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.

Parks, Progress, and Prosperity-A Lesson in Change

Eventually great ideas tear down or circumvent the barriers that oppose them. It’s hard to resist an idea whose time has come. The world changes and the grand or even ludicrous visions of one epoch become commonplace in another. If you’ve visited a national park in the United States, you’ve experienced this first hand. Sometimes change is promulgated through the persistence of a visionary.

In the case of the world’s first publicly owned park, that visionary was Ferdinand V. Hayden. After a couple of exploratory expeditions over a decade, Hayden proposed setting aside a 2,219,789 acre swath of land in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, comprising lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges as a pleasure ground for the benefit and enjoyment of all people. The bill to create the first national park, Yellowstone, was established by U.S. Congress and signed into law by U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. This was thought to be a radical idea at the time.

Thankfully, the radical idea became less so and spread to eventually include actions of many other presidents and to the creation of the National Parks Service whose mission is to preserve the natural and cultural resources of the nation for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of current and future generations. Now, over 275 million annual visitors enjoy more than 400 such places. It is worth noting that these places are owned by the public, not aristocrats, a monarch or captains of industry.

Imagine before Yellowstone, Yosemite, Central Park, Mt. Rainier National Park, or any other publicly owned park. Imagine thinking, “We should set aside that land for the enjoyment of all.” You might imagine yourself saying such a thing, at that time and place. But, statistically, you would be an outlier. Chances are, you would have opposed such a radical change. You might have been more concerned with rebuilding after the civil war ended.

Sometimes people want things to change, desperately in fact, but their actions or inaction support the current state of affairs no matter how unsettling they may be. We sometimes blindly and obediently protect a monoculture that favors a few while crushing diversity, human spirit, and retarding better possibilities for all of us. Think of the people that opposed the abolition of slavery. When we oppose change we may not realize we may be opposing human progress. Not all change is good, but without it, there can be no progress.

We all have the potential do to better as individuals, organizations, & the world community. But, first we have to embrace a culture of care and stop fearing progress. Some people fought the national parks idea from its inception. They thought the commons were to be exploited for private good. Many still do. But, these are the forces that build walls and ugliness that divides our common humanity.

I like what President Lyndon Baines Johnson said when he spoke of “New Conservation.”

“The same society which receives the rewards of technology must, as a cooperating whole, take responsibility for control. To deal with these new problems will require a NEW CONSERVATION. We must not only protect the countryside and save it from destruction, we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities. Our conservation must be not Just the classic conservation of protection and development, but a creative conservation of restoration and innovation. Its concern is not with nature alone, but with the total relation between man and the world around him. Its object is not just man’s welfare, but the dignity of man’s spirit.”
—Lyndon Baines Johnson
President of the United States
NATURAL BEAUTY MESSAGE

Instead of building walls that divide us, let us instead build bridges, parks, and pathways to a more prosperous and shared future. Some may think this to be an impossible idea like the national parks idea was at its time. ‘Impossible ideas” and the impossipreneurs who champion them are all around us. Perhaps you are one. I am one. Some may look at us as impossible dreamers. I think of us as evangelists of the possible, of what’s next, of what will one day become ordinary and commonplace. A culture of care is an idea whose time has come; it has many converging forces and proponents. Opportunities to advance human progress are all around us if we open our minds to the possibilities. Investing in people and advancing human progress is not only a moral responsibility, it also produces great returns. Contrast this with austerity measures which have never produced prosperity at any point in the history of civilization.

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 investor and financial institution, Oikocredit International.

Overcoming La La La I Can't Hear You

image of la la la la I can't hear you for blog post - delightability

Overcoming La La La I Can’t Hear You
In any organization (or society) there is an unlabeled group of people that hereafter we will call the “data prevention group.” Their prime motive is to protect the status quo. You know the type – not receptive to your show and tell, no matter how compelling it may be. Though these people may project a professional facade, what you really see is “La la la I can’t hear you.” The disregard for new information might come from a single influential person or it may come from a larger group, perhaps an entire herd. Whichever the case, the outcome is the same. It’s as though you are running the last segment of the Olympic torch relay, looking forward to the moment you touch torch to caldron, sparking the opening ceremony. Finally, your moment has come, you get to tell your story, share your data, and be listened to. But, your progress is halted and the ceremony never begins.

The data prevention group might be well intentioned in safeguarding the status quo. But, in a world that doesn’t sit still this can spell disaster for an organization. The business landscape and customer ecosystem are forever changing. People disregard the reality outside their organization at their own peril. Put simply, if you make soup people no longer purchase its best to find out why. Is it soup? Is it my soup? Crafty marketers might wish to simply refresh labels to shift perception. Maybe even have a soup “spokesperson” deliver messages and ensure others speak on point. But, in an increasingly transparent, connected, and humane world, those efforts will only produce short term gains, if at all.

Truth has a funny way of surfacing, even when you try to suppress it.

Truth has a funny way of surfacing, even when you try to suppress it. Some politicians and “leaders” on the wrong side of history have learned this lesson the hard way. Too many others have not and the list continues to grow, most recently with unsafe drinking water in Flint, Michigan.

The la la la treatment happens within organizations and in the broader community, even the online community. So, what do you do when if you are on the right side of history and too few are listening? Here are a few actionable ideas. If you have any to add, tweet this message and share your addition. Please do the same on Facebook or LinkedIn.

  1. Be critical of statements you hear that are untrue; offer relevant facts in their place
  2. Be supportive of data and facts over opinions and ideology; be vocal about this with the friends, colleagues, family and fellow citizens
  3. Build alliances around the truth, starting with common ground you agree on
  4. Wait for the moment when the data prevention group may be more receptive to hearing your message
  5. Give up, leave, check out (I don’t really recommend this one, but it is an option)
  6. Look for alignment by finding a new path, a campaign or another initiative you can hitch your data to; there may be a natural fit
  7. Build empathy by focusing on the people the data represents (make the audience come alive inside the organization or in the minds of others, whether the issue relates to social justice or the audience the organization serves)
  8. Make data more visual (Vision trumps all other senses as John Medina shares in his book, Brain Rules).
  9. Create soundbites from your data, at least initially to bait the hook. (You can feed the fish later with more data once you have gained the attention of the data prevention group)
  10. Build a story from your data that makes it easy for others to absorb and even retell
  11. Use humor and give people the opportunity to laugh (Thank you, Don Smith of FutureSmith, for this suggested addition)

Whether the data you promulgate represents a social justice issue or a shift in strategy within the organization, it is important to be mindful as opponents transition to becoming proponents. As Desmond Tutu says in his book by a similar title, “Without forgiveness, there’s no future.” You don’t want people to oppose a good idea whose time has come simply because they feel punished or demoralized in shifting their beliefs. So, take a page from the Chinese social playbook and allow others to preserve their dignity and avoid embarrassment (save face). This is increasingly important in the future where more and more people will shift away from harmful consumption and production patterns, behaviors that create conflict and marginalize people, and money stops corrupting politics. I wish you much luck in overcoming “la la la I can’t hear you” wherever your travels and conversations take you.

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 8 of The Experience Design Blueprint, every organization has a Promise Delivery System. That is the invisible system by which an organization makes and keeps promises (or doesn’t). One component of the Promise Delivery System is Insights and Validation. Another is Apply Learning. When “La la la I can’t hear you” is alive and well inside an organization, the organization’s Promise Delivery System is breaking down – those two components in particular – stop working effectively. Left uncorrected the organization may end up building a lumpy snowball of an organization and lose relevance over time.

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. Ideas in L’ impossi preneurs that relate to this article include Truth Sculpture, Data Observatory, Propaganda for Good Network, Truth Machine Intelligence Service, Truth Ticker, and 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.

Innovation Lessons from a Runaway Toddler

By now you’ve probably heard of the 3-year-old who escaped the care of his father and went joy riding aboard his Fisher-Price Power Wheels, or equivalent, riding toy. The kid (let’s call him Martin) reportedly climbed up on a chair to unlock the front door while his father was in the bathroom. Martin then hightailed it for his little, motorized vehicle. He reportedly circumvented neighborhood eyes by staying off the main streets, cutting through backyards as he headed for the highway, US 19. After entering the busy highway, mere blocks from his home, Martin nonchalantly drove his toy vehicle alongside traffic from the safety of the median. Some observant and concerned citizens eventually stopped him and comforted him until police could arrive.

Now, our collective gator brains will immediately lay blame on the parent(s); there is no shortage of accusations floating around in comment feeds on related articles. But, I’d like to offer a different approach.

Even if you are not a leader at Fisher-Price, the maker of Power Wheels, there are many innovation lessons to be learned from this potential tragedy.

First, a specific idea related to this situation. An ignition lockout switch would be a great feature for parents to have on Fisher-Price Power Wheels (or any brand) riding toys. There could easily be a companion smartphone application. Let mom or dad enable or disable the engine via a smartphone. This would put mom and dad in control when kids are not or shouldn’t be. This common sense feature (even an upgraded feature or module) offered to parents and guardians would provide them more peace of mind and a sense of control. Not only is this idea an opportunity to improve safety, it is also an opportunity to increase revenue and brand contact with the parent, through the smartphone application.

Now for the general lessons to be gleaned from the situation:

  1. Look outside your organization for ideas that could spawn innovation. Unforeseen things can create opportunities. Lesson number one is to be open to seeing things you may not be looking for. I’ve shared this opportunity here and elsewhere in comment threads related to the story. Are people at Fisher-Price that are concerned with the brand, product safety, or increased revenue opportunities listening? Are they sifting through various channels to hear such ideas? Time may eventually tell.
  1. Invite future conversations that don’t fit well with the present. Let’s assume for a moment that somebody at Fisher-Price or a competitor did see this story and the opportunity. Or, maybe an employee already had the idea for the safety switch and application; now they have a real story to add more color. When new information does arise, either from the outside or inside the organization, people must know how and when to fold it into a discussion. What is the name of the meeting where new ideas are discussed? When does that happen? Where is the global suggestion box? Your innovation culture must give people the ability and confidence to champion an idea even if it looks very different. It’s still only an idea, not a commitment to change the entire business. All ideas that create value for the customer or the organization originate as ideas and those ideas can come from anywhere. If you protect the status quo you may end up on the wrong side of history.
  1. Be wary of the limited fitness of ideas to existing initiatives. In truth, the next best idea may not fit. So, who is the chief of “things that don’t fit” within your organization? If you’re running a very lean operation (too lean perhaps) there will be nobody with the capacity to take on yet another role or champion an idea. This is true of overburdened leadership and all of those who follow. Spawn a team or position and accompanying process to periodically assess ideas whose time has not yet come. Make new ideas feel as welcome as an old friend coming for a visit.
  1. Create capacity to explore opportunities. When an idea does hold some promise have the courage to run an experiment. There won’t be any data to support a business case before there is any data. So, build prototypes of the product, service, and even the organization to create real customer data. If the initial data looks promising, then dial up the experiment. No matter the size of your organization, you don’t have a lock on all talent. Increase your capacity and expertise by inviting others to the table. Tap outside entrepreneurs, those in coworking spaces, and small firms like my boutique strategy and design firm, Delightability. When there is not yet data have the courage to run experiments and create the data. Remember, everything large and substantial started small, even you.

As discussed in Chapter 8 of The Experience Design Blueprint, every organization has a Promise Delivery System. That is the invisible system by which an organization makes and keeps promises (or doesn’t). One component of the Promise Delivery System is Apply Learning. Sources of learning can come from insights and validation gained within the organization from its own operations, or they can be from external sources. This story was about a kid on a joyride. But, imagine all of the stories unfolding every day that organizations could use to sharpen their insights and strengthen their businesses and their brands.

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 about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans.

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

10 Ways Climate Change and Customer Experiences Are Alike

image of concerned baby for blog post about climate change and customer experienceIgnoring Climate Change and Customer Experience can result in diminished human potential and destroyed companies, brands, property, and lives. The good news is that amid deniers of Climate Change or those that don’t think the Customer Experience matters, there are many people who do care and are actively engaging others to care, too.

10 ways in which Climate Change and Customer Experience are alike:

  1. Detection Informs Design. For Climate Change and Customer Experience we can detect changes that can inform smarter design; smarter design of products, services, spaces, and organizations. We can design and deliver better Customer Experiences and we can design more thoughtful organizations, institutions, and policies to create a more sustainable and inclusive future for all. We can even design systems to protect people from the effects of Climate Change. Of course being informed is one thing; we still have to decide to actually do something differently if we expect to have different outcomes. Progress is pesky that way; we have to invest in it. Rarely does it advance on its own.
  1. Pioneers Face Resistance. There are conferences and summits that deal directly with Climate Change and Customer Experience. People attend these conference and summits; gain ideas for improvements, then return to their daily lives to face resistance, opposition, and even misdirection. These pioneers of Customer Experience and of Climate Change push headlong against social, cultural, and political opponents who would rather keep things as they are. Some of these pioneers (entrepreneurs pursuing the seemingly impossible) persevere and we eventually come to know their innovations and perhaps even their names.
  1. Little Things Together Have a Big Impact. Customer Experience and Climate Change involve many different factors that when working together make a big difference. With Customer Experience, all of the interactions across touchpoints over time in customers’ journeys work to ensure that a brand has staying power; those interactions can also spell disaster for a brand that cumulatively leaves a poor brand aftertaste in the minds of prospective and current customers. Similarly, recycling, industrial composting, production practices, and individual purchase and consumption habits, etc., don’t look like much in isolation. But, taken together they make a big impact on social, environmental, and economic systems. Things are more connected than we often realize.
  1. Policy Must Connect With Humans. Climate Change and Customer Experience solutions require holistic solutions that benefit when top-down policy direction is informed by bottom-up data and actions. Returns processing, online purchase behavior, communications, etc., are all better solutions for customers when the top and bottom meet somewhere in the middle, at the customer’s reality. When it comes to climate change, proposed policies and agreements that factor in the real world experiences of displaced (or soon to be) climate refugees, are more humane, meaningful, and long-lasting.
  1. Meaningful Metrics Needed. Customer Experience and Climate Change both suffer at the hands of operators who internalize profits while externalizing costs to customers, society, and sometimes to workers. Landfills are filled with junk products that are designed to be profitable so long as customers accept the notion they are buying disposable, nonrenewable, non-repairable, and many times nonreturnable products. People that may be marginalized in the process are invisible to most consumers. Save for the consumer that looks for Cradle to Cradle certification, Fair Trade certification, Organic, or other inherently sustainable labels, most consumers are in the dark; They serve as unwitting pawns that contribute to harming the earth and its inhabitants while the puppet masters that exploit the seemingly limitless earth’s resources and marginalize people do extremely well for themselves and their allies. Metrics that go beyond profits and include social and environmental factors are increasingly important to global citizens that share a common planet.
  1. Leadership Must Adapt. Both Customer Experience and Climate Change create victims while at the same time producing those who do extremely well under the “old system,” at least until the day they don’t. Imagine building your empire based on vast fossil fuel reserves or a particular product or technology only to find that over time it has become irrelevant as the world moved on. I wouldn’t want to be manufacturing typewriters, selling palm oil that contributes to deforestation, or base my entire country’s economy on fossil fuel production. It’s important to pay attention to and respond to the changing mood of people. Organizations and governments would do well to build more responsive organizations that balance the needs of many stakeholders. Use The Promise Delivery System of Chapter 8 in The Experience Design Blueprint to build a more responsive organization. Any organization can operationalize a promise delivery system using whatever technology and personnel it has at its disposal.
  1. Myriad Factors Are Involved. Customer service is to Customer Experience as habitat protection is to Climate Change. Either one is but one factor in a compilation of interrelated issues – necessary, but insufficient. As described in The Experience Design Blueprint, an experience is a contextual interaction between people, objects, services, and spaces. Customer service is only a small, albeit important, component of the overall Customer Experience. Likewise, there are many factors involved in Climate Change including the water cycle, the natural environment and built environment, agricultural practices, trade policy, economic empowerment, production practices, individual consumption patterns, etc. Not every factor can be controlled by any individual or organization. But, that doesn’t absolve any individual or organization from its own inaction.
  1. Opponents Think It Too Expensive. Opponents may say investing in progress whether it is Customer Experience or Climate Change is too expensive. It’s true that short-term indulgent thinking might satisfy our immediate hunger, but it’s a satisfaction like junk food satisfies. It is filling 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. The VW Emission Cheating Scandal may have looked like a good idea in the short run but in the long run, it’s harmful to the environment, owners of vehicles, owners of the company stock, and ultimately to the affected brands. Gimmicks to prop up earnings in the short run are too often heralded while long-term investments in employee training, organizational performance, and customer empowerment are deemed to be unwarranted expenditures.
  1. Lack of Systems Thinking. Customer Experience or Climate Change? That is somebody else’s problem to solve (or the worry of another agency or department). There is a lack of systems thinking, holistic solutions are lacking, and conversations are too small. We confuse causation with correlation. Our biases, ideologies, and patterns of behavior get in the way; so do our means of livelihood. “My tailpipe emission didn’t cause that. Leaving the light on doesn’t matter, my extra trip, extra purchase, my upgrade, my tossing that compostable product in the trash. What difference does it really make?”  Often times, in organizations, we face back office and top office decisions that undermine the remarkable actions of front-line personnel that actually strive to do the right thing for customers and the organization.
  1. What do you think? I’m sure you have ideas on how Climate Change and Customer Experience are alike, face the same challenges, are improving, etc. I’ve closed comments on this post but please do share your ideas with me and others on social media.

Things Are Connected

Things are more connected than they first appear to be. Delivering great Customer Experiences and having sustainable production and consumption patterns that don’t contribute to anthropogenic (human-caused) Climate Change are both issues that require we confront our common reality, engage in new thinking, new conversations, and that collectively we invest in progress. Good global citizens are increasingly paying attention to matters of Customer Experience and Climate Change. Brands (including governments) that embrace great customer experiences and that live up to their changing duties as the climate continues to wreak havoc on people and property, will do better in the future than deniers or bad actors that stick to outdated modes of thinking.

The Future is Better than the Past

To escape the present and explore a brighter future where we all live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans read L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow.

about the author

image of one page overview of L impossi preneurs - A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow by Gregory OlsonGregory 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. This book challenges each of us to think differently, spark our own conversations, and play a role in nudging the world forward to create a better future for all. Find it at Amazon, CreateSpace e-Store,Barnes & Noble, Bokus, or order it from your local bookstore.

image of one page overview - The Experience Design Blueprint by Gregory OlsonGreg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. Exercises and mental models in the book will build your confidence and competence in envisioning better possibilities and then making them come true, whether you are working alone or alongside a team. Chapters in the book that especially pertain to this article include:

  • Chapter 6: Remarkable, Unbroken and Generous Design
  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall
  • Chapter 12: The Three Psychological Zones
  • Chapter 13: Taking Flight

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.

Make Work Feel Like Vacation: Destination Postcards Exercise

Making Work Feel Like Vacation: Destination Postcards Exercise
Much of the time we muddle through. Okay, maybe not you, but those around you. 😉 We show up to work, we grind through the day, glancing at the clock that’s embedded in our computers, smartphones, and burned into our psyche. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to get “in the zone” where we become deeply engaged in something, perhaps writing an article or code, talking with a customer or colleague, or crafting whatever it is we craft. In those moments and in our “free time” we seldom feel as though we’re grinding through. After all, we are excited to meet the weekend and few people ever grumble about being on vacation; quite the opposite. So, how can we find that vacation feeling while we ARE muddling through our busy lives?

Our Minds are Ruled by Two Competing Systems
The key is to leverage your brain’s natural abilities to be rational and to be emotional, two things that are often at odds with one another. In the book, Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard, the authors reveal that psychologists have discovered our minds are ruled by two sometimes competing systems – the rational mind (the rider) and the emotional mind (the elephant). Switch is a great book and I recommend you read it. It is a great companion to Chapter 13: Taking Flight, in The Experience Design Blueprint. Change is difficult and no matter where you sit in the organization you need to become a master of it.

Destination Postcards Exercise
Switch inspired me to create a tool I use for my own businesses and with clients. I call the tool the Destination Postcards exercise and I know it can help you, too. I’ve shared the steps here as well as a visual reminder so you can be more deliberate about creating the future you’d like to see unfold AND make it feel more like a vacation.

“If you don’t know where you are going,  any path will take you there.”  – Sioux Proverbs

Step 1: Envision Great Possibilities
Our rational mind appreciates the certainty of the path ahead; we want to know where vacation will be. As in planning a vacation, the first step in the destination postcards exercise is to actually decide where you want to go. Every business, non-profit, and governmental organization has multiple destinations; these are the destination postcard categories. The list that follows is not exhaustive. Choose the categories important to the future of your organization. Be creative and be aware of blind spots while choosing.

Categories for Destination Postcards:

  • technology
  • organizational
  • financial
  • customer
  • brand
  • communications
  • community
  • competitive
  • products and services
  • recognition
  • other?


Step 2: Prioritize Categories

Business Performance Continuums - Gregory Olson - Delightability - 206 356 8811Not all categories have the same importance. It really does depend on the type of organization, its current state, as well as the competitive and customer environment. See the related article on business performance continuums to assess the current and future state of the organization across nine dimensions. Once your categories are selected, it can be useful to prioritize them by using a convention common to prioritizing features in product development. Rank each category on whether it is a MD (must do), SD (should do), and CD (could do) item for the organization.

As you prioritize, free yourself of resource constraints. After all, resources can change or even be creatively worked around. It is most important to think about the expected impact to the organization for each of the categories. Again, be careful of blind spots and be mindful of your various stakeholders.  See the related article Customer Schmustomer: Audience Schmaudience.


Step 3: Make a Statement About How the Future Feels

image of love sign - finding the love in what you do - DelightabilityBy establishing the categories that are most important to the organization, you’ve appealed to rationale mind (the rider). In Switch vernacular, you’ve directed the rider by pointing to the destination. This is necessary, but not sufficient. Next, you’ll want to appeal to the emotional elephant; you’ll not reach your destination without the elephant.

To do this, write a statement about the desired future state for each category. How will you know you’ve arrived? What will you see as different and how will that make you feel? You can either write a statement or add bullets to show some detail about the desired future state. If this were a vacation you might write something like “feel my toes in the warm sand” or “be able to ponder the ancient Incan empire from atop Machu Picchu” or [insert most excellent vacation experience here]. If we imagine what it is like to be there, our vacation will be more thoughtful and we’ll be more present once we arrive. This is true of vacation and in business. Here is an example for your business using the category, Recognition. Once we’ve arrived at the destination we might feel the following:

  • be able to credibly apply for “most green citizen” award
  • media and partners are recognizing our organization’s thoughtful work
  • awards and framed articles hang on trophy wall in lobby
  • our products are labeled with the Cradle to Cradle Certification
  • we have more twitter followers than Edward Snowden

Step 4: Empower a Good Story
At this stage, you’ve created a narrative for the organization’s future. You’ll have more clarity yourself, and if you did this exercise with colleagues, you’re better aligned to a common future. You can reference the destination postcards as you build your strategic plan and tell stories about the future.

Go even further by creating physical postcards that can be handed out to employees, partners, and other stakeholders. On one side, make a visual to represent the category; on the other, list the milestones you’ll achieve along the way to reaching that destination. These physical cards can be seen, touched, passed around, referenced and updated periodically. This can be very motivating for all story tellers of the organization. It can also keep people (yourself included) on the right path.

Step 5: Ah, The Path
The Destination Postcards Exercise is a critical tool, among others, to shape and inform a strategic plan. I usually do this exercise with a CEO, executive director, or early stage entrepreneur, but it can be easily extended to include a larger team. I’ve sparked good dialogue among board members using the same exercise in non-profit organizations.

The exercise can be an inclusive process that enables people to get on the same page, something usually overlooked by the committees that shape plans. Imagine the natural forces within our minds that sometimes oppose each other, instead working in harmony. This is the harmony we feel while on a good vacation. And, now imagine all of those minds on your team working better together toward a common future. Oh, the possibilities.

Remember, business planning like vacation is better with postcards. I hope you enjoy your next one. If you are a consultant (internal or external), try using this tool with your organization (clients) and watch attitudes, engagement, and positive outcomes soar. Your destination awaits you; happy travels.

about the author

image of one page overview of L impossi preneurs - A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow by Gregory OlsonGregory 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. This book challenges each of us to think differently, spark our own conversations, and play a role in nudging the world forward to create a better future for all. Find it at Amazon, CreateSpace e-Store, Barnes & Noble, Bokus, or order it from your local bookstore.

image of one page overview - The Experience Design Blueprint by Gregory OlsonGreg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. Exercises and mental models in the book will build your confidence and competence in envisioning better possibilities and then making them come true, whether you are working alone or alongside a team. Chapters in the book that especially pertain to this article include:

  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall
  • Chapter 12: The Three Psychological Zones
  • Chapter 13: Taking Flight
  • Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed
  • Chapter 15: From Arg to Aha!

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.

 

Make Work Feel Like Vacation: Destination Postcards Exercise

image of destination postcards for use in thinking about the future - Gregory Olson - delightability

Making Work Feel Like Vacation: Destination Postcards Exercise
Much of the time we muddle through. Okay, maybe not you, but those around you. 😉 We show up to work, we grind through the day, glancing at the clock that’s embedded in our computers, smartphones, and burned into our psyche. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to get “in the zone” where we become deeply engaged in something, perhaps writing an article or code, talking with a customer or colleague, or crafting whatever it is we craft. In those moments and in our “free time” we seldom feel as though we’re grinding through. After all, we are excited to meet the weekend and few people ever grumble about being on vacation; quite the opposite. So, how can we find that vacation feeling while we ARE muddling through our busy lives?

Our Minds are Ruled by Two Competing Systems
The key is to leverage your brain’s natural abilities to be rational and to be emotional, two things that are often at odds with one another. In the book, Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard, the authors reveal that psychologists have discovered our minds are ruled by two sometimes competing systems – the rational mind (the rider) and the emotional mind (the elephant). Switch is a great book and I recommend you read it. It is a great companion to Chapter 13: Taking Flight, in The Experience Design Blueprint. Change is difficult and no matter where you sit in the organization you need to become a master of it.

Destination Postcards Exercise
Switch inspired me to create a tool I use for my own businesses and with clients. I call the tool the Destination Postcards exercise and I know it can help you, too. I’ve shared the steps here as well as a visual reminder so you can be more deliberate about creating the future you’d like to see unfold AND make it feel more like a vacation.

“If you don’t know where you are going,  any path will take you there.”  – Sioux Proverbs

Step 1: Envision Great Possibilities
Our rational mind appreciates the certainty of the path ahead; we want to know where vacation will be. As in planning a vacation, the first step in the destination postcards exercise is to actually decide where you want to go. Every business, non-profit, and governmental organization has multiple destinations; these are the destination postcard categories. The list that follows is not exhaustive. Choose the categories important to the future of your organization. Be creative and be aware of blind spots while choosing.

Categories for Destination Postcards:

  • technology
  • organizational
  • financial
  • customer
  • brand
  • communications
  • community
  • competitive
  • products and services
  • recognition
  • other?


Step 2: Prioritize Categories

image of Business-Performance-Continuums-used by business and marketing consultant Gregory-Olson-Delightability-206-356-8811Not all categories have the same importance. It really does depend on the type of organization, its current state, as well as the competitive and customer environment. See the related article on business performance continuums to assess the current and future state of the organization across nine dimensions. Once your categories are selected, it can be useful to prioritize them by using a convention common to prioritizing features in product development. Rank each category on whether it is a MD (must do), SD (should do), and CD (could do) item for the organization.

As you prioritize, free yourself of resource constraints. After all, resources can change or even be creatively worked around. It is most important to think about the expected impact to the organization for each of the categories. Again, be careful of blind spots and be mindful of your various stakeholders.  See the related article Customer Schmustomer: Audience Schmaudience.


Step 3: Make a Statement About How the Future Feels

image of love sign - future of work - delightabilityBy establishing the categories that are most important to the organization, you’ve appealed to rationale mind (the rider). In Switch vernacular, you’ve directed the rider by pointing to the destination. This is necessary, but not sufficient. Next, you’ll want to appeal to the emotional elephant; you’ll not reach your destination without the elephant.

To do this, write a statement about the desired future state for each category. How will you know you’ve arrived? What will you see as different and how will that make you feel? You can either write a statement or add bullets to show some detail about the desired future state. If this were a vacation you might write something like “feel my toes in the warm sand” or “be able to ponder the ancient Incan empire from atop Machu Picchu” or [insert most excellent vacation experience here]. If we imagine what it is like to be there, our vacation will be more thoughtful and we’ll be more present once we arrive. This is true of vacation and in business. Here is an example for your business using the category, Recognition. Once we’ve arrived at the destination we might feel the following:

  • be able to credibly apply for “most green citizen” award
  • media and partners are recognizing our organization’s thoughtful work
  • awards and framed articles hang on trophy wall in lobby
  • our products are labeled with the Cradle to Cradle Certification
  • we have more twitter followers than Edward Snowden

Step 4: Empower a Good Story
At this stage, you’ve created a narrative for the organization’s future. You’ll have more clarity yourself, and if you did this exercise with colleagues, you’re better aligned to a common future. You can reference the destination postcards as you build your strategic plan and tell stories about the future.

Go even further by creating physical postcards that can be handed out to employees, partners, and other stakeholders. On one side, make a visual to represent the category; on the other, list the milestones you’ll achieve along the way to reaching that destination. These physical cards can be seen, touched, passed around, referenced and updated periodically. This can be very motivating for all story tellers of the organization. It can also keep people (yourself included) on the right path.

Step 5: Ah, The Path
The Destination Postcards Exercise is a critical tool, among others, to shape and inform a strategic plan. I usually do this exercise with a CEO, executive director, or early stage entrepreneur, but it can be easily extended to include a larger team. I’ve sparked good dialogue among board members using the same exercise in non-profit organizations.

The exercise can be an inclusive process that enables people to get on the same page, something usually overlooked by the committees that shape plans. Imagine the natural forces within our minds that sometimes oppose each other, instead working in harmony. This is the harmony we feel while on a good vacation. And, now imagine all of those minds on your team working better together toward a common future. Oh, the possibilities.

Remember, business planning like vacation is better with postcards. I hope you enjoy your next one. If you are a consultant (internal or external), try using this tool with your organization (clients) and watch attitudes, engagement, and positive outcomes soar. Your destination awaits you; happy travels.

about the author

image of one page overview of L impossipreneurs - A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow by Gregory OlsonGregory 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. This book challenges each of us to think differently, spark our own conversations, and play a role in nudging the world forward to create a better future for all. Find it at Amazon, CreateSpace e-Store, Barnes & Noble, Bokus, or order it from your local bookstore.

one-page-overview-The-Experience-Design-Blueprint-by-Gregory-OlsonGreg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. Exercises and mental models in the book will build your confidence and competence in envisioning better possibilities and then making them come true, whether you are working alone or alongside a team. Chapters in the book that especially pertain to this article include:

  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall
  • Chapter 12: The Three Psychological Zones
  • Chapter 13: Taking Flight
  • Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed
  • Chapter 15: From Arg to Aha!

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

 

What do performance continuums reveal about your business?

What are your business performance continuums?
In business and in life sometimes things are good enough and don’t warrant change. At other times we have an uncomfortable gap between our current reality and our desired future.

When I’m working with a client, I like to better understand their current reality as well as their desired future state. We don’t want to wander around in the swamp. So, to make the best use of our time, I use a tool called the business performance continuums. It reveals important areas of the business; areas where the organization has a problem that is worth solving.

Continuums provide guidance for problems worth solving
Whether you are inside the organization or an outside consultant, you want to focus on problems that are of concern. Business performance continuums guide you toward relevant problem areas. You can make a similar tool to use inside your organization. Or, if you are a consultant, to use with your clients. The tool can be a document, a visual, a worksheet or whatever output you’d like. The conversation it represents is more important that the specific output. My own is an active word template with visual cues that I use as part of a strategic sweep, the process I use with clients for building a dynamic strategic plan.

Here are the steps to create your own Business Performance Continuums:

  1. Identify the categories that are important to your business
  2. Describe the high point and low points
  3. Ask the simple question for each category – where are you now on the continuum?
  4. Follow that question with – where do you want to be?
  5. Does the gap between current and desired position cause discomfort?
  6. If you closed the gap what would you notice as different?
  7. Identify and prioritize actions to close the gap(s)

Example: Communications
Below is a deeper look at the communications –  business performance continuum. You are either at the top, the bottom, or somewhere in between. For your organization at this time, it might not matter that you rank near the top. Sometimes good enough is actually toward the bottom of the scale for any given category – that is ok.

Communications - business performance continuums - Gregory Olson - Delightability - 206 356 8811

If there is a small gap (or none) between your current and future states there probably isn’t cause for concern. But, for each continuum where there is a large separation between where you are at, and where you’d like to be, then you’ll want to build a plan to close the gap.

Leaders spark better conversations
If you are part of a leadership team, building performance continuums can be an insightful exercise to reveal the perspective of your colleagues and to communicate your own. The same applies within or across departments. Please note that your answers of course will change over time because the world outside your organization (the business landscape and customers ecosystem) doesn’t sit still. So, good enough today might not be in the future. And, likewise, if you are executing on a plan to close any given gap, you’ll want to re-assess where you’re at in the future. Instead of cause for concern perhaps you’ll have reason to celebrate.

There are no magic tectonic plates at work here; the gap will not close on its own.

The key is to eliminate blind spots that may be limiting the potential of your business. And, if the exercise reveals an uncomfortable gap, then you can choose to do something about it. There are no magic tectonic plates at work here; the gap will not close on its own. Good luck and if you’d like assistance, please contact me. Please also share this article with colleagues to spark a productive conversation.

about the author

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

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

See a book summary. Read the book reviews on Amazon. Read The Experience Design Blueprint on Kindle or any device using the free Kindle Reader application or read the full color print edition.

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.

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.