Why Your Brain Resists the New

image of highway hypnosis for brain resistance blog post - DelightabilityWe’ve all been there, driving down the highway, listening to music, not really paying attention as our mental autopilot seems to be in control. After we awake from our highway hypnosis, we barely recall the minutes that have passed us by and don’t recognize the distance traveled.

This phenomena happens to us more often than when we are driving. Our brains are resistant to change and want to quickly return to a steady comfortable state. They like to “keep it real” by not accepting too much new information that feels wrong or incompatible. When we receive new information we like to treat it like the familiar and force it to fit our established patterns and ways of thinking, like driving on a familiar road. This isn’t diabolical or manipulative, it is simply part of being an imperfect human.

image of fitting to existing patters for brain resistance post - DelightabilityIt turns out this brain behavior is self preserving. Imagine that we didn’t complete patterns and we had to slow down and think about every single l e t t e r that we typed or r e a d. Imagine that we had to re-learn how to walk each day and to tie our shoes and even how to put those shoes on. Or, that we had to consult our mental checklist for everything we came across to assess its potential threat. Of course everyday life would become daunting with the sheer volume of things we encounter and decisions we face as we go about living, working, and recreating.

But, most of us are blind to this brain truth.
And this is unfortunate, because this same phenomenon can also blind us to opportunity or new learning. It can numb us to the problems others face or even that we all face together. Think climate change, the changing world of work, the shortcomings of capitalism, decaying faith, inequality, corruption, security threats, racism, police brutality, idle capital, corporate short-termism, homelessness, marriage equality, sustainable energy, etc. With each of those subjects you have some familiarity or don’t. You’ve either fit those to existing patterns or cast the unfamiliar ones out as irrelevant. This brain’s inner workings don’t discriminate. This phenomenon equally disadvantages leaders as well as those they would expect to follow them.

image of girl looking out window thinking about new ideas for brain resistance post - DelightabilityThink of how long it takes you to accept the new. Think of your struggle with and opposition to new ideas and initiatives. This same pattern making behavior your brain habitually engages in every day is also the reason why you drink the same coffee, listen to the same radio station, visit the same stores, wear the same brand shoes, and everything else that forms your consumer habits.

“It isn’t so much that you think about these things as much as the fact that you don’t.”

It isn’t so much that you think about these things as much as the fact that you don’t. This is bad news for the shopkeeper in your neighborhood that will never gain your business or the bright kid down the street whose promising idea is denied relevance from the outset. But, its also bad new for you. You could deny yourself enriching experiences and participation in making the world or your own neighborhood and community a better place. And, you might unwittingly shut down and discourage others that are trying to do the same.

image of favorite food for brain resistance blog post - DelightabilityAgain you have something new to think about. I recognize this is dangerous and might not fit your existing patterns. While your protective brain might want to discard this fact I urge you to read on.

Think of your favorite food for just a moment. Visualize eating this favorite food. OK, good I still have you. Hopefully inside that brilliant brain of yours, I’ve successfully linked this article with your favorite food. Now, every time you eat your favorite food, I want you to recall this article about your brain behavior when it is confronted with something new.

This idea of brain resistance isn’t actually a new idea, it’s always been here. Maybe you are now only becoming aware. Machiavelli captured the essence of what I’m saying several centuries ago in this quote,

And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.

Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.

Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly….

Niccolò Machiavelli – Italian Diplomat, Political Philosopher, Musician, Poet, and Playwright (1469-1527)

image of high speed train leaving the station for brain resistance blog post - DelightabilityMachiavelli might not have had neuroscience on his side, but he was a keen observer of human behavior. His quote captures well, the barriers that new ideas face. I believe in the resilient of the human spirit. I also believe in the power of collective intelligence. I’m optimistic that good changes are afoot. A more sustainable and more inclusive world is arriving. I look forward to new thinking and the systems and institutions to follow that will put in motion the idle capital and talent that the familiar patterns have sidelined. We needn’t marginalize many of the earths population and create artificial scarcity when we live in such an abundant world. So, give in. Stop resisting a better world. The train of human progress is leaving the station. Please get on board. Humanity needs you.

Guaranteed this will be a better journey than the highway hypnosis that might have you travel to a destination where you’d rather not be. And, remember on this journey, bring along your favorite food; perhaps you’ll share it with a neighbor while discussing that new idea.

About the Author

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

Gregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. His latest book project is l’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow.

Learn more and connect with Greg on Linkedin, Facebook, or Twitter.

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Chapters in The Experience Design Blueprint that especially pertain to this post include:

  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 9: The Neighborhood
  • Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall

See a book summary. Read the book reviews on Amazon. Read The Experience Design Blueprint on Kindle or any device using the free Kindle Reader application or read the full color print edition.  Already read it? Please connect and let me know.

Inaction is not the Same as Voting NO

image of girl taking ball and going home for taking action blog post - DelightabilityInaction is not the Same as Voting NO
“Waa! Waa! I’m taking my ball and I’m going home. I don’t want to play anymore.” Sounds pretty childish right?

This same childish behavior manifests itself in adulthood, too. It permeates board rooms, teams of all shapes and sizes, nonprofits, for-profits and government alike. You might reflect on the bickering and inaction of the U.S. Congress or ministers and members of Parliament.

It is as though we all want line-item veto and full compliance with
our will and our wants. If we don’t get it then we take our ball and
leave the playground. We mentally vacate. In essence, we are
willing to watch the proverbial glass fall off the counter. We don’t
reach for it in an attempt to save it. And, when it crashes we look
away as others pick up the broken pieces. This is actually worse
than the bystander effect.

hummingbird sitting idle for taking action blog post - DelightabilityEach of us might think that merely being a passive spectator is not the same egregious action of literally pushing the glass off the counter. You might hear yourself saying, “I didn’t push it. I was merely observing.” Yeah, but you didn’t help it either. Actually, your actions, or inaction rather, might possibly have accelerated its crashing descent. In the eyes of a courtroom, you might be found guilty of complicity. In the eyes of humanity, though, you are guilty of something far worse. You may be put in an increasingly irrelevant category of the parasitic do-nothing.

Just like the child that doesn’t get their way, in adulthood you’ll not
get your way most of the time, either. Part of being a good citizen,
neighbor, leader, follower, team member, etc., is moving forward
image of glass half full for taking action blog post - Delightabilitytogether even when you don’t necessarily agree on every nuance. That is called progress. The annuals of human civilization and social progress are marked with such moments of acceptable discomfort. You can either actively participate or apathetically resign yourself, letting others define your future. Your inaction is not the same as your active voice, saying yes or no.

So, get out of your easy chair and get behind something that matters. Whether it is in your neighborhood, school, work, nonprofit, local election or national election. And, if you disagree, actually take a stand and vote no. Don’t be the do-nothing. We all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and our collective community. There are already enough broken glasses everywhere you look. Rather than adding more, let’s save them, and then let’s work together to fill them.

About the Author

Gregory Olson is the author of The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. Exercises and mental models in the book will build your confidence and competence in envisioning better possibilities and then making them come true, whether you are working alone or alongside a team. Chapters in the book that especially pertain to this post include:

  • Chapter 1: What Makes and Experience?
  • Chapter 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken, and Generous Design
  • Chapter 7: Improving the Journey
  • Chapter 9: The Neighborhood
  • Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall

His latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans.

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.  Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social investor and financial institution, Oikocredit International.

An Open Letter to City Leaders in the World Community

image of Delightability visiting Toronto - all rights reserved - Gregory Olson

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

Gregory Olson is the author of The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true.

His latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book to spark conversations among global citizens.  In a brighter future, we all live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. Visit Press-Kit to learn more.

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.  Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social investor and financial institution, Oikocredit International.

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 do good in the world, by giving people a hand up, not a hand out. Oikocredit is a leader in measuring the impact of its investments through the use of the Grameen Foundation’s Progress out of Poverty Index and also the internally developed Environmental, Social, Governance scorecards (ESG). Our tagline is Investing in People.

A brief history of exploitation in the United States

At one point in the formative years of the United States, some people thought that genocide of the American Indian was a good idea, or at minimum a necessary evil. Fast forward and the new exploit became the African American slaves that many considered to be a business necessity to keep their agricultural and industrial machines going. Today, in the U.S. we struggle with wealth imbalance, minimum living wage, poverty, and a gutted middle class. These issues have created polarizing times as they spark more conversations with people of all walks, political orientations, and even ages.

Dig a little deeper in your middle class pockets

We are living in a time rife with collisions in thought. On the one hand, an overly ambitious and unrealistic government has unbridled enthusiasm to fight costly wars and promote the agenda of mega corporations that fund their election campaigns. On the other hand, these same elected representatives cut funding that would benefit wounded warriors upon their return home. It turns out we continue to pay for wars even after they are fought. Who knew? [said with extreme judgement and sarcasm] But, wars and veterans are only one chapter in a bigger story.

These elected representatives, policy makers and decisions made by the SCOTUS often fail humanity while at the same time they give large corporations nearly free reign over the environment, job crushing mergers and acquisitions that harm people and communities, and tax loopholes that further crush communities and diminish the stability and the security of the nation. The income impoverished middle class (already suffering from economic shocks due to job losses, banking scandals, a mortgage crisis, retirement crisis, student loan crisis, the next crisis) is left holding an increasingly empty bag. There simply isn’t enough tax revenue today or in the future that the middle class will provide to make up for tax dodging, cash hording mega corporations that continue to run largely unchecked.

The video is about humanity not politics

The message in this video isn’t about politics; it is about humanity. We need to separate the reality of the political climate and complexity from what we ought to be doing to preserve and improve a sustainable life for peoples of all nations. I believe and have faith in all reasonable people that they would agree that YES, people in all countries should be able to wake up each morning having access to water, energy, education, freedom from undue imprisonment, preventable diseases, forced labor, rape, attack, and other atrocities. Even better they would have the ability to make meaning whether that is a job, motherhood, serving the community, or volunteering.

The men and women behind the curtain

But, until the world’s only “superpower” decides that it has a real moral and human leadership agenda, we will continue to slide a little more toward a dystopian unsustainable state ruled by GargantuaCorp. As I talk about in Chapter 6 of my book, the GDP and the DOW have little to do with human progress and happiness, but our media and politicians make believe that Main Street progress somehow tracks the progress of Wall Street. The growing pool of people that get their news from alternative sources of media including the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report I think would by now have put politicians and traditional media on notice. Perhaps they are not listening or they are simply waiting for things to change back to a less transparent and less connected era?

You may not own your values

Our conversations reflect our values. Ask yourself what are those things that you are talking about and what does that say about your values? Are you concerned with what is going on in the United States, the political climate, your own livelihood, that of your neighbors, or those across the border or the ocean?

Everybody that watches this video needs to ask themselves, “Do I own my own values or did I inherit or subscribe to the ideology of an agenda that belongs to some special interest, privileged few, parent, church, corporation, politician, pundit, influential, etc?”

A shared agenda that puts people first

It is time that people of the planet share a common humanity and promote a sustainable people-first agenda not a special agenda that puts something else first. We need a little less focus on all things military-industrial complex or political and religious intolerance and much more human centered thinking about things that matter to people on a peaceful sustainable planet. We are overdue for politicians, policy makers, and corporate leaders to begin learning about people, empathy, acceptance, design thinking, and intentionally designing the world we’d all like to live in. Cheers to your next and better conversation. If you’d like to talk further please reach out. For self-help on designing a better world from wherever you sit, read The Experience Design Blueprint. To escape today’s realities and simply dream of a future that has yet to unfold, read L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow.

 

about the author

Gregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. Greg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true.

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.  Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social and impact investor, Oikocredit International.

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.

Blindly Staying the Course When a New Direction Is Needed

The Organizational Schematic

Whether you lead an organization or are the newest kid on the block, you need to know how things work inside the organization. Don’t bother looking at the organizational chart; that isn’t the way work actually gets done or decisions are made. In fact, much of what is decided is undocumented and the workflow invisible. You know when it is done, or in contrast, when it’s not. But, the inbetween state is sometimes really hard to see, especially if you are not looking. There are attributes of a healthy innovation culture that build in safeguards, even when people are not looking. In contrast, all the controls and processes put in place in an unhealthy innovation culture won’t make the organization more innovative any more than an overweight person can think their way to thin.

Bridled and Blind or Agile and Conversant

Is your Organization like a horse with blinders - Delightability llc - The Experience Design BLUEPRINTWhat is the model inside your organization for staying in tune with a changing business landscape and customer ecosystem? Do you have a way to rationalize what you believe inside the organization with the external customer reality? And, how responsive will you be when something changes? How quickly will you notice and which role or department will it be that senses the change? How will each department be informed? Will they respond in a way that is consistent and uniform with smooth handoffs, or will there be ripple effects, balled dropped, cycles burned and ultimately, opportunities lost? Literally, if your organization’s were a horse, how would you describe it? Bridled and controlled by others, marching blind, or ready to shift directions and conversant?

Most organizations don’t have very authentic dialogue around these subjects let alone operating mechanisms or mental models in place to suddenly shift course. This isn’t good for customers, employees, or for the business. In Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall, in my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT, I explore these subjects. Readers will gain recipes and tools to have more productive conversations that lead to outcomes beneficial to customers and to the organization.

In that chapter, among other examples, I share how Joe Fugere of Tutta Bella Pizza was able to form a quick response team that seized the opportunity to serve Tutta Bella Neapolitan style pizza to the President of the United States along with 65 other people aboard Air Force One. I also share how a large mobile operator with vastly more resources habitually lets opportunities pass them by. If you want a healthier innovation culture inside your company read the stories, reflect on the recipes, and begin to shift your conversation; Your future stakeholders will be happy you did.

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGreg Olson is a business coach to leaders and the author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. Chapters in the book that pertain to this blog post include Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System and Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall. Read it on Kindle or any device using the free Kindle Reader application.

Are You an Idea Asset or an Idea Liability?

We do it with food and wine. We also do it with relationships.

We test ideas for value. Sometimes we do this as though we are on autopilot. We’ve all tasted food before committing to consume the entire meal, or sniffed and sipped before imbibing fully in a glass of unfamiliar wine.

But, sometimes in business, in government, and our organizations of all shapes and sizes we forget that we naturally test ideas.

In the confines of our organizations we often act differently than we do “in the wild.” After all, we have departments, hierarchies, biases, tenure, and a culture that isn’t solely our own. Most likely, it evolved and was never intentionally or thoughtfully designed. Our tolerance or intolerance rather, in that environment, changes.

Also, in our own life, we are inherently engaged. This isn’t necessarily the case in the workplace or volunteer space. Employee engagement is down and active disengagement is on the rise. If you work with others, picture this for those around you. That spells increasing trouble for being tolerant, embracing ideas, moving forward and innovation culture in general.

You may see the signs. You may be guilty yourself. We shut down the idea that may come at the wrong time or look unfamiliar. It’s as though we are saying of the new, “Oh no, I don’t drink, or eat, or do anything that you might be offering actually.”

We also shut down ideas that shift us slightly from our comfortable spaces. If the idea comes from outside or the new kid on the block we may especially disfavor it.

Sometimes, we don’t shut the idea down so much as we let it wither on the vine, like forgotten fruit. Avoiding the conversation, avoiding the vote,  avoiding … period. It has the same result, namely no chance to be tested for value, no chance for progress.

Chances are, you have some ideas that are worth exploring. You’ve likely had past ideas fall victim to the filibuster of life. But, you’ll have more ideas. I hope they’ll get fair treatment.

Chances are also, that your current colleagues or one that you’ll meet for the first time soon, will have what could be the best idea ever. I hope you’ll really HEAR it.

As you head into the new month and new year, reflect on your own behavior. Choose to be an idea asset not an idea liability. Have the courage and tolerance to help explore, nudge along, develop, and breath life into budding ideas, no matter their sources, so that the benefits of good ideas may be felt in the real world. And, if the idea tested proves not valuable today, well, you’ll have something to morph, put on ice, or draw inspiration from. At the very least, you’ll have a story of collaboration to share over your next meal or sip of wine.

The Experience Design BLUEPRINT by Greg Olson book cover imageTo see contrasting stories between how a large mobile operator and a regional hotel and restaurant chain handle ideas in their respective innovation cultures, check out my book, “The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.

See the Book and Author Summary PDF or visit my author page on Amazon.

 

When Your Organization Becomes a Leaky Boat?

Boats in Port of Everett by Greg Olson from DelightabilityWhether you are the chief executive officer or the newest and lowest ranking employee, you’re often faced (like right now) with a leaky boat. You have a choice to make.

If you are the chief, then you can delegate or trust that others will take care of the problem. You can get involved directly. You can ignore the problem, because you have more pressing matters to attend. Or, you can empower your people to take care of this leak and all future leaks. But, do your people even care?

With employee engagement low and sinking lower, employees have choices to make, too. As an employee, you can abandon the boat. You can choose to fix the leak, even though it might not be your job or the responsibility of your department. You can wait for the boat to fix itself or hope that someone else will. This bystander effect has long since been proven in experiments that most people will simply wait for others to take action; the more people present, the more inaction. You may also choose to ask somebody else to fix the leaky boat. But, chances are, as an employee, you probably don’t care all that much since it isn’t really your boat to fix. Simply put, you aren’t that committed to this boat.

In times of natural disaster people from different walks of life can more easily shed their biases, titles, and beliefs in order to cooperate toward mutual survival and comfort. We need to be able to get to the same level of cooperation in the workplace, short of an actual disaster. The world of work has changed. There has been a flight to values. Too high of a percentage of the people I interviewed for my recent book, changed jobs before my book completed. Organizations continue to shed people like dirty gym clothes and employees, conditioned by the new normal, have recognized that the number of people looking out for their interests can be counted on one finger. So, at the first sign of smoother waters elsewhere, they head for another boat.

If you want to increase engagement and build a better innovation neighborhood inside your organization, then you’ll need new mental models and new conversations. You won’t accomplish much with a leaky boat. For far less than the price of your next non-productive meeting you can pick up a copy of my latest book, the Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.

You can read the The Experience Design BLUEPRINT book by Greg Olson shown across screensKindle formatted book on nearly any screen, even in a browser, using the free Kindle Reader Apps. Even if you cherry picked only a few of the 56 recipes and 25 examples to learn by and apply to your business, you’d be well ahead of where you are today. Learn how to be more like bees, and less like raccoons. Discuss how you can emulate a better neighborhood. Make your Promise Delivery System visible. Intentionally design the experiences of internal customers so that together, you can win the hearts and minds of external customers.

Be courageous and start a new conversation; to benefit yourself, your people, your customers, and ultimately the entire organization. Tomorrow there will be new leaks; I promise you that. I only hope you’ll be prepared to handle them.

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. See the Book and Author Summary PDF or find the book on Amazon.

Does it Matter Where Ideas Come From? Sourcing Innovation at McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Your Organization

When I first began to write this article I thought I’d start with a little history and facts to compare McDonald’s and Starbucks. I even thought that it would be nice if I created an infographic that showed the comparison. But, I’m not going to do that. If you hop over to Nasdaq or your favorite stock peering site you’ll find that both stocks are doing well. At the bottom of this article I’ve included links to fun facts about each of the companies.

Both companies have provided great returns to shareholders over the last 10 years. Both of these companies have a large and growing worldwide presence, a huge number of employees and partners. No, I’m not talking about those things because they are not a predictor of future performance. Heck, even each of the companies will remind you of that in their safe harbor statements.  And remember, there are plenty of darling stocks that perform, at least until they don’t.

Remaining culturally relevant and connected to consumers share of mind and wallet
No, I’m going a different direction. I want to talk about things that aren’t so closely tied to stock performance or revered in annual reports and press releases. I want to begin a discussion of how each of these companies source innovative ideas and ask readers if you think that this topic has any bearing on a company’s ability to be sustainable, viable, cultural relevant, and able to gain a share of your mind and wallet.

starbucks infographics on mystarbucksidea
MyStarbucksIdea has launched 277 ideas from customers, and celebrated its five-year anniversary March 2013. (Graphic: Business Wire)

Starbucks practices on sourcing innovative ideas
Starbucks encourages idea submission from anybody, inside or outside the organization and even encourages you to vote, share, discuss, and see other peoples ideas as they are made visible on the My Starbucks Idea website. Experience it for yourself at
http://www.mystarbucksidea.com

One of the reasons for the My Starbucks Idea website is that CEO Howard Schultz wanted to improve the customer experience. He felt that the 60 million customers visiting its stores on a weekly basis might have something to say about what the future Starbucks experience should look like. In that sense Starbucks customers are encouraged to co-create the future. In the first five years of the My Starbucks Idea website, from 2008-2013, 150,000 ideas have been submitted from customers with 277 of those being implemented.

McDonalds no loitering sign as seen in a Seattle McDonald's
Picture of sign seen inside a Seattle area McDonald’s. When asking how that sign made one customer feel, she reported it made her feel hostile. She said she would not be coming back.

McDonald’s official policy on unsolicited ideas
McDonald’s, on the other hand, doesn’t have an equivalent My McDonald’s idea website. If fact, they make it very clear in an FAQ that resides on their website exactly what their policy is concerning ideas, “It is our company’s policy not to consider unsolicited ideas from outside the McDonald’s system. Because we are always working on new ideas and strategies within the Company, we do not review ideas from outside McDonald’s to avoid confusion over the origin of an idea. We realize that we may be missing out on a few good ideas, but we had to adopt this policy for legal and business reasons.” When companies cite policy they appear less human as in the sign I saw at a McDonald’s in the Seattle area.

Did you know that McDonald’s delivers to its customers in 18 countries? But, if you want delivery in your country don’t bother asking or trying to vote on it. Remember, your ideas are unwelcome and irrelevant. I find that a little offensive. I also find it a little off-putting that the McDonald’s system, as they put it, does not include the customer. Any organization’s business system, or promise delivery system as I call it, should have the customer at the core.  Imagine the burden this places on Hamburger University and Franchise owners. They must innovate and own all of the good ideas in isolation, a tall order for them compared to the 60 million customers that visit a McDonald’s each day that may actually have some insights to share and ideas how to improve the McDonald’s experience. For my mental model on a promise delivery system, sign up to be notified of my forthcoming book.

If we are voting on which company and brand will be more culturally relevant across populations and feel more human and alive, I’ll vote for the Starbucks brand. If, on the other hand, we are voting on which brand will attract me for the late night drive through or clean restrooms available during a road trip, I’ll tip my hat to McDonald’s. But, I’m only one customer. I’d like to understand how each of their practices around ideas makes you feel as a consumer? Which brand speaks more to you? 

Try This!  What about in your own organization – does it matter where an idea comes from? Could it come from customers? Does it matter at what level of the organization the idea comes from – Senior Vice President versus the most recent hire in accounts payable? What about a supplier? Do you know the answer and if you do, would others in your organization see it the same as you do? Start this discussion inside your organization.

My book is the Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.  Read it and you’ll be better equipped to design more remarkable customer experiences and then make those experiences come to life in your organization and the business landscape. You’ll also build a more relevant and enduring organization.

Here are those fun facts on Starbucks and McDonalds.

About the Author

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

Gregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.

Connect with Greg on Linkedin, Facebook, or Twitter.

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Exercises and mental models in the book will build your confidence and competence in envisioning better possibilities and then making them come true, whether you are working alone or alongside a team. Chapters in the book that especially pertain to this post include:

  • Chapter 1: What Makes and Experience?
  • Chapter 5: The Rental Car Experience?
  • Chapter 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken, and Generous Design
  • Chapter 7: Improving the Journey
  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 9: The Neighborhood
  • Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed
  • Chapter 14: From Argh to Aha!

See a book summary. Read the book reviews on Amazon. Read The Experience Design Blueprint on Kindle or any device using the free Kindle Reader application or read the full color print edition.  Already read it? Please connect and let me know.