Arbor Day: Your Chance To Be A Generous Designer

Nature is the Original Hacker

Nature is the original hacker; she’s been at it for a long time, much longer than humans. Does nature ever get it wrong? The follow-up question is, wrong from whose perspective, a human perspective? Or, is it like Leonardo da Vinci said of art, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Perhaps when we think of nature being wrong, whatever we’re observing simply isn’t completed.

Generous Design by Nature

Nature is bountiful and sustainable; it’s also very generous. Trees, for example, are a generous gift from nature. Glorious natural trees are water absorbing, pollution filtering, soil protecting, oxygen giving, and shelter providing. Planting trees is good for the planet as trees absorb carbon dioxide, one of the gases that collect in the atmosphere, trap heat, and warm the planet. Trees are good for people too, with many positive psychological benefits. Being in the presence of swaying trees reduces anxiety, lowers blood pressure and connects us to the natural environment. The soothing rhythmic motion of trees or even grass is not unlike that of mothers who instinctively use gentle swaying motion to comfort their babies. Did you ever notice that you feel better around trees or in a rocking chair?

“The symbolism – and the substantive significance – of planting a tree has universal power in every culture and every society on Earth, and it is a way for individual men, women and children to participate in creating solutions for the environmental crisis.”

Albert Arnold “Al” Gore, Jr.
45th Vice President of the United States
Author, environmental activist,
2007 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
(born March 31, 1948)

Trees are a generous gift from nature. Humans can be generous designers as well.

Generous Design by Humans

As I describe in, The Experience Design Blueprint, generous design makes people smile. When an organization exceeds expectations without any pressure to do so, people often take notice. It might mean going beyond what is required by law or code, or even the norm set by competitors. Often the thoughtfulness goes unnoticed, but the design still serves to make things a little easier or a little better.

When you experience generous design firsthand you think to yourself, “Wow, somebody thought of that. How nice!” But, more importantly, you feel that somebody cared and as a result they touched your heart and your mind. Generous design goes beyond expectations, like a dual drinking station for humans and canines alike or a stair rail that extends a little more than required, so that it comfortably greets those about to meet the stairs. Unexpected trees alongside the built environment can be generous gifts that restore the human spirit, cause us to slow down, and even provide healing. We see and feel these in urban areas, parks, boulevards, universities, and even healthcare facilities.

tree lined boulevard as generous design - Delightability

Arbor Day

Arbor Day is the day dedicated annually to public tree-planting in the U.S., Australia, and other countries around the world. You needn’t be an arborist or a landscape designer to plant a tree. Even birds (or other animals) inadvertently plant trees as they eat fruit in one area and defecate in another. Animals do this without even thinking. But, you are human, perhaps even superhuman. You can be a thoughtful, generous designer and plant a tree, if not for yourself for those who will enjoy it 100 years from now.

planting a pine tree

Culture of Care

Though Arbor Day provides you an official day to be thoughtful and generous, you needn’t be gated by such holidays. Opportunities for generous design are all around us. The best thing is you don’t have to be a designer by title or role – a bird isn’t, after all. You can participate at any time, in planting a tree or other thoughtful acts that exceed expectations and turn lips upward. The Culture of Care is afoot. If you’ve already joined – thank you! If not, we hope you’ll join our movement.

about the author

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 entire nations.
image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory 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.

A Tiny Comparison of Two Giants: Amazon and Microsoft

A Tiny Comparison of Two Giants
While I’m working on my next book, I sometimes refer to my last one. Not because they are related, they are not. But, because as a self-published author and consultant, I need to let people know I exist. So, here is the funny juxtaposition I see. Two giants were birthed in my proverbial back yard, namely Microsoft and Amazon. And, while each of these companies boasts legacy, scale, and reach that most other companies will never know, the two titans are very different. I want to share a tiny comparison from my point of view as a customer of both.

Amazon is mindful of my experience
It’s true. Amazon IS mindful of my experience. It began a long time ago with one-click before most dot-coms imploded in the first internet bubble and long before iPhone or Android devices ever reached the market. But, Amazon didn’t let their foot off the accelerator. They’ve continued to expand products and services, seemingly with the customer top of mind. They even purchased Zappos, a notoriously customer-centric company. And, then they did the right thing. They left Zappos alone, letting them run as a wholly owned subsidiary. But, it’s not just the big bets I’m talking about that has Amazon mindful of customer experiences.  It’s the little things, too.

screen shot of amazon sync to furthest location for blog post - delightability

Little things have a cumulative effect in winning hearts and minds
Case in point. When I read my book (or any book) on my Kindle Fire HD or Kindle Application on PC or Android, then at a later time open the same book on a different device, I get a very thoughtful prompt. The prompt asks me if I want to continue reading from the last read location. Little things like this have a cumulative effect in winning the hearts and minds of customers. This is true whether it is an application like the Kindle Reading App or your own personal relationships. If you don’t believe it, then ask your partner.

Kudos to Amazon
Kudos to the Amazon engineers and others that made this little thoughtful feature a reality. It is a tiny thing in the grand scheme of the Kindle Platform, but it is very much appreciated. It is customer centric and as a customer, albeit a tiny one, I truly feel it.

Contrast this with my experience with Microsoft
I probably have tens of 1000’s of hours invested in using Microsoft products. One such product is Microsoft Word. My current book project is intended to be around 225 pages completed. I’m currently at 323 in the rough (with notes) and about 149 completed, pre-edit pages.  I’ll eventually strip out the notes and get it fully tuned to reach my goal of 225 pages, within a scosche. Of course along my writing journey I’ve spawned many other ideas for books, companies, apps, services, talks, blog posts, etc. I don’t have huge expectations that Microsoft would accommodate the organization, linking, revision control, and a host of other ideas that could make Word more powerful and relevant to my writer’s journey. After all, a product engineer might argue that there are many types of personas using Word and they can’t cater to the nuances of each of them.  Again, I wouldn’t expect that.

However, what I would expect is that autosave doesn’t make my computer go non-responding. Chock that up to an older version of Word? Perhaps. I’m granting that you have “Instant Autosave with Multitask” on the newer version. You do, right?

Be careful of the brand baggage you bestow on customers
Autosave isn’t my pet peeve here. Every day, I reenter my 323-page manuscript (and growing) with the intent of continuing work from where I was last working. This is understandable. Much like preparing a meal in a kitchen or creating a building on a construction site, when you return to the site, you want to begin where you last ended. A lengthy document isn’t any different. It could be my book, a technical manual, even your own strategy document or go-to-market product plan. While Amazon gives me the friendly thoughtful prompt, from Microsoft I get nothing. When I open my lengthy manuscript I expect to see [return to last known edit?], but instead, I receive the very first page, every time. Little things like this annoy, rob customers of time, disrespect, and over time, the negative brand aftertaste builds our brand baggage. Then negative word-of-mouth sets in.

Pretty please Microsoft
It’s not too late. There is hope. Problems like this are knowable and solvable, that is if you listen to customers and become obsessed with serving them. I’ll know that you really care about customers, even tiny ones like me, when you take care of little things like this. I want to believe you can do this. Microsoft, you are a product of my own back yard. I’ve done an internship there. I’ve been a consultant there. I’ve used many of your products and have had some good experiences, too. But, it’s time you become newly OBSESSED with customers. After all, they are the reason you have a business today and in the future. Little things do matter, even for giants like you.

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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.

Use Icons Instead of String on Your Finger

Short Term Memory Under Assault

We all need it. We all need improved memories. Our short term memory is sometimes under assault by the pressure of the moment. 15 seconds passes, then 30 and kablooey; the thought you had drifts away into the clouds. Thankfully, in moments like this, pencils, pens, crayons, the whiteboard, paper, sticky notes, or random scraps of paper are there to save us, that is, if we use them.

If we don’t go old school and analogue in these moments of inspiration, we’re likely to find our thought evaporated or morphed into something less stellar by the time we open our digital bookkeeper program du jour. I’m a fan of all things digital but when I need to keep priorities top of mind through the day or I need a scratchpad to jot that new inspiration on I use the Daily Flight Plan.

The Daily Flight Plan

Image of Daily Flight Plan on Gregory Olsons desk - Author of The Experience Design Blueprint - Delightability

I place the Daily Flight Plan under my mousepad and glance at it throughout the day. If I leave for a meeting, I’m likely to take it and place it in my notebook. I can be laptop lid down, phone off, pay attention to others and still have a sightline into my daily priorities and what’s next.

The Daily Flight Plan is a free tool.  Since I have a rolling 3 month calendar with week number on it, I update the Daily Flight Plan periodically. Print one out, use it, and see if your daily grind becomes a little more inspiring and a little less grind. You can read related blog posts on the Daily Flight Plan on the Big Idea Toolkit website.

About the Author

book image of The Experience Design Blueprint from Gregory James Olson - DelightabilityGregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. The icons at the top of the Daily Flight Plan are models from the book, namely

  1. the 3 legged stool reminds us to balance so that we can maintain a healthy person atop the stool;
  2. the 3 funnels that reminds us that no matter who our audience is our organization must be mindful that that audience is moving across 3 unique funnels and that our actions must help them; and
  3. touchpoints or where the organization interacts with the audience. At these intersections we have opportunities to surprise and delight but also avoid annoyance, reduce harm, improve memory, collect and inform, etc. For more on this read Chapter 7: Improving the Journey to learn how to create and apply filters, lenses, and levers to improve your customers (or members, investors, donors, citizens, etc.) experiences.

If your organization wants to improve its health and innovation culture while creating happier customers, then you owe it to yourself to read this book. Read the full color print edition or on any Kindle Reader App supported device using the free Kindle Reader application. Already read this book? Thank you, now learn more about Delightability or connect with Gregory on social media.

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.

small linkedin iconsmall facebook iconsmall twitter icon

 

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.

Tapping your Inner Designer no Matter Your Title or Role

Human History and Design

image showing early cave painting communications design - Delightability

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

image of primitive carry system that has been designed - Delightability

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

image of girl designing sand castle - Delightability

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

You Started Out as a Designer

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

Specialization is Good and Bad at the Same Time

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

image showing dentist work is specialized- delightability

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

Increasing Complexity Breaks Experiences

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

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

Experience and Innovation Literacy

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

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

Will You be a More Thoughtful Contributor to Humanity?

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

About the Author

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

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

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.

More Reasons to Dislike My Local Cable Monopoly

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

A recent experience with my local cable provider.

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

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

The communication I would have liked to receive.

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

Mr. Olson,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

3 Easy Lessons from a Home Furnishings Company that Gives a Damn about the Customer Experience

With so many broken and bad experiences and leaders indifferent to correct them, it is truly refreshing when you encounter an organization that breaks free from the herd. I recently encountered, or rather re-encountered, an organization that left me with a very positive brand aftertaste.

Although I’ve walked, biked, and driven by the Room&Board home furnishings store several, OK – hundreds of times, since its opening in my Seattle neighborhood, I’ve never given it much notice. This is partly because I miss the Barnes and Noble bookstore that previously occupied the space, but mostly because I already have a house stuffed full of furniture.

room and board catalog cover image

My numbness to their brand recently began to take shape though. After skimming through their catalog I received in the mail, I landed on the back page. It was here, that made all of the difference. It takes a special kind of company to offer a guarantee that doesn’t expire with hard time bound rules. Room&Board is such a special company. I’d be inclined to visit the store when I find myself in furniture shopping mode again. Here is why:

Our Guarantee
When you shop with Room & Board, you’re also buying the assurance that we’ll be here if you need us. There are no strict, time-limited warranties. We stand behind the quality of our products and the prices we charge. If you’re not completely satisfied with your purchase or any part of your experience, just let us know. We’re here to help.”

room and board catalog back page guarantee image

On the website they go on to explain, “We know that buying furniture for your home is more than just a financial decision. It’s also an emotional investment. From the first sketch to the final product, we work directly with the people who build our furniture, eliminating the middleman and saving you from unnecessary mark-ups. These relationships allow us to bring you the perfect combination of quality materials, craftsmanship, design and price.”

There are 3 immediate lessons to take away from this that you can apply to your own organization:

  1. Some interactions will have more impact than others. For me in this instance, it was a message on the back of a catalog received in the mail. Do you know which touchpoints and channels matter the most to your customers and prospects?
  2. Purchasing decisions are more complex than being purely economic. An important dimension to purchasing decisions is emotion. Room&Board recognizes that customers are making an emotional investment. Do your customer interactions and communications reflect the three dimensions of value (emotional, functional, economic) or are they stuck in a pattern that still believes customers are inherently ruled by logic and reason?
  3. A customer experience philosophy can guide an organizations response, communications, product roadmap, strategy, operations, etc. Does your organization have such a customer centered philosophy to guide you, or are you solely ruled by profits, margins, growth, and share price?

Please reflect on these lessons and this story, no matter the size, type, or shape of your organization. You are slowly becoming either more or less relevant in world full of customers that continues to reward brands and organizations that give a damn about the customer experience. The size of your organization and tenure do not provide you with any immunity from providing bad or broken experiences.

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

For more guidance and self help read my book or reach out if you’d like some help. We’d love to help you build an enduring brand that matters.

Greg Olson is the author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. See the Book and Author Summary PDF or find the book on Amazon.

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.