App supported device using the free Kindle Reader application.

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An Open Letter to City Leaders in the World Community

Dear Leader,

Image of City for Open Letter to City - The Experience Design BLUEPRINT by Gregory Olson

As a Mayor, City Manager, or member of City Council you have a special duty that you’re likely ill prepared for. It isn’t running a campaign, debating hot topics like climate change and minimum wage, or being a good partner to those managing city departments and resources. No, those are traditional and evergreen requirements, necessary but, insufficient to meet the needs of an increasingly demanding public.

Image of Crosswalk for Open Letter to City - The Experience Design BLUEPRINT by Gregory Olson

You see, you’re not so much as managing and governing what is these days as you are expected to be concerned with the future of the city. This means innovation. This means growth. It means economic prosperity for every household. This means a safety net for those that need it, whether their home is ablaze, they are a victim of crime, a super storm, or temporarily rendered irrelevant by a divided economy that puts corporate profits ahead of people and the community you govern. It means anticipating what’s next and being proactive, even if you won’t be the direct beneficiary or in office at the time of implementation.

Your city thrives when all people do better. It is up to you to put people and communities first.  This will take courage, loads of courage, especially if people with an alternative agenda helped put you in office. Part of your job is managing multiple stakeholders that don’t have goal congruence. You’ll need to manage expectations between competing stakeholders. Getting it right will take more conversations with more people and continued learning on your part.

Image of German City for Open Letter to City - The Experience Design BLUEPRINT by Gregory Olson

You need to think and act like a designer, a futurist, and a humanist. You’ll need to adopt new mental models and abandon thinking that trapped your predecessors in a bridled past. But, unfortunately it is likely that you’re poorly trained for these new roles. You might be thinking at this point, “I didn’t sign up for this. I’m busy. That is not my job.” If this is what you think, then you would be wrong.

Rise to the occasion, adopt your new badge of courage, and let’s get to work. There is much potential for your city and I have the confidence that you can do good things, you simply need a little help. I’m going to provide some help, some encouragement, and inspiration. There are plenty of people in your own city that can help, too. They are your co-designers, the people that can help write the story history will one day retell. You’ll need to tap into their energy, capacity, and willingness to get involved in civic matters. That is a challenge we’ll come back to later.

Image of German City for Open Letter to City - The Experience Design BLUEPRINT by Gregory Olson

I’ve written The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. It’s a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. There are people working, living, recreating, and passing through your city right now. You and your colleagues have a large task at hand, namely designing better experiences for these people. But, most likely you aren’t even on the same page when it comes to defining an experience, let alone making them come true.

This is the first letter you’ve received from me, but it won’t be the last. I’ll be sharing more. You can get a head start by reading my book. I’m happy to speak with you and members of your extended team. All reasonable people want vibrant, sustainable cities full of happy people. Let’s make that happen.

With sincerity and optimism,
Gregory Olson (reach me on twitter at @fordoers)

About the Author

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson is the author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. Chapters in the book that pertain to this post include: Chapter 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken, and Generous Design; Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System; and Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed. Read the full color print edition or on your Kindle Reader App supported device using the free Kindle Reader application.

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The Real Skills Gap

Telesope Seeing the Invisible - DelightabilityThere is a pervasive issue that plagues our economy yet it is mostly invisible, unless we look for it. I’m going to help you to see it. It is the Skills Gap.

We’ve all heard media, politicians, and pundits refer to the skills gap in this country. It’s true we do have a skills gap. But it isn’t the one they’ve been referring to, where people are trained for the wrong jobs, lack technical skills or a college education. All of that is simply not true in a universal sense. It isn’t anymore true than the statements all dogs are ferocious or all email is spam.

Each of us knows family, friends, and colleagues whose personal economy has suffered in spite of their college education, skills, and experiences. You probably also know people that are super-employed by greedy corporations that work their employees tirelessly, refuse to hire more people, while stockpiling more and more cash.

No, this skills gap is of a different sort. As a society, we’re becoming less empathetic to those not like us. This is making us less human. This is our real skills deficit.

The decline in empathy is all around us. It is a fact. You can find studies that show the decline over the last 40 years. But, you don’t need to. You need only reflect on your own experiences.

Examples of Empathy in Decline

Over Labor Day weekend I experienced a lack of empathy when I re-entered the U.S. at the Canadian border. I had my keys taken away and my car searched. I guess I look like a smuggler or terrorist or my backpacking story triggered some false instinct. Of course I did nothing wrong. It’s just that we are at war with ourselves. I think I would have felt more empathy from a bear encounter than I did from the border agent interaction.

If you’ve traveled aboard a commercial airliner in recent years, you’ve no doubt been treated as a dangerous object by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Even, in our own communities, we’re ruled by red light cameras.

When the police outfit themselves in combat gear and appear as robocops they look and behave less human. They also further insulate themselves from the communities they are supposed to protect and serve. The events in Ferguson displayed a lack of empathy in all directions.

Some municipalities have gone so far as to outlaw homelessness. Police and firefighters have been ordered to destroy the donated tents of people experiencing homelessness. They didn’t merely dismantle the tents, they actually destroyed them with box cutters. What a horrible misuse of power by the mayor and what a horrible thing to have to do as a public servant. The lack of empathy in all directions can be witnessed by reading the comments on the video posted on YouTube, St. Petersburg Police cut tops off homeless people tents. The war against people “not like us” rages on.

We have systematically been reducing our own empathy.

We are communal by nature yet when we don ear buds and bury ourselves in front of screens of all sizes we avoid real discussion and face to face interaction. We no longer visit video stores or interact with bank tellers. We buy online and pay at the pump. We are having less and less human interactions.

Think of your own conversations and those you hear around you. How many of these conversations actually matter on a human level. Too many would be meaningful conversations are not happening.

We are increasingly isolated. We have technology that connects us to each other more than at any point in human history, yet we are connected in less authentic ways. It is much easier to ignore or exit a conversation that is only online. Internet and social media bullying are sadly commonplace. Unfriending and the “conversations” that precede that act are inflammatory and lack components of a healthy dialogue. Few would have the courage to act this way face-to-face.

So, yes, we have a skills gap. We are forgetting how to be human. We are becoming less empathetic. Technology and our busy states of mind are our allies for ignoring what’s wrong in our communities and in the world.

We Pay Homage to Things that Don’t Matter

Newspaper Showing World Closing Prices - Delightability Blog PostMaking matters worse, as a society, we are paying attention to the wrong things. These things further harden us and make us even less empathetic.

I think each of us does want a more humane and just world, where people are genuinely peaceful and happy. But, those things are hard to measure and don’t carry headlines, so instead we measure things like GDP, the DOW, and the S&P 500. We measure things that tell a story that media and politicians want retold – and we in turn, pay attention. Even American Public Media’s Marketplace that purports to present news on business, economics, and money for the rest of us, chants the numbers as though they mean something to main street America. Imagine if we were listening instead to, “HumanPlace” or “ProsperityPlace” or the like.

Unfortunately, the larger human story is going untold. We do have a prosperous nation, if you measure it by GDP and the DOW. But, we have poverty in this prosperous nation. We also have droves of educated but unemployed and underemployed people. And, of those that are working, most are largely disengaged.

These things are not part of our national dialogue or priority, but they should be. Instead what is heard is, “If you don’t have a job, it is your fault. Skills gap, remember. If you don’t have enough work, get more education. If you are suffering from poverty, again, it must be your fault. If you are a college educated fast food worker, just try harder. Pick yourself by your bootstraps and just do it.”

This is all hogwash and only serves to polarize and distract all of us. So, what can we do?

Platform for Human Progress

I imagine a Platform for Human Progress. The platform would be about two things: 1) We’d relearn empathy – we’d systematically restore empathy in schools, in police departments, in the workplace and dare I say it, online; and 2) we’d develop human potential – we’d have a people first agenda.

What would a Platform for Human Progress look like? Technology would be involved.  So would forums and events. Institutions of all types and sizes, and of course government. In fact, the employment security department would morph. It would become less about policing benefits and more about helping people to reach their potential, irrespective of education, experience level or industry. No longer would people automatically become invisible or be labeled as discouraged workers, no longer looking for work, simply because their unemployment  benefits were exhausted. A human centric side project of Delightability that has debunked both the skills gap and the notion of discouraged workers is Please Count Me. This website gives Americans the opportunity to self report their employment status no matter if they are unemployed, under-employed, fully-employed, or super-employed.

We’d want the Platform for Human Progress to scale while at the same time being careful not to concentrate more wealth and control into the hands of a greedy few. Maybe we’d embrace small as the new big.

There is No Innovation or Progress Without People

I think investing in people should be a national priority. There is too much idle wealth and talent on the sidelines in the U.S. and in the world. Yet, there are many problems to solve and opportunities to explore. There’s no innovation or progress without people. This is important work for all of us.

Let’s return the keys to the kingdom to the makers and remove them from the takers, speculators, and manipulators. 

If we can build vaccines for diseases we cannot see, and build fabric winged airplanes that can carry us to other continents can’t we also build systems that help humans that are negatively affected by public policy, technology changes, and corporate greed? Of course we can. If we did, we’d be a real superpower, not simply a military superpower. Maybe, as a country the U.S. would then rank as high, or surpass Norway or Denmark as having the most prosperous and happy people.

In all that we do, we need to start asking the question, “What about the people.” Repeat that 100 times, “What about the people.”

We need to measure the success of the platform and our nation in terms of: Can individuals secure food and a future? Are they achieving their potential?

Maybe we can learn from the work of the Grameen Foundation’s Progress Out of Poverty Index. Hopefully, we’d replace it with Prosperity Index; the Legatum Index might be a good place to start. The Legatum Prosperity Index™ is an annual ranking, developed by the Legatum Institute, of 142 countries. The ranking is based on a variety of factors including wealth, economic growth and quality of life. In 2013, the U.S. dropped out of the top 20 for the Economy sub-index.

We collectively need metrics that matter to human progress and prosperity. We need to communicate these metrics and hold ourselves and others accountable to improving them. This would be a shift much like John F. Kennedy’s Man on the Moon speech that sparked a nation to action.

In Conclusion

Humanity is a big subject and even though each of us play a tiny, time limited role, each of us can make a bigger impact with our conversations and the challenges we put on others. I challenge every reader of this article to be more human, more empathetic, and to hold others to a higher, human standard. Maybe pose the question, “Is that helping or hurting humans?”

A New Conversation

I don’t have all of the answers. I think the answers are spread across all of us. But, we’ll need better conversations to draw them out. I hope you’ll share this message with others so that we can close the most important skills gaps we face, being human.

I’m going to leave you with a little quote from the universe.

“When you understand, that what most people really, really want is simply to feel good about themselves, and when you realize that with just a few well-chosen words you can help virtually anyone on the planet instantly achieve this, you begin to realize just how simple life is, how powerful you are, and that love is the key.”

Fly little bird,
The Universe (Sign up for Mike Dooley’s Notes from the Universe)

 About the Author

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGreg Olson is the author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. Chapters in the book that pertain to this blog post include: Chapter 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken, and Generous Design; Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System; and Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed. Read it on Kindle or any device using the free Kindle Reader application.

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Tapping your Inner Designer no Matter Your Title or Role

Human History and Design

image showing early cave painting communications design - Delightability

Humans have been designing objects and systems long before either of those words were uttered. Hunters and gatherers benefited from the weapons and carry systems they designed. Other additions to the design portfolio of humans include the design of communications in the form of art and language, shelters to protect us from the elements, and objects to serve various functions.

image of primitive carry system that has been designed - Delightability

Humans have a long history of design. We’ve even designed systems and schools to help others design. Humans work in concert to make things better through design and that makes us unique compared to other animals in the Animal Kingdom. My book is designed to help you tap your inner designer and to have better conversation so that you can design for good.

image of girl designing sand castle - Delightability

Thinking of yourself as a designer, no matter your title or role in the organization might feel out of place for you, but it shouldn’t. We actually start our creative lives as budding designers. We envision, we draw, we build castles in the sand, we go on to host excellent tea parties, build forts, etc. But, then something happens. As we get a little older, we start to become more rigid.

You Started Out as a Designer

We begin to observe that some people are better singers than we are, some are better musicians, athletes, artists, some are good at math, and others are good at other stuff. Parents, teachers, siblings, etc. all reinforce that. The reminders of what we are good at start early on. Depending on the generation we might get encouraged and rewarded for participating, even if we aren’t that good.

Specialization is Good and Bad at the Same Time

Then, if we take on more education, we begin to specialize. Most people make choices and do something narrow like studying accounting or engineering or biology or physical therapy. We go on to get better at those things and practice medicine, or law or accounting or whatever we set out to do. After all, each field is full of things to learn and master. And, from the early industrial age thinking, we’ve been conditioned to think specialization a la Frederick Taylor, is the path toward improving industrial efficiency.

image showing dentist work is specialized- delightability

Aside from the obvious challenge of remaining relevant in a world that changes around you, specialization doesn’t do much for the human spirit. It leaves us longing for more unless of course we simply drown that fire inside us that yearns to create, design, and build things, systems, and community.

Increasing Complexity Breaks Experiences

image showing cockpit complexity - delightabilitySpecialization, amid all of the technological advances, has created an atmosphere where as consumers we expect thoughtful, holistic experiences that understand us and fit our needs and desires. Specialization breeds increased depth. And, complexity builds as there is more demand for the various pieces of an experience to all fit seamlessly together. This is true whether the subject of design is vacation or travel, healthcare, car sharing, education, streaming music, financing a home, etc.

Unless an organization has a very narrow offering, then any single person in the organization, from the CEO on down the line, is not capable or empowered to deliver an entire experience; there are simply too many moving parts and most lie outside of one’s purview or specialty. The result is that experiences are relegated to the specialists in call centers or those that create the website, etc. There isn’t even widespread agreement on what an experience is. Don’t believe me ? Define it, then turn to your colleague and have them define it. See, I told you so.

Experience and Innovation Literacy

We live in a world full of broken experiences. But, I believe we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and even communities . I am hopeful that there are rich possibilities that can be made to come to life as people like you become empowered. My book aims to increase your competence and confidence in intentionally designing better experiences and building healthy innovation cultures that can actually deliver them.

image of boy challening you to design better - DelightabilityThese are the subjects of my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.  The book is chock full of 78 images, 56 recipes that you can apply to your own situation, and 25 inspiring examples. These example range from tiny organizations that are inventing new women’s sports to multi-national coops that are lifting people out of poverty while at the same time giving investors a financial and social return. The book is available on the Kindle publishing platform, but your reading experience doesn’t have to include a Kindle device. There is a free Kindle reader application available for Mac, Windows, Browser, iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.

Will You be a More Thoughtful Contributor to Humanity?

The world needs more thoughtfulness around our experiences. That begins with you. I’ve done my part by writing the book, to demystify things that were previously invisible. Now, it is time for you to do your part. Invest the equivalent of a couple of cups of coffee, purchase the book and awaken your inner designer. The world is waiting.

About the Author

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINT

For more guidance and self help read my book or reach out if you’d like some help. We’d love to help you build an enduring brand that matters. If you’d like to talk further please reach out.
Greg Olson is the author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. See the Book and Author Summary PDF or find the book on Amazon. He is also the Managing Director of Delightability, LLC., a consultancy that believes if you delight customers, then success will follow.

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The United Nations Ambitious Goals and You

Comment turned blog post

This blog post started as a simple comment on a video interview of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  But, I as I reflected on my own heritage and the comments being posted, my simple comment evolved to this blog post. Below is the short embedded video. If you click through to play it on slideshare, you’ll see a wide range of comments each representing a particular point of view.

Shaping my own perspective

My own view of the subjects in the video are shaped in part by being of mixed race, specifically Native American Indian, Estonian, and Swedish ancestry. My view is also shaped by my volunteer board work I do with Oikocredit International, an organization that has effectively lifted people out of poverty for nearly 40 years. You probably haven’t heard of them, which is why I’m on the board of Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for Oikocredit International. Operating in over 80 countries and with nearly 1 billion U.S. dollars of cumulative capital invested, Oikocredit has made a conscious decision to Continue reading

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Learn Like a Featherless Crow and You Will be Ready to Fly

crow image painted on wood - The Experience Design BLUEPRINT - DelightabilityThere is a story I share in my book about a couple of tiny featherless crows that were nudged from the nest, probably prematurely. After a few mishaps and related rescues over the course of several days, I finally witnessed some unusual activity in the far corner of my yard. The little, newly feathered crows were hopping up the bank onto progressively higher rocks, and then jumping off the ledge at the top, honing their flying skills as gravity played its part. It was quite a treasure to see the featherless birds mature and eventually turn their clunky sky jumps into masterful flight. There is a lesson for humans here.

Practice Makes Perfect, Not Training

Like baby crows, we need to practice those things we want to become more proficient in. Training alone seldom provides the opportunity for mastery. Imagine a baby crow sitting through the crow equivalent of flight instruction. Without the hours spent flying (or trying) the real world lessons would come slowly, if ever. Every baby crow starts out a failure, but with much potential for flight.

“I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States, (1809 to 1865)

Hopefully, as you embark on the 2nd half of the year, you begin practicing like a determined featherless crow. Soon, you’ll be flying about wondering why you took so long to begin.

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5 Actions for Business Leaders to Help the Company AND the Economy

This Pesky World of Work Has Changed

The world of work has changed and it’s not coming back as we once knew it. Whether you are the chief people officer at the top, leading a department, or forging the way forward as an individual contributor, you’ve by now realized the new normal is not like the last normal.

Forces Beyond Your Control

Some forces acting on your organization are out of your control: industry consolidation, globalization, public policies of all sorts, advances in technology, a flight to values, demand for increased transparency, distrust of government and banks and cable monopolies, shifting workforce demographics, etc.

But, this doesn’t mean you are powerless, ineffective, and should sit on the sidelines. Of course, you could choose to do nothing. But, that usually isn’t a very good option for getting a desirable outcome. Your proverbial ship will eventually hit the reef ahead if you don’t veer port or starboard. You must take action. The annals of company histories are chock full of such victims that witnessed innovation from the sidelines. The marketplace is an unforgiving lover; your’e hot when your’e hot, and forgotten when you’re not. Size or tenure do not insulate you from marketplace realities.

Some Sobering Facts:

  • companies are running leaner than ever
  • employees feel insecure and overworked
  • work is increasingly specialized
  • leaders are forced to do more with less
  • employee engagement has declined and loyalty has evaporated in both directions

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

Don’t look to the media, politicians, and economist for answers. You won’t find relevant prescriptions there. What you will find is self serving rhetoric bordering on sensationalism and focused on getting somebody elected or re-elected. They each have an agenda that is unlike yours and certainly not like your customers, employees, vendors, partners, or communities you occupy. The correct prescription is to do what is right for the business and all of its stakeholders. So, what the hell is a business leader to do?

Here are 5 Actions Business Leaders Can Initiate Now

If you are a leader by committing to these 5 actions, you will help your company and the economy at the same time. If you are not the business leader you don’t have to sit on the sidelines while your organization unravels. Consider today the “elbow nudge the leader at work day.” For additional clarity on any of the following 5 actions see the slideshare.net presentation below or my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healther Organizations. Pay particular attention to Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed.

  1. Create an innovation neighborhood. Stock it, in part, with outside entrepreneurs. Add fractional talent that you cannot attract for a job, but would still like to work with your organization. Shake things up by adding “entrepreneur seasoning.”
  2. Recognize and abolish your internal innovation hurdle (IIH). It’s really ok that your next business opportunity may only be a $ 20 million business as opposed to a $ 1 billion business. Small is the new big – get used to it and get good at it or you’ll be a Berlin Wall remnant.
  3. Treat people with dignity and respect . Add people to give current employees more capacity. Stop fear mongering tactics, period. Reduce executive pay before shedding employees upon bad news. The raving fans you build start inside your own organization. You are at a disadvantage if you don’t start there.
  4. Adapt your non-discriminatory policy to include the unemployed and especially the long term unemployed and veterans. Reprimand or fire those that break the policy. Go for diversity in everything. If everybody inside your organization looks and acts the same – your organization’s unwinding has already begun.
  5. Be more collaborative by sponsoring, using the talent within, and becoming a resident of co-working spaces.

Need help with any of these or want to discuss? Please get in touch.

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Four Great Resources for Humans in a World of Work That Has Changed

Sushi Thai Seattle closed - middle class income disappearing in world of work that changed - DelightabilityThe World of Work Has Changed
The world of work has changed and it isn’t coming back as we once knew it. Once we accept these structural changes as individuals, organizations, and as a country we can go about our business to maximize opportunities for Americans to make a living, make a difference, and make an impact. Full employment for those that want it should be a national goal and priority for any great nation. But, sadly this isn’t part of our national conversation and it certainly doesn’t dominate the media headlines.  SushiThai Seattle, a place I enjoyed in my neighborhood recently closed. Your community has probably felt similar closures. Each restaurant closure or other business that shutters their doors, citing a lack of demand is a symptom of our world of work that has changed. Incomes of many ordinary workers have been decimated. This is a solvable problem if we think differently and work cooperatively.

office building world of work has changed - Delightability

Few Are Insulated in a World Changed
Whether your office is on the 70th floor, in a basement, in mahogany row, cubicle bay, the kitchen table, the operating room, the local coffee shop or a coworking space, you have to agree on this: The world of work has changed. Of course it has, because the world has changed. If you don’t see this, then you are not looking very hard or you are very insulated.

Three Major Forces Changing the Nature of Work
There have been three major forces in play for a while now that continue to shift the nature of work, employment, jobs, careers, etc. They are:

  1. industry consolidation;
  2. advances in technology;
  3. and trade policy.

And yes, there are other forces at play as well like accounting rules, tax policy and loopholes, and plain old fashioned human and corporate greed. But, I’ll leave those discussions for another time.

The Great Costs of Being Idle
Aside from the very visible restaurant and store closures, the ramifications of sidelined talent and organizations unwilling or unable to engage talent is decreased innovation, stalled human progress, and stymied organizations. Problems persist and opportunities go unaddressed. That means more broken experiences and poor service quality for us as consumers, citizens, customers, members, owners, passengers, travelers, etc. For those courageous leaders that do move forward, new possibilities await, in terms of products, services, market share, new ventures, brand loyalty, consumer habits, partnerships, etc.

Stop Waiting and Start Creating
But, you can’t mind meld with your future self or look through the prospectiscope and see future possibilities very clearly. When we do look forward, we tend to actually obsess on looking backwards at earnings, GDP, and the stock market. It is very easy to get quickly trapped by history, paint the future with the past and not see new possibilities. If you rewind the clock to look at iPhone sales and Android devices before those had been invented you’d see zero, 0, zed, nada. No revenue, no profit, no possibilities, especially if you were in an industry or market that was displaced as a result of the more open marketplaces that both of those ecosystems enabled. How wrong you’d be today. But, in your own industry, you may also be wrong. What if you are? How costly will that be?

It takes a special mindset to see what what you are not looking for.

Bigger Thinking is Needed for Larger Possibilities
Steve Jobs had vision. The Open Handset Alliance that collaborated to bring us the Android operating system had a vision and purpose. Kennedy’s man on the moon speech sparked a nation to action. Hundreds of thousands of jobs across a range of industries and institutions were the result. That would be a whole lot of employment today; it was an even larger percentage of workers in its day given there were fewer workers. We benefit from innovations of that era, to this day. Imagine the possibilities of our collective future if we only nudge our attention in the right direction. Imagine if the corporations sitting idle on a collective $1.95 trillion offshore were to put that money to innovative and good use in local communities, the nation, and in the world. Oh, the possibilities.

Each of Us Has a Role to Play in Our Collective Future

Whether you are an independent worker today, become one tomorrow, or hire independent workers, here are four resources to hopefully inspire and educate you on a World of Work that has forever changed:
image of The State of Independence in America report from MBO Partners - World of Work has Changed - Delightability1) The State of Independence in America report from MBO partners is a treasure trove of facts and figures that are sure to educate, inspire, challenge, and maybe even validate some of your observations and experiences. Chances are you won’t simply have a J-O-B as most have been accustomed to in the past. And, you won’t solely interact with others that have J-O-Bs. If you look around, you’ll notice this to be very true already, and getting more true.

Freelancers Union A Federation of the Unaffiliated smaller - The World of Work Has Changed - Delightability2) Freelancers Union is a website dedicated to being a Federation of the Unaffiliated. Founder and Executive Director, Sara Horowitz, participated in a panel discussion with Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation and President Bill Clinton, among others on June 24th, 2014 at the Clinton Global Initiative in Denver, Colorado. Sara represented the humongous and growing collective of freelancers and independents working in America. This is very important since most of these people are largely invisible. They don’t show up in unemployment or under-employment numbers. By the Bureau of Labor Statistics own admission in their Technical Paper 66 – Design and Methodology of the Current Population Survey, “The labor force concepts and definitions used in the CPS have undergone only slight modification since the survey’s inception in 1940.” Ah great – so basically the methodology for measuring labor force participation was invented shortly after the great depression and has yet to embrace a new reality that includes the internet, mobile phones, co-working spaces of all shapes and sizes,  liberation from land based telephone lines, social networking, etc. This is very wrong and why at Delightability we’ve taken a step in a new direction with number 3 on our list.

Please Count Me - Human Centered Community Project for Americans to Self Report Employment Status - Delightability3) Please Count Me is a community website for Americans to self report their own employment status whether fully-employed, super-employed, unemployed, or under-employed. This is a human centered community project we started at Delightability to shine a light on some of the structural changes in this country and the need to have a better conversation, reduce ignorance and rhetoric, and hopefully affect policy and lawmakers to do the right thing for the entire country not just the wealthy and influential that finance campaigns. Add yourself to the workers in more than half the states that have already added themselves to the count. Read the alternative jobs report.

book cover image - The Experience Design BLUEPRINT  by Gregory Olson of Delightability 4) Another resource is my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. Aside from practical tools, exercises, and recipes that can be applied to any size and type of organization, the book specifically has a chapter with prescriptive guidance for large business, small business, underemployed, unemployed, coworking spaces, congress and other policy makers to work cooperatively toward full employment, human progress, and reaching our collective potential.  See Chapter is 14. The World of Work Has Changed.

Continue the Conversation
While these four resources I shared are US centric, my friends in Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, The United Kingdom, Germany, Hong Kong, Australia, and other countries will no doubt be sparked by localizing the concepts in these resources as well. Comments are closed here but please email me or message me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook with other resources you find inspiring. Thank you Sabine for making me aware of 400 Euro “mini-jobs” in Germany. More on that in a future post.

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More Reasons It Is So Easy to Dislike My “local” Cable Monopoly

Normally, I don’t get very political on the Delightability blog, but since I’ve just come off of a lackluster customer experience with my cable company and within hours saw John Oliver’s entertaining and informative video I couldn’t resist.

A recent experience with my local cable provider.

To make a long story short, 2 hours long in fact – I bought a new Zoom cable modem so I would no longer have to lease, the cable company provided Arris brand modem. Following the quick start guide from Zoom, I set everything up and then proceeded to the last step, namely, call my local cable company [Comcast] and provide them with the MAC address of my modem. From the online reviews for the Zoom modem this seemed to be a normally smooth and swift operation. That is, when its handled by trained support personnel that know the ins and outs of activating the cable modem over the internet. For whatever reason, this was not my customer experience on this particular day.

Having been a technician and an engineer in the past, I’ve dealt with many technical systems at the bit, byte, and transistor level as well as the system level. I’m very empathetic and forgiving toward people in technical support roles, especially knowing they are working over the phone, mostly blind to the system they are troubleshooting. But, the part where I’m UNforgiving is that after each technician obsessed on having an updated email address for me, Comcast then diligently notified me of an incremental charge. Nobody said such a charge was coming. This isn’t the surprise and delight of the variety people appreciate. The matter of fact email made no mention of the support call or the two hours of my time consumed. The communication was centered around an incremental charge for the leased modem still in my possession. It also reflected an ongoing charge for voice equipment, which is peculiar since I have no Comcast phone service. That will be even more of my time wasted during a future call to billing, I suppose.

The communication I would have liked to receive.

I would have preferred the communication to me from my local cable provider went more like this:

Mr. Olson,

We are really sorry you had to spend 2 hours resolving the activation issue with our technicians last evening. In most circumstances our technicians would have noticed that your disconnected modem was still listed as active for the outlet needing to be reassigned. In the event of such conflict our system gets confused. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until your 3rd technician and near the close of your 2nd hour on the phone with us, before we recognized the mistake we were making. Two modems cannot be assigned to the same outlet.

On behalf of the team, I apologize and hope that you will give us the courtesy of your continued business. [I have no choice – they are the only cable provider licensed to operate in my zip code in the city of Seattle] To ease the pain a bit, we are going to credit your account with [insert some number of $’s here] and provide you with a premium channel lineup of your choosing for the next 3 months. Simply, call us or login to your account to accept our apologetic offering. We are happy that in the end, we were able to resolve the problem of connecting your cable internet service to your new cable modem.

But, instead of receiving the customer communications that I expected where I felt valued and respected, I only received what looked like a poorly formatted email bill from the accounting department. A bill that was wrong, at that. This isn’t my first and only experience with Comcast. I have a long history of mostly disatisfying interactions that only add to my growing negative brand aftertaste.

Let’s not give Comcast, Verizon, Time Warner and others a blank check.

It is hard to yield even more power and control to monopoly companies like Comcast that appear to be ever more greedy while the people and communities they serve are simply expected to suck up the service quality they receive and just keep reaching deeper in their pockets to pay more. After all, with Comcast it IS about shareholders and earnings not about people, communities, and service innovation. No wonder they rank low on customer satisfaction and high on complaints. With this, I introduce you to John Oliver’s rant.

John Oliver’s must see video no matter how busy you think you are.

John Oliver’s 13 minute rant is educational, factual, and honestly a little disturbing. So disturbing in fact, that I hope you are spurred to action as I was. After watching the entertaining and informative video, please add your own comments on the FCC website. The FCC is soliciting comments for a period of 120 days from the public. Have fun and please don’t turn a blind eye to something this important. Add your own comments at http://www.fcc.gov/comments When adding your comments look for “14-28 Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet.”

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