To Pivot or Persist, That is the Question

image of compass for Gregory Olson blog post Pivot or Persist

When Performance Doesn’t Track Expectations

It happens to most of us. We reach a point where a campaign, a project, or even an entire enterprise is not progressing as expected. When results don’t live up to expectations you have a decision to make – do something different or stay the course. If you are working alone this is easier; you can decide and then take immediate action. If the road is crowded with other decision makers (or stakeholders) your decision making ability may encounter some traffic. Aside from the slowdown, your options for action may be more limited.

I started this article by suggesting to pivot or persist is the question. As usual, life is slightly more complicated than the simple binary choice presented. Other alternatives exist.

Beyond the Pivot

  • Full stop (This might be relevant if you have a go big or go home model or you run out of cash)
  • Blame others (I include this only because many people resort to blame when things don’t go according to plan. Don’t join this nonproductive crowd and as importantly don’t let the turkeys get you down.)

The Persist path has much variation. Staying the course does not necessarily mean leaving things exactly as they are.

Variations of Persist

  • You can persist “as is” expecting that time or external circumstances will eventually bring you favor. The timing goddess can bless you or curse you. There were fundamentally sound businesses and even startups that got washed out during the dot com bubble simply because of timing. Likewise, there are publicly traded startups that went public at an opportune time but still require ongoing cash infusions to survive. Timing isn’t everything, but it is huge.
  • You can adjust your expectations and carry on. Sometimes you have to get grounded in reality; not all Little Leaguers will make it to the Major Leagues.
  • You can adjust other elements, e.g., the product, the service, the distribution, the messaging, how you think about and engage your audience, etc.

The More Drastic Pivot

When more drastic action is required or patience runs thin, there is the pivot. One thing to think about is how far do you pivot. Think of a sailing vessel. Will you turn completely around 180 degrees? Will you pivot 90 degrees, 45 degrees? How significant will your course change be? A word of caution on pivots: If you have romantic dreams of reinvention you might be looking for more of an escape than a pivot. If the underlying foundation and behaviors is what’s retarding performance then any romantic reinvention will only expose that pattern. It would be best to shore up the foundation and improve your operating mechanisms – those improvements will serve you well whether you pivot or persist.

Remember, if you a sailing in very rough seas a pivot might save you in the short run but you really have to persist until the weather clears. Make sure your pivot will actually change your circumstances. If it doesn’t you may be returning to the very question we began with, to pivot or persist.

No matter what lies ahead for you, when the path forward is murky and your spirits are running low remember these words, “When the world says, ‘Give up,’ Hope whispers, ’Try it one more time.”’ – unknown

“When the world says, ‘Give up,’ Hope whispers, ’Try it one more time.”’ – unknown

It’s lonely at the top, whether you are the Chief or the Chair or the master of your freelance domain it can be helpful to get some outside and objective help from a business coach, advisor or other confidant. Good luck in your journey.

about the author

Gregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossipreneurs: 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 BLUEPRINTGreg is a business and marketing consultant who founded Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers success will follow. He also believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help. Gregory serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social investor, Oikocredit International and as an advisor for Seattle University’s Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering.

Mind Hijacked: A History Lesson in Propaganda

image of Truth-Sculpture-Chicago-Millenium-Park-Delightability-Author-Gregory-Olson

[This article is from a talk I gave to members of the Olympic Club on Jan 28, 2016. I’ve added a few links and shared it here for members of the Olympic Club and the broader public. I’ve turned off comments but feel free to reach me on social media.]

An 8 Minute Talk And An Even Quicker Read

Gentlemen, today I’m going to take you to propaganda school, all in 8 minutes. I’m going to share the evolution of propaganda, tell you why this subject matters, and of course I’m going to suggest a course of action for you.

First , A Bit Of History.

The word propaganda comes from the Latin verb propagare – meaning to multiply or breed. Think plants. The use of the word to spread ideas came a little later. In 1622, Pope Gregory XV founded the College of propaganda. It’s purpose was to train missionaries who would spread Catholicism in non-Catholic countries.

The word Propaganda isn’t inherently good or bad. It is simply the spread of Information. But propaganda evolved. Here is how that happened. Fast forward to 1916.

A man named George Creel, became involved in President Woodrow Wilson’s re-election campaign. Creel discovered that many military leaders wanted strong censorship on the war. But, Creel had a different idea. He sent President Wilson a brief in which he argued for “expression, not suppression” of the press.

On April 2, 1917 Wilson asked Congress for a Declaration of War against Germany – saying “The world must be made safe for democracy.” Seven days after Congress granted Wilson’s request, President Wilson established through Executive Order, the Committee on Public Information or CPI for short. He appointed George Creel as its Chairman.

The CPI was a propaganda agency: (its purpose wasn’t to train Catholic missionaries – that is for sure) Its purpose was to influence American public opinion toward supporting the war effort. The CPI spun facts to present an upbeat picture of the American war effort. They created consistent messages that appeared in newsprint, posters, radio, telegraph, cable and even movies. No doubt you’ve see many of these. (Television had not yet been invented or you’d have seen messages extended to that medium, too.)

The CPI also recruited about 75,000 volunteers (4-minute men) who spoke about the war at social events. The agency was successful. It heavily influenced American public opinion toward supporting the war effort.

One of the people who worked on George Creel’s staff was Edward Bernays, he was the American nephew of Sigmund Freud. After the war ended Bernays took what he learned at the agency and wrote a book, called, Propaganda 1928. Find it here along with a great intro by Noam Chomsky.

In that book Bernays revealed it is possible to regiment the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments their bodies. Bernays recognized that in an age of democracy, those in power, control the crowds. Bernays was the first one to apply Freud’s ideas to business and politics. Bernays showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn’t need by appealing to their unconscious desires.

Bernays showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn’t need by appealing to their unconscious desires.

Bernays worked with the American Tobacco Company and created the Torches of Freedom campaign that is credited with encouraging women to smoke, socially. His ideas sparked the notion that we are all consumers. He became popular with the US Government and agencies like the CIA who used his principles to force regime change and popularize American (corporate special interests).

A Banana Digression: Did You Hear the One about Bananas and the CIA?

Unfortunately this isn’t a joke and you wouldn’t like the punchline if it was. If you eat bananas, the 4th most consumed food behind rice, wheat, and milk, you can thank Bernays and the CIA along with United Fruit. But, the democratically elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz who wanted to enact labor standards, a minimum wage, increase educational funding and opportunities for more people to vote in elections, would not thank you. His social reforms that would benefit workers and communities alike were abhorrent to the hugely profitable United Fruit Company. A CIA coup in 1954 deposed the leader and installed the first of what would become a series of U.S. military dictators. Read about the 1954 coup on Wikipedia or the book, Bananas: How The United Fruit Company Shaped the World. That could be a related story, “How the U.S. taxpayer is a stooge for funding regime change that pads the pockets of multinationals corporations. #panamapapers #taxavoidance #moneyinpolitics”

OK, back to the talk I gave…

Facts Make Way For Emotions

Today, Bernays is considered to be the father of public relations. With Bernays, propaganda shifted to be less about communicating facts and more about the movement of ideas across our emotions. Remember I said Propaganda isn’t necessarily good or bad. Propaganda can be used for good causes like promoting methods of water conservation during times of drought. There is no harm in that. Or, the Smokey the Bear campaign that reminds us that “Only You can Prevent Forest Fires.”

But propaganda can be harmful, too. Unfortunately as it turns out, Joseph Goebbels (pronounced yosif gerrbells), who would become the minister of propaganda for Nazi Germany studied and applied Bernays ideas.

So What Has Changed? Why Does This Matter?

Yesterday, Jan 27, marks the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. And today it is easier and cheaper to incite hatred and stir people up than ever before in history. Anybody can create a twitter account. ISIS is using 50,000 of them. We now have more media channels to reach more people in more parts of the world. Since 2014, the Islamic State (ISIS) has disseminated more than 700 propaganda videos.

It isn’t just ISIS, some presidential candidates are using hate speech. In Europe – the land of the Holocaust, extreme nationalists exploit the current refugee crisis. But it’s even more than that. Propaganda pervades every facet of our lives. As Bernays said, it is the invisible branch that controls the masses.

So What Do I Want You To Do?

I want you to be an active participant in shaping the truth. In my recent book I share the ideas of building truth sculptures, creating empathy, restoring community and participating in a propaganda for good network. If you are a concerned Global Citizen you should read it. It is both light-hearted and deadly serious. The subtitle is, “A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow.” I am hopeful for the future, but not without the participation of thinking concerned citizens, like you.

But, aside from my book, we all need to take a stand and sift through the propaganda to find the facts. On any given topic amid all of the messages that bombard us, is the truth waiting to be revealed. Are GMOs harmful? Are those cities, farmers, countries, and people against Monsanto really anti science and just don’t understand? Or are corporate profits controlling the narrative through propaganda? This is one example. You can probably think of many others. Minds everywhere have been hijacked on myriad topics and issues. This is especially true in the U.S. in the height of a polarized presidential election year. Chances are, most people can’t really claim ownership over their own thoughts about the candidate they support. Imagine we each had a “Mind Hijacked” alert system.

What Else Can You Do?

Write letters, articles, emails, post comments, and have conversation in places like this and at your dinner table. You can spark others to action and respect truth.

What comes to mind for me is Pastor Martin Niemoller’s Poem, First they came? It is a powerful statement about the failure of the German people to speak out against the Nazis. Do you remember the poem?

First they came for the socialists and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionists,
Then they came for the Jews, but I didn’t speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me. And there was no one left to speak for me.

Gentlemen, somebody needs to be an active caretaker of the truth. If not you, who?

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.  Ideas in CH8: Social related to this post include:

  • Propaganda for Good Network
  • Depolarization Unit
  • Brain Retrain
  • Humanity Dashboard
  • Norm Flags
  • Reasonable Investor Test

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.

Preventing the Next Scandal

image of whistle for prevent the next scandal blog post - delightability

Wells Fargo Joins Seemingly Endless List of Companies with Chief Executives Involved in Scandal

[September 29, 2016 update – Add Wells Fargo and its chief executive, John Stumph, to the seemingly endless list of scandals that could have been prevented. Read on to learn how to prevent the next scandal.]

Preventing the Next Scandal
German prosecutors raided the offices of Volkswagen AG to secure evidence for the investigation of the company in the emission-cheating scandal. Volkswagen stock has plummeted and the CEO has resigned, maintaining the story that he had no involvement in any wrongdoing. Also, the head of Volkswagen’s U.S. business answered questions from a congressional panel. But, somewhere, deep within the organization, is a person or people who knew exactly the genesis of the software cheat. They also likely know how the cheat has been able to persist through the delivery of 11 millions cars to the marketplace. So, where was the whistleblower?

And the Whistleblower is …
The whistleblower is nonexistent. There isn’t one. And, it really isn’t any surprise. Traditionally, there hasn’t been a safety net for would-be whistleblowers. Their lives are often wrecked by the people in governments, agencies, and corporations whose practices they expose. History reveals it is easier to systematically wreck the lives of the whistleblower and demonize them, than it is to make changes to a system that has run amok to the advantage of some. The list of wrongdoers, both people and organizations is long. View “list of whistleblowers” on Wikipedia and you’ll have days of entertainment, albeit in a dreaded, “watching the aftermath of a train crash”, sort of way. You’ll recognize some high-profile companies and organizations, but you may not know the back stories that led up to the moment the whistle blew. The lead up is the most important and often untold story.

Wasted resources
Imagine all of the resources, human and technological, inside and outside VW, that are focused on the emission cheating scandal. Now add to that, the resources involved in the multitude of other scandals and investigations happening. And to that, imagine further adding the resources yet to be consumed for future scandals that will sadly unfold. It’s abhorrent. Surely we can better make use of those resources, not the least of which would be to spend more time with family and friends and in strengthening our communities. It’s time we stop trashing the human race and the environment in the short run and pretending as though there will be no long-term consequences for generations to come. There always are long term consequences. Short term indulgent thinking is like junk food. It might satisfy our immediate hunger, filling us for the moment. But, it lacks nutritional value and substance. And in the long run, it doesn’t work for your waistline or your health.

Short term indulgent thinking is like junk food. It might satisfy our immediate hunger, filling us for the moment. But, it lacks nutritional value and substance.

You wouldn’t have blown the whistle either
Ask yourself, if you were an employee inside Volkswagen and knew about the emission cheating software, would you have said anything? To whom would you tell? How? When? You probably would not have said anything. Who has the courage to do say or do anything differently than toe the line? After all, if you’re livelihood is dependent upon continued ruinous behavior, whether it is emissions cheating or other nefarious activity, you’re not very motivated to change. Especially if you want to continue eating, paying your bills, and getting about in your life. Why disrupt it, especially for abstract things like other people you don’t know, the climate, or the environment. It’s even easier to justify bad behavior when the results of your actions are “at a distance” or you don’t see the immediate impact in the near term.

The time for change is NOW
As a society, we need a rethink, a re-frame. It’s time we pivot our behavior toward human progress, not away from it. Some of our past behaviors have not been stabilizing for any democracy on earth and they have retarded human progress and harmed the environment. Here are three things we can do to prevent the next Volkswagen emission cheating scandal or Enron debacle or Peanut Corporation of America poisoning or [fill in the blank here].

  1. Create a safety net for would-be whistleblowers
    As I’ve written about previously, we need a culture of care from the board room to the dining room. We also need a safety net for people that can sound the alarm when they see an innovation culture gone awry, whether it is involved in financial engineering, food production, emission scandals, government abuse, healthcare fraud, military wrongdoing, or some other area of society. We need a safety net for the people who have the courage to stand up and declare a system breakdown. But, we know most people won’t tell stories or reveal that bad things are happening unless they feel safe. So, let’s create a safety net for people to tell us when bad things are happening. If a whistleblower advances an accusation and then subsequently gets fired as a result of it, instead of having to crowdfund their way back to financial health they can draw against the safety net aka Whistleblower Insurance Fund. Fund the safety net through fees paid by the perpetrators of past egregious behaviors. In that sense, it is an insurance policy organizations pay into, triggered by their past bad behavior. It could be corrective in that people will feel safer to sound the alarm early, possibly preventing later disastrous and more costly circumstances. So, who would fund such an insurance scheme today? For starters, the banks that engaged in financial engineering that brought about the global financial crisis, automotive makers who delayed recalls that knowingly killed unwitting vehicle occupants, oil companies that have ruined ecosystems, etc.
  2. Create an Early Warning System. Probably the best innovation for policymakers in government and industry would be to collaborate on a system that prevents the need for whistleblowers in the first place. Alongside the notion of “ideas can come from anywhere” organizations also need to instill the notion of warning flags and that anybody can invoke them. As in automotive racing, a black flag means disqualification and a return to the pits. Nobody shoots the messenger, the flagger is safe to be the flagger in future racing events. We need to revere the person that waves the proverbial “unsportsmanlike-conduct” flag. When a rogue engineer, or accountant, or marketer, or whomever, does something that doesn’t appear to advance an agenda that favors humans and the environment or worse outright harms it and subsequently the organization, then we need to make this visible. And, we need this to be made visible long before the train is off the track and things cannot be easily corrected. 11 million cars is the current tally for VW cars affected, along with a 40% slide in stock price, a six billion dollar set aside for fixes (and climbing), halted sales, diminished resale values, and a tarnished brand. An early warning flagging system would be much less expensive.
  3. Declare a Stop. As a species, we originally create industries to do useful things for humanity. It makes us unique from other animals on the planet. And, when industries and institutions stop doing useful things for humanity we need to unwind them, divert them, correct them, check them, and even revoke corporate charters. I’m not suggesting that Volkswagen should go away; I don’t think they should. I think there are many good and innovative people that can do tremendous good for themselves, their country, and for a global community. But, when their culture or leadership prevents them from doing this or their harm exceeds their good, then they need to be stopped.

Conclusion
It is important that preventative measures be taken ahead of more ruin to humans and the environment. Government regulation is necessary but insufficient. We need a more holistic and inclusive system that isn’t reserved for trial lawyers and the judicial system to work on behalf of things already dead or harmed. A free market without any oversight is like the pudgy little kid at mom’s party that takes more cookies when guests are not looking. Pretty soon the cookies are gone and mom’s friend Marge never got one. It’s not immediately obvious why. Thankfully, in our increasingly global community, people are looking. You should be, too.

This article is a call to leadership in all industries, government, and academia to consider that as a human species we ought to be sunsetting wasteful, deceptive, and harmful practices that manufacture financial crises, harm people and the environment, waste human potential, and then remedy it later through courts. Let’s put that nonsense in a museum. But, this article is also a call to action for every member of civil society to engage leadership in that conversation and hold them to a higher account. We can and must do better.

Rather than attack whistleblowers, let’s create a safer environment where we can learn from them, confront our collective reality, correct our behaviors going forward, and move on to creating a better world with more nutritious cookies for mom, Marge, and all. These are conversations worth having inside your organization, with elected officials, among elected officials, and at your dinner table. Or, we can continue to talk about the next scandal over our collective spilled milk.

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. In Chapter 8: Social of the book Gregory provides historical perspective around whistleblowers as well as promotes ideas that would help make society more civil with respect for truth, increased accountability, and transparency. This is good for nations and good for investors in companies who get caught up in scandal.

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

Greg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. Chapter 8: Promise Delivery System in The Experience Design Blueprint especially pertains to this article. The promise delivery system is a mental model for making and keeping promises to an organization’s various stakeholders. It is technology agnostic. Any organization can operationalize a promise delivery system using whatever technology and personnel it has at its disposal.

Gregory 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.

Don't Let your Ideology Blind you to the Facts

The nature of politics is polarizing, it has been and will be. With various stakeholders involved in internal and external affairs, governing a body politic will necessarily create tensions between opposing points of view.

Conflict itself is not the problem; discourse is healthy. In a civilized society, we debate, hold forums, investigate, tweet, post, blog, and otherwise share, opine, and converse. We no longer duel to the death, resort to fisticuffs, or otherwise inflict bodily harm on those who disagree with us.

The problem is when facts become assaulted or when politicians and wannabe politicians conveniently create new “facts” when existing facts don’t fit their ideology. It is a dangerous and destructive path when facts no longer represent reality. Because, by definition, they have to.

Expunging the facts and resorting instead to some ideology is akin to mythology. It might make for good lore among followers but doesn’t have a credible place in governing. If we want to make real human progress we’ll have to begin a journey of becoming reacquainted with reality and the healthy conversations that accompany it.

The assault on facts goes beyond political circles. At work, in your home, and in your community, you are either a witness to, defender of, or perpetrator of this assault on facts. The same is true in the board room. When society disregards facts, we open the doors to more scandalous corporate and political behavior. I think we’ve all had a long enough go at war, strife, and manufactured economic crises.

“Don’t get so set on your goal that you lose your humanity.” Cicero

As John Lennon said, “Give peace a chance.” Let’s begin our investment in human progress by accepting and confronting our collective reality. When politicians and corporate leaders don’t, then let’s reject them and their blinding ideology relegating them to history books containing other mythological creatures and beliefs.

about the author

Gregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossipreneurs: 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. It’s a dreamer’s handbook with “impossible” ideas including the Truth Sculpture, Data Observatory, Propaganda for Good Network, Truth Machine Intelligence Service, Truth Ticker, Empathy Builder, Make Meaning Department, and more.

Greg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTexperiences and then making them come true.

Greg is a business and marketing consultant who founded strategy and design firm, Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers success will follow. He also believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.

 

A Culture of Care Begins With YOU!

A Culture of Care Begins With YOU!
When I first began writing this post I was targeting leadership, but then I realized many people with titles of leadership have adopted belief filters that will render this message inert. They’ll never see it and if they did, many will think their circumstances so unique the message doesn’t apply to them. But, you are smarter than this, so read on.

sorrow image - culture of care blog post at delightabilityThis week, 3 noteworthy things happened:

  • The CEO of Volkswagen resigned amid the discovery of emission cheating vehicle software and the subsequent battering of the company stock
  • Turing Pharmaceuticals bowed to public pressure and agreed to reverse an abrupt 5000 percent price hike of the life saving drug Daraprim
  • The former owner of the now defunct Peanut Corporation of America was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in a salmonella outbreak that killed 9 people and sickened hundreds

Pope Francis addresses the U.S. Congress
Amid these negative developments Pope Francis addressed members of the U.S. Congress.
I want to focus on a few words that Pope Francis shared, namely “culture of care”. Here they are in context.

“In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.”

Think about the possibilities for those words, “A Culture of Care”.

image for reasonable investor test - culture of care blog post at delightabilityReasonable Investor Test
I want to share a personal story. In 1998, I started a software company. As the founding CEO, it didn’t take long to realize I had two jobs, raising capital and building the organization’s operations. We hired an outside CEO to help and I took the reigns as the Chief Operating Officer. As the company grew I couldn’t be party to every decision, nor could I attend every meeting, though employees continued to seek my approval. I invented a test they could employ on their own, without me in the room. I called it the Reasonable Investor Test.

I explained it to them like this. Imagine yourself presenting your decision to a collection of 16 reasonable investors that politely assembled to hear your story.They are sitting across from you at a large table looking you directly in the eye. You are about to explain to them the decision you plan to make or the action you will take. If you can look them in the eye and justify the decision or expenditure, then it passes the test. If you would not be willing to do this then you probably should not make the decision or take the action you are considering.

I concocted this test after our CEO and VP of Sales decided to prematurely celebrate a customer win by indulging in a lavish and expensive meal for themselves. I begrudgingly approved the expense, but I didn’t think reasonable investors would have appreciated their invested money being spent this way. We never did win that customer and the CEO and VP of Sales never understood or embraced the Reasonable Investor Test. But, again you’re smarter than this, so read on.

Life beyond the spreadsheet or whim
A culture of care, like life, is a bit more complicated than what might initially appear favorable on a spreadsheet or what one might feel like doing at the moment. I’m guessing the former CEO of the Peanut Butter Corporation might today consider more stakeholders. I’m also guessing that the former CEO of Volkswagen might employ some sort of Reasonable Stakeholder Test for employees to use in guiding their own work or that of colleagues. Investors are not the only stakeholders just like spreadsheets are not the only tool. There are many other stakeholders to be considered, customers, employees, the environment. And closer to home, stakeholders might include neighbors, the community and even members of your household.

cooperation image - culture of care blog post at delightabilityFreed from the shackles of inaction
Pope Francis shared great words with Congress. I hope members not only listened, but that they heard him. Imagine if Congress freed themselves of their own proverbial mental shackles and focused forward, to a new era, a “people-first” era that confronts reality, embraces science, respects natural resources, and advances prosperity for all households, even the people who don’t currently have one. Imagine possibilities where members act cooperatively, embracing a culture of care, leading the way the for the nation.

penguin image - culture of care blog post at delightabilityBut, even if they don’t, a culture of care can begin with each of us. At home, in school, in our communities, at work, even in the online community. So what about you? How will you create a culture of care, in your home, in your work, in your community? You’ll likely need a test to go with it. What will be your equivalent Reasonable Investor Test? We really can all do better as individuals, organizations, and the world community. I hope you’ll do your part. Onward.

about the author

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author. His latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow.

Greg also authored, The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. The models in the Experience Design BLUEPRINT are equally relevant to organizations of all types and sizes including start-up entrepreneurs, nonprofits, for-profits, and government.

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.

Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do

image of job stealing robot - Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do - Delightability blogRobots Don’t Kill Jobs But CEOs Do
This message is especially for CEOs. Please forward to CEOs and board members if you have the courage. There is much talk of robots taking people’s jobs. It is easy to blame a machine, or another abstract like “a rapidly changing market” as Hewlett-Packard’s Whitman recently did as the company announced another cut of 25,000 to 30,000 positions.

But, to date, a robot has never walked a person to the door, not yet. And, markets don’t eliminate jobs either. I’ve yet to hear of market rain droplets falling onto workers, rendering them unemployed. No, the special words, “You’re Fired” or the equivalent actions are still reserved for humans. It is company leadership that kills jobs, not robots.

Yes, technology changes and so do markets. This has always been the case. But, let’s be really clear about what’s happening. Like stock buybacks, M&A activity and other initiatives that preoccupy the minds of board rooms and executive offices, this is about maximizing shareholder value in the short run.

image of hog that can't see - Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do - Delightability blogMore plainly, it is about greed. The intent is to move money that would otherwise be paid to workers and redistribute instead to leadership and investors, either directly or indirectly. It is a flawed equation from the onset. History is proving this more and more, if only we would learn. Unfortunately, maximizing shareholder value and its related bad ideas are still perpetuated by business schools, investors of the short run, and the unwitting. There are simply more stakeholders to the equation that are made to be invisible, namely humans and the environment. Smart progressive leaders and companies already realize this. So do the customers that align to those values.

board room image - Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do - Delightability blogA better world begins with the decisions made at dinner tables and carried through to the office and the board room. CEO decisions don’t live in some special vacuum. When a Hungarian camerawoman decides to trip a man carrying his child as they strive for refuge and a fresh start, the world watches. And, when a CEO chooses to trip a person or family that relied on a paycheck, also on the way to somewhere, the world watches, too. The song of cuts has been played over and over again. In the case of HP, 100,000 jobs cut in the last 10 years. In the case of Microsoft 20,000+ in recent years. For HSBC is was 50,000 jobs recently announced to be cut and Deutsche Bank yesterday announced it will cut 25% of its workforce, or 23,000 human beings. Plenty of other examples abound. It is time to change the music. It’s also time to own up to the decision and stop blaming “things”.

We can pretend that these decisions will be in isolation and there will be no ripple effect or interactions, but that would be delusional. The effects will be long-lasting and far-reaching, inside and outside your organization. As a former CEO shared with me last week, “When there are deep cuts in the organization, it never recovers. Everybody becomes scarred. I can’t say I was unaffected.”

girl on pier looking onward - Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do - Delightability blogSelf proclaimed plutocrat Nick Hanauer warns us in his Ted talk, “Beware, fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming.” In that talk he says, “We plutocrats need to get this trickle-down economics thing behind us, this idea that the better we do, the better everyone else will do. It’s not true. How could it be? I earn 1,000 times the median wage, but I do not buy 1,000 times as much stuff, do I? I actually bought two pairs of these pants, what my partner Mike calls my manager pants. I could have bought 2,000 pairs, but what would I do with them? How many haircuts can I get? How often can I go out to dinner? No matter how wealthy a few plutocrats get, we can never drive a great national economy. Only a thriving middle class can do that. ”

Nick realizes that he won’t be purchasing 1000s of computers and phones and haircuts and meals to make up for those workers who will lose their jobs and have to tighten their belts.

image of hope - Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do - Delightability blogAs fictional character in The Hobbit, Thorin Oakenshield, said, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. But, sad or merry, I must leave it now. Farewell.” Tolkien’s worlds are make-believe, but ours are not. And, there is no my world, your world, and their world. It is all “our world”. I implore CEOs to make it a better world, not worse.

CEO actions need to make the companies they lead more relevant to more stakeholder and not less so. Let’s admit that the keys to the kingdom have been in the hands of the wrong people, the takers. This “taker” corporate culture has been more about taking, evading, cutting, dodging, buying back, and shifting. Boards of Directors have been complicit in this corrosive behavior. Others have watched from the sidelines cheering it on or in horror. The rabbit hole of greed is very deep. If corporate leaders continue on a destructive “taker” path, they’ll build an organization of diminishing relevance.

imagine mosaic image - Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do - Delightability blogHuman progress is overdue. It’s time we return the keys to the makers. Let’s once again make, create, invest. Let’s celebrate progress, collaborate, innovate. Let’s inspire. Let’s be authentic. Let’s be concerned. Let’s invite newcomers to the table. Let’s keep our promises both explicit and implicit. Let’s solve problems of the world. Boards need to support CEO actions in this regard and then hold them to account.

In this re-frame, companies have an opportunity to become more relevant. Relevant to the older worker and the younger worker alike. Relevant to the budding innovator that has yet to graduate. Relevant to the communities and the stores and channels and vendors that work in those communities.

If you are the CEO, ask yourself why should your employees, customers, partners, or other stakeholders be emotionally invested in the business when you are not.

image of journey - Robots Don't Kill Jobs But CEOs Do - Delightability blogThere are plenty of people who can help you re-frame your business, redefine your products and services and build relevance for what’s next. Look for customer experience consultants, service design expertise, innovation consultants or as I prescribe in Ch 14 of my book, create an innovation neighborhood and stock it in part with outside entrepreneurs. Use technology to complement humans not replace them.

Jobs will be eliminated for reasons, some good and some bad. I realize this. But, if you are the human behind the decision to destroy jobs, then you must confront reality. You’ll eventually have to. Because the humans you eliminate will likely build robots and organize a silent revolution that will one day displace you, too.

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.  As discussed in Chapter 14, the world of work has changed and it’s not coming back as we knew it. The book is available in full-color print or on Kindle.

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 all live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. Chapters in L’ impossi preneurs that relate to this article include Chapter 1: Flavors of Entrepreneurship, Chapter 5: Wealth & Economy and Ch 12: World of Work.

Some of the “impossible” ideas of Chapter 5 include Universal Unconditional Basic Income, an Innovation Clearinghouse, Participatory Budgeting, The Make Meaning Department, Empathy Builder, Building a Truth Sculpture, a Safety Net for Entrepreneurs, Household Prosperity Index, and revisiting the Corporation.

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.

5 Lessons: Picking Up Passengers on the Train of Progress

Here is the situation. You’ve got some place you’d like to be; a destination yet to be realized. Progress, a big change initiative, the launch of a product or service. Whether you’re the chair, the chief, the executive director, product manager, board member, or some other concerned change maker, you acknowledge you’re not going to get everybody to the destination all by yourself. You’ll need other people to get on board and participate.

Here are 5 lessons to master so that you can all reach the desired destination together.

  1. high speed train in germany - gregory olson - delightabilityOnboarding is Essential

Assuming you all know the destination (that is another article) you’ll be picking up passengers (employees, vendors, partners, members, volunteers, etc.) at various stops. Be mindful that not everyone will be at the same level of awareness. Slow down and help people get on board. The recently boarded are not as familiar. Take time to show them around. You want to avoid cognitive overload, the proverbial drinking from the firehouse, where little is retained. Provide people with communication tools that allow them to slowly get immersed. See the related blog post about transfer and absorption value as key to better storytelling.

be smooth like a washing machine spin cycle - gregory olson - delightability

  1. Maintain Smooth

As you journey together toward your destination, pace and rhythm are key. You don’t want passengers to get thrown off as you approach a corner too fast. You also don’t want a sputtering, inefficient engine. Emulate the smoothness of your washing machine’s spin cycle. In your organization you can establish operating mechanisms to keep things running more smoothly. Like the garbage service or doing laundry at home, operating mechanisms create a regular cycle to keep things from piling up or from being neglected. You’ll retain more passengers on your journey if you avoid abrupt changes, extremes, and neglect. Even a comprehensive strategy pivot can be smooth when thoughtfully handled.

  1. the playground is where ideas live - gregory olson - delightabilityKeep Synchronized

Some people will want to go faster. Others will think the journey is far too slow. Listen to both concerns. Consider ideas can come from anywhere, even the newest passenger. Inviting others to share ideas could shift your perspective for the better. Create a space for that conversation to happen. I call this the playground and it represents the idea zone. Read more about the 3 psychological zones in Ch 12. Remember, ideas are not judged in the playground and not all ideas will advance. But, it is still important for people to have a voice, be respected, listened to, and for their ideas to be considered at an appropriate time. Establish an operating mechanism to screen and advance ideas.

  1. tornadoDon’t Ignore Conditions

There may be cattle on the tracks, a bridge out ahead or another hazard. Trains encounter changing conditions and hazards; so does your organization. Establishing “sensors in the ground” (see Ch 8) can serve as your early warning system, like seismometers that detect shifts in the earth’s tectonic plates. The journey will be smoother for all aboard if you confront reality and don’t pretend your passengers will be unaffected.

  1. diversity as seen through shoes - gregory olson - delightabilityBe Mindful of the Audience

All passengers are not created equally. And, not all of the stakeholders to your organization are either. The women in car number 27 might need a little extra assistance. Same with employee X or customer Y or supplier Z. When we create average experiences for everybody we are destined to be supplanted by somebody more thoughtful to individuals needs and context. Case in point, would you like to wait for a yellow cab or message Uber?

Whether your train of progress is literal or figurative you can go further and reach your destination if you pay attention to these 5 lessons for implementing change. Ignore them and you may might find yourself navigating the journey alone or more likely stuck in a train that never leaves the station.

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.

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

  • Chapter 7: Improving the Journey
  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery Systems
  • Chapter 12: The Three Psychological Zones

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.

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.

Entrepreneurship is like dessert

image of cake on entrepreneurs are like dessert blog at DelightabilityEntrepreneurship is a bit like dessert. There are many different kinds and the flavor varies, depending on who you ask. If I asked you, would you like dessert? You’ll likely respond with, “What are you serving for dessert?” And, if I offered you a fruit plate versus cake, your answer might be different.

Like dessert, you might find some versions of entrepreneurship more flavorful than others.

Before I share the various types of preneurs, let’s make sure we start with the same basic understanding. The classic definition of an entrepreneur is a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money.

A bit of history about the term entrepreneur.

The term entrepreneur is Old French, from entreprendre (ahn tra pron) and means to undertake (begin or initiate). Though people have been starting things since people have been around, the term entrepreneur wasn’t actually used until 1723.

From Wikipedia…. Credit for coining the term entrepreneur goes to Irish-French economist Richard Cantillon who defined it first in a book written in 1730, and is considered the first complete treatise on economics. In this book Cantillon conceives of the notion of the entrepreneur as a risk-bearer.

Like many words the meaning shifts to suit the time. Today the term entrepreneur implies qualities of leadership, initiative, and innovation in business. But that is again a bit like calling Tiramisu and fruit plate simply dessert. I think a big more description is needed.

So, let me tell you about the many flavors of entrepreneurs. You might recognize yourself in one of the types, whether in the past, present, or in your future.

  1. Entrepreneur – This is the traditional risk taker that sees the path their forging as less risky than working for somebody else doing something that isn’t interesting, isn’t rewarding, or may conflict with their values.
  2. Intrapreneur – The employee entrepreneur has many of the risk elements of an entrepreneur, but is insulated from the brutal reality of having to manufacture their own paycheck. I once had the luxury of starting a business within a mature business and didn’t have to worry about making money. That was a nice luxury compared to when I started a software company and had to worry about creating a paycheck for myself and my employees. Most people you’ve worked with in your past are probably not intrapreneurs. They are:
  3. Loyalpreneurs – These are employees dedicated to carrying out the orders of those they work for in exchange for a paycheck. In essence, trading hours for dollars.
  4. Solopreneur – This is an entrepreneur acting in isolation without the support of others in the same organization. Jay Sorenson, the inventor of the Java Jacket, is a good example. He started alone solving a nagging problem. He went through a coffee drive thru and spilled the coffee in his lap because the paper cup was too hot. The obvious solution was an insulated sleeve. What started in the back of a car and in the family home is now a thriving family business that is all consuming. Jay told me that he doesn’t have time to pursue additional ideas right now, but some do, and they are called:
  5. Multipreneurs -These are entrepreneurs that pursue multiple interests at the same time. They may have to pursue multiple interests, in order to make ends meet, or because it is part of a portfolio strategy to see which plays out the best. Or, they may simply have the capacity to do more than one venture. Multipreneurs are sometimes confused with:
  6. Serial Entrepreneurs – The difference from the multipreneur is that serial entrepreneurs usually pursue one idea at a time, getting their idea mature enough to hand the day to day operations over to somebody else, before they move on to what’s next.

Recognize yourself as one of these type of entrepreneurs yet? Well, read on….

  1. Wannapreneur – This person wants to start something but doesn’t yet know what. They might be lured by the glamour of high profile companies like Google, Amazon, Dell, or Facebook. But they may lack a solid idea. They may be laying in wait for that great idea.
  2. A special type of preneur is the Socialpreneur. This is a socially conscious individual who creates a business to remedy a problem in society while still making a profit. An example of a socialpreneur might be the person that improves the lives of families by turning an abandoned parking lot into a community garden. Other good examples include founders of social investor and financial cooperative, Oikocredit International.
  3. The Dreamapreneur – These people dream of pursuing a new passion, but never commit to action. It is simply more fun for these folks to fantasize. Perhaps they lack a clear path forward, the conviction to start, or don’t want to abandon the comfort of the easy chair. Dreamapreneurship is easy but not as rewarding as the real thing. Some people have a very valid reason to not get started. They may be:
  4. Impossipreneurs -These are the folks that have imagined something far beyond current technology and practice. But, the world changes and these visions may become practical one day, like a phone in every pocket now is or the light bulb. The barriers might not be purely technical, they may be political or cultural. Water for everybody fits this category. An economic system that prevents poverty. Redistributing body fat on command is also in this category. Nikala Tesla, Marconi, Edison and others were impossipreneurs that persisted and eventually things changed and became possible. Hopefully, that happens with poverty, too.
  5. Elderpreneur – These people have decided to take their wealth of experience, network, and skills, then package them up into a credible story told with authority and conviction that might be lacking in a younger entrepreneur. One such Elderpreneur is Harland David Sanders (Colonel Sanders) who in his earlier years was many of the other types of entrepreneurs as well. At one point he started a company that made acetylene lights, but that venture flamed out when Delco introduced an electric lamp that they sold on credit. The Colonel didn’t franchise his first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant until the age of 62. Colonel Sanders franchised his first restaurant and pursued that concept in earnest until 65 when the international expansion began to overwhelm him. He sold for $2M and then took a salaried position with the acquiring investment company and subsequently became the Kentucky Fried Chicken brand ambassador – the role most of us recognize him in. Learn more about Colonel Sanders on Wikipedia.
  6. Another type of preneur you may have seen in the workplace is the Adventurepreneur – This is the person that works only to play. These folks might literally have a sign on their door, “Gone Fishing”. I once worked with a young woman that job hopped to support her climbing addiction.
  7. Then there is the Addictipreneur  This person relentlessly pursues the next shiny new idea and then abandons it before the fledgling idea fully takes flight. So the business never matures before the addictipreneur moves on to their next venture. It is hard to support this type of entrepreneur.
  8. But, some people only care about providing support. They are Philanthropreneurs – This is somebody that supports other people’s projects and ventures often times without concern for any payback. Some people that are philanthropreneurs use crowdfunding platforms like gofundme or Kickstarter. I have friend who is a single mother with a special needs child in a wheelchair. She needed a new (used van) with a wheelchair lift. Philanthropreneurs fully funded a campaign to buy her a new used van. And the best thing is she didn’t even create the campaign, her sister did, initially without her knowledge. Way to go Philanthropreneurs and caring sister!
  9. And then there is the Luckypreneur – that is the fortunate person who has a job that allows them to make a big impact, make a good living, and make a difference in the world.

There you have it, dessert is served. You likely have been one or more of these types of entrepreneurs or perhaps you will be.

Whether you are tinkering in your garage or in you mind, perhaps this article will spark YOU to action. No matter what form of entrepreneurship you might take OR support, I do believe that pursuing a passion is a valuable journey unto itself.

  • You could manufacture your own luck
  • You might meet some very interesting people that enrich your life
  • You’ll definitely not be bored

And, you might make the world a little better for people. Just like Jay did with this little Java Jacket that has now sold over four billion units and makes the dessert in your cup a little safer to drink.

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.  As discussed in Chapter 14 , the world of work has changed and it’s not coming back as we knew it.

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. Chapters in L’ impossi preneurs that relate to this article include Chapter 1: Flavors of Entrepreneurship, Chapter 5: Wealth & Economy and Ch 12: World of Work.

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 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 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 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken, and Generous Design
  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed

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.