Company Name Change

London Euston Train Departures Sign - Company Naming Journey - delightability

Considering a Company Name Change?

You’re about to embark on a journey to a new place. It will be more wonderful if you are prepared. It could go really well and you’ll love the destination. Your journey can be especially rewarding if you have a thoughtful plan. Here are 17 guiding points to consider in creating your plan of action for a company name change.

      1. What is the Problem, Exactly?

        Is it the logo or the company name your are dissatisfied with. Or, do you need a complete brand makeover?  What problem or opportunity are you addressing? Consider a home remodel. It might be that your house is too small for your growing family. Rather than move, you add on. For an enterprise, the current company name might not reflect what the company does, or is about, or wants to be know for.  Is it a company name change you seek or an updated logo or do you wish to tell a new version of the company story? The answer might be one, some, or all of the above.

        This Time It’s Going to Be Different
        The new company name and subsequent logo seeks to make things better. Properly executed it may. But, many a homeowner who has grown tired of their patchy lawn and turned to ready turf, ushers in the next cycle of neglect. Imaginary grass is always greener. Care and feeding of a brand matters. It matters tremendously. See Your Brand Matters and Promise Delivery System.

        Unacceptable Discomfort Spurs Action
        It is important to pinpoint the source of the unacceptable discomfort. Is the company name and logo the cause or the symptom of something else? It is also possible that the unacceptable discomfort doesn’t involve built up angst as much as it is a desire to be opportunistic. This can happen when markets shift, acquisitions are made, a business pivot is in play, etc. Not everybody will see things equally. That’s okay. The key is to decide whether there is enough unacceptable discomfort with the current name and logo, or not. There is? Great, let’s keep reading….

      2. Committed to a Company Name Change

        You’ve decided a company name change is in order. You’ve decided. You have an inspiration, a hunch. You have a domain name or sketch or burning feeling. Any of those are okay. But, unless you are an army of one, you now have to enroll others like any other change effort. If you want to up-skill yourself in change leadership, read Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. It’s one of my favorite business books. That is why I’m telling you now. Okay back to this post.

        This is good news actually that you are committed to a company name change. You have an opportunity to expand the collective thinking. Unless you are a sole proprietor in a startup you probably have other stakeholders. Pull together a team that can represent different viewpoints. Not everybody should be on the team. Here is who should be.

      3. Establish Your Brand Counsel

        Think republic as opposed to direct democracy. It’s perfectly okay that not everybody is on the team. Let others represent. The key is that each person on the brand counsel view the company name change through the lens they represent. Not all lenses will be appropriate for all companies at all stages but here are some to consider along with questions they might explore.

        Visionary – this person must ask, can this new company name endure, can we breath live into this brand, what is the core message? Will we be valid 5 years or 10 years hence? What will we look like as an organization when we really, truly lean into the new company name and logo?

        Regulatory – this person is concerned with trademarks, competitive space, availability of domain name, social platforms, etc. Can we own this company name? Who needs to be notified, Secretary of State, press releases, investors, etc?

        Creative – this person asks what is the concept that needs to sing with the audience? What story is the company telling and what does this and sound like in a name? How does this appear in a logo? Is it typography alone or is there an accompanying mark? What are the explorations that we should pursue as a team? What other ideas, alternatives, and suggestions do people have?

        Executive – this person is responsible for championing change, reinforcing the discipline to persevere through the process, keeping the team focused on an outcome of mutual acceptable discomfort, and then committing to projects and programs to breath life into the new name and logo. You don’t want to arrive at the “bad turf” stage again, right?

        Operational – this person will feel the most ripple effect of a company name change over time. They will sequence the work. You cannot do it all at once unless you are a pure startup just getting started. Collateral, business cards, website, sign on the building, paint on the vehicles. New logo on invoices, envelopes, boxes, tape, etc. The ripple effect.

        Remember to consider partners and other stakeholders. The person with the operational lens will be responsible for leading the implementation and dissemination of the new name and logo across all aspects of the business after the initial project completes. The brand project becomes an evergreen program.

        Even if you don’t have all of these dedicated people that can participate in a company name change journey, you’ll still need to represent each of these lenses. The startup entrepreneur has to walk in all of those shoes unless they have the ability to bring in additional help.

        Brand Counsel for Company Naming Journey
        The Brand Counsel Deliverables
        The brand counsel will work together, deliberate, sometimes pontificate, noodle, brain share, discuss, reflect, observe, lead and follow. They will also gain feedback from others not on the team. That means that work product will have to be packaged up and presented in an effective way so that people who were not in every meeting can provide good feedback.

        Not everybody will have the same insights. People will go at different paces. For some this may be easy work. For other, it will feel like trudging uphill with a heavy pack, while wearing wet boots. Other duties will call. But this can be a fun, liberating, collaborative, and rewarding journey. This team will get through the process. No animals will be harmed. In the end, the company will have a new name, a logo, and identity. But, that logo will be an empty vessel. It will still need to be filled.

        Creativity Loves Constraint
        It’s hard to solve a problem that isn’t pinned down or is ever-changing. The best creative professionals love constraint. Clear boundaries and guardrails establish the design playground. Knowing what is in bounds and what is out of bounds not to be considered helps prevent spinning wheels and wasting resources. A good creative brief can go a long way here.

      4. Develop the Creative Brief

        Your Brand Counsel should pull most of the weight even if you hire outside help. Whether or not you work with outside consultants or an agency it is helpful to put your thoughts to paper. I say paper intentionally because you’ll want to print this out circulate it in a tactile way that demands more attention than an email. Things to include in the creative brief:

        Problem Statement: source of unacceptable discomfort

        Scope: company name change, refreshed logo, or complete brand makeover?

        Expected usage: expected places this new company name will live, e.g. website, social media, partner program, collateral, vehicles, building signage, call center. Think physical, auditory, and for some brands touch, taste, and smell. Think T-Mobile jingle or Victoria Secret smell wafting out of the front doors of each retail store.

        Complete a Brand Spectra Questionnaire to help the Brand Counsel get on the same page with respect to the company’s aspired-to brand personality. This might be different than the current company name and brand. Discuss any differences.

        Show word associations. This is a collection of words associated with your brand. If you are doing a brand makeover you might consider having the as-is and to-be versions of this. In the best of worlds you will have completed a brand audit that reveals what stakeholders have said about your brand.

        Create a Visual Landscape of Competitors. As a early starting point consider creating a visual landscape of your competitive space. Look for patterns. Are the names and logos geometric, do they resemble people or animals, or objects, etc. Eventually your logo will be swimming in the competitive ocean among others. Will yours stand out or be lost in the crowd?

        This is a good start. If you get your creative brief this far, creative professionals will be able to further develop the brief and discuss things like brand spectra, tonality, etc.

      5. Follow a Documented Process

        In the end, you’ll follow a process to complete a company name change. It is best to be intentional about that process. You’ll have a better outcome and earn more buy-in from various stakeholders. Unless you have all of the expertise in house get some outside help.

        An outside perspective can bring cross industry experience and also brings objective honesty and discipline that isn’t as concerned about office tensions and other dynamics that can sometimes sink or stifle initiatives. You don’t have to have giant budgets to get outside help. There are large naming agencies, solo consultants, and firms of all sizes in between ready to help you with a company name change project.

        Summary of Company Name Change Process:
        1. Define problem
        2. Commit to change
        3. Establish team
        4. Build create brief
        5. Document process
        6. Determine naming criteria
        7. Expand thinking
        8. Report findings, score, discuss, explore
        9. Work on tandems
        10. Share release candidates – get feedback
        11. Present short list
        12. Create mood boards
        13. Downselect and further refine
        14. Acceptable discomfort
        15. Rollout company name change
        16. Reinforce
        17. Thrive

    Claude Monet Followed Process - Important to Company Name Change

    1. Questions to Ask and Naming Criteria

      A few obvious questions to ask about proposed company names are: is the name already in use; what does a trademark search reveal? Is the domain name or an acceptable variant available and is the name available on social platforms? Is it associated with things we don’t wish the company to be associate with? If there are obstacles, can these obstacles be overcome through negotiation, acquisition, etc?  Is the name in use in other industries? How dominant and well known is that company? Performing some basic internet searches can reveal quite a bit about the space around your proposed name. Other considerations could be:

      • Distinctiveness – will our company name be easily distinguishable in a crowded marketplace?
      • Brevity – should our company name get to the point without too many letters, symbolism or marks?
      • Empty vessel – does the name give us freedom to build the brand or are does the name invoke preconceived notions about the company and its products and services?
      • Sound – do we want hard consonants in our company name as in Kodak, Kodiak, or IKEA. Or, do we want softer sounds like the “H” or “S” in Sherwin Williams and Hilton Hotels & Resorts.
      • To vowel or not to vowel – should we have vowels or drop the vowels? Think Google versus Flckr.
      • How many words? – people will shorten a name if it is too long. Consider the shorter version from the start. Bank of America gets shortened to BofA, #bofa on twitter. Harley-Davidson Motor Company gets shorted to Harley.
      • How many syllables? – generally, fewer is better. Too many syllables and your audiences will shorten the name. You might not like what customers end up calling you.
      • Acronyms – is there a good reason to hide behind the obscurity of an acronym? I’m guessing not, but that is for your team to decide.
      • Appropriateness – is this a good name for a company of our business type in our industry?
      • Fitness – does the name mesh with our company’s brand personality and culture? If not, can we aspire to it? Will products and services under than company name ring true with customers?
      • Multicultural – If I ask you if beem-a-ling or boom-a-loom refer to #1 or #2  in a bio-break you’ll guess correctly. Every English speaker in every country I’ve ever asked, has. Will the new company name be so universal? Need it be?
      • Translation – how does the name appear to people who speak different languages?
      • Easy spelling and pronunciation – is the name mistake proof? If it’s not you have more to manage. Will people be able to pronounce it to others?
      • Storytelling – Does the name tell a story? How big of a story should it tell?
      • Likability – does it feel good? Is the name friendly? Should it be?
      • Rhythm – does it roll off the tongue and linger on the brain?
      • Architecture – does the name have to fit a family of companies or products and services?
      • Playfulness – is this important to our audience and company personality we wish to communicate? For Southwest Airlines the answer would be yes. Note playfulness doesn’t come across in their logo but it does in their operations. If you’ve flown SW then you have experienced this firsthand.
      • Extendability – can the company name and logo be extended across campaigns and channels. Consider McDonald’s. The iconic “M” shape is even used as a handle to the Happy Meal box.
      • Misspelling – is a misspelled word for our company name acceptable?
      • Protectable – are we concerned about protecting our company name, regionally, nationally, internationally?
      • Memorable – will people remember our company name after hearing it? Will they be able to spell it correctly after hearing it?
      • Origin and Etymology – from where does the company name originate, or is it simply made up?
      • Longevity – will the name outlive the founders, partners, products/services being offered today, etc? Is it necessary?

Bollard in Square in Liverpool - delightability

    1. Expand Thinking to Grow List of Names

      Each of the relevant naming criterion from step 6 can be used as a source of inspiration. For example, if longevity is important, then brainstorm on things that have long lives, that endure for millennia, etc. Maybe that was behind the name of Sequoia Capital. Or, it might have simply been what they saw in nature.

      You’ll need to expand your thinking. You’ll need more creativity and more brains and eyes and ears on the task. Names can be inspired by many things. Sources of inspiration might be animals, songs, objects, sounds, textures, the dictionary, word origins, deities, pictures, random letters, translations, etc.

      Work on this individually and then come together to riff on one another’s ideas. There truly is no limit to this creative pursuit. But at some point you’ll want to reign in the creative kingdom and present potential winners. You don’t want to present e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

    2. Report Findings, Discuss, Return to Explore

      Emotions rule but we need to be objective. Some names will spark feelings of puppy love with some people. It’s cute but not really what’s needed. You’ll need to create a spreadsheet. List your criteria for the new company name. Score each proposed name against the predetermined criteria. Don’t name your company Sequoia Capital even if you provide financial services to timber products companies for the green economy. The shoe might fit, but if it’s already worn by others you should keep looking.

      Have a Calibration Meeting
      Self score your possible company names on your own. You’ll eliminate some darlings but you might spark new possibilities, too. Come together for a short comparison meeting early in the process so that you can keep people oriented, working on the same project using the same criteria.

      Schedule time to share findings and ideas but avoid having these meetings devolve into groupthink. I suggest that coming up with potential company names is at first an individual creative activity. This way the group will benefit by a more diverse range of input when they do come together.

      Shortlist and Iterate
      Your eventual winning name will not likely be present in the first round, maybe not even the second or third. You’ll keep getting more inspiration and you’ll eliminate names on purpose. You’re getting more in tune with your own developing brand. You know what doesn’t fit.

    3. Your Brand Counsel Should Consider Tandems

      If this is a complete brand overhaul in addition to a company name change then revisit the company values, vision, and positioning statement. Think of your audiences past, present, and future. Your audience will ultimately judge your brand; think of them from the start. If you have developed personas for your various audiences then imagine your brand through each of their hearts and minds. What will they think and feel about the name change?

    4. Share Release Candidates and Gain Feedback

      You cannot possibility present every name considered and the reason for its rejection to all stakeholders. That would be disruptive to business operations. If you broaden the audience from whom you are getting feedback make certain they understand the context for the feedback. Ask them to score the company name and logo direction against a downselected list of the most relevant criteria.

    5. Present Short List

      What the Brand Counsel should present is a short list of those company names who rank high against the criteria. If the stakeholder feedback warrants further exploration or sparks new ideas go back to steps 8 and 9. If you short list is “good enough” then present to your stakeholder group. This group is defined by you, but could be department heads, other executives, could include partners, customers, investors or anybody you’d like to have an early look. They may validate your team’s work or provide redirection. If things are a go, then begin developing the visual identity of this short list at the same time. Do this through the use of mood boards.

    6. What the Heck are Mood Boards?

      A mood board is a creative exploration that captures the tone and personality of a brand. It can include images, shapes, descriptive words, and colors. It is used to set the direction for other creative pursuits like websites, collateral, photography, video, even letterhead and business cards, and the shirts worn at events.

      Mood boards are not seen by the end customer, these are internal creative explorations only. Mood boards are a great place to explore and present color psychology that communicates the proposed company name and brand.

    7. Downselect and Further Refine

      You’ll want to further reduce the names, word associations and visual directions down to a shortlist. It is possible that at this point your brand counsel is working with 5 distinct mood boards with some degree of overlap between them. Or, if you are only revising the company name and logo you might have 5 distinct areas of exploration.

      Within each exploration you may have multiple logo variations. Some people might like a particular combination of typography and name while others may gravitate toward a particular shape or color in a logo design. It can be helpful to view black and white versions of names to remove early color bias.

    8. Arriving at Acceptable Discomfort

      Now I’m talking to your future self. Remember when you started the company name change project and you had unacceptable discomfort? That is what we’re trying to alleviate. Not every member of the brand counsel will agree on every aspect of the company name, logo, and brand identity. It is important to reconcile any unacceptable discomfort. If no names and logos are measuring up then keep creating.

      Resolve that while you might not love every aspect of the new brand identity you may still able to support it. If this is the case then you have reached acceptable discomfort. This is a bit like arriving at a crowded train station, say London Euston railway station pictured above. At first you might be confused, disoriented and overwhelmed with information. But, you have the courage trust the process and the professionals and get on with your journey. You eventually find comfort.

      Perfection is the Enemy of Good Enough
      It might be that adjustments can be made going forward that make the name and logo even more appealing to you. If you don’t envision that possibility then you need to speak up. Your brand counsel needs to respect your concerns. Articulate your concerns well. Remember, perfection is the enemy of good enough.

      It is very likely that at this stage you have the makings of a winning company name and logo. Now you can begin to lean into that new brand. You can change external brand perceptions through positioning. Remember the position is what others say of your brand. It is their perception, not your company’s. Positioning is the activity your organization undertakes in attempt to shift that perception.

Rolling Out the Company Brand Name Change - Handholding Required

    1. Rollout the Company Name Change

      Once the company name change is complete it is time to roll out the brand identity across all aspect of the organization. This is internal and external. Readiness is key here or else you might alienate some stakeholders and that could leave an unpleasant brand aftertaste. Avoid this by improving your organizational readiness, just as a first responder anticipates future scenarios and prepare to meet them.

Brand Is What You Say and Do - Delightability

  1. Reinforce the Brand

    The brand counsel may disband at the project completion or stay together and recast themselves with a new project, namely, brand reinforcement. It is also possible to assign a new collective of people for this task. It will be helpful to have some level of sponsorship or access to at least one member of the brand counsel. The person wearing the operational role is organizationally suited for this role in most organizations. Whoever this reinforcement team is going forward they are responsible for making the new brand live after the initial project completes.

    Welcome to the Brand Police
    Every new piece of collateral, new company presentation, video, commercial, press release, product release, partner or channel program, etc. will be judged in the eyes of this brand police force. This duty to brand will eventually become habit for all employees. This should be part of employee development. Publishing brand style guide, talking points, FAQs, fact sheets, etc. will help employees, vendors, and partners to keep on brand.

    Your Brand Promise
    Your brand is a promise to customers of specific benefits, quality, and value. Your brand is what THEY say it is. You’ll need to measure this over time. If there is a gap, you’ll need to close the gap through positioning. If you don’t you run the risk of becoming a Lumpy Snowball of an Organization.

  2. Thrive in the Brand Promised Land

    In the end, no matter which company name you choose, you’ll have to satisfy customers better than the competition in the long run and not run out of cash in the short run. If you do, you’ll be a going concern. If you don’t, well the Annals of Business Failures is not yet fully written. The list of dead companies is long and growing. Some of them had good company names. Whatever company name your brand counsel finalizes, it will not be sufficient unto itself. No matter how keen your insights, wondrous your process, and generous your budget, ultimately, you’ll need to breath life into your brand so that it can blossom and reach it’s full potential.

    Customers, employees, investors, partners, and other stakeholders are the ultimate judge of your new company name and brand. Their hearts and minds will be moved by a brand that consistently closes or exceeds the gap between what the company says and does and what stakeholders think and feel.

    Suggestion: A year following the company name change, perform a brand audit with stakeholders to determine your position.

Start Your Company Name Change

Hopefully, I’ve provided you with enough perspective that you can make the most informed and prepared decision to pursue a company name change. I’ve attempted to encapsulate in one article what I’ve experienced in naming or rebranding companies, products and services and creating brand identities for startups and decades old enterprises.

Establishing a brand counsel that can own the initiative inside a company, even if outsiders are ultimately doing much of the work, is essential. Good luck in your company naming journey. May you and your stakeholders enjoy the journey and your destination.

about the author

image of author and consultant Gregory OlsonGreg is a virtual chief marketing officer to small and medium sized businesses. He founded Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers success will follow.  Greg  authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences. The second half of that book is concerned with building a healthy innovation culture  so that once you design better experience you can more easily make them come to life. Gregory Olson’s also authored L’ impossipreneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans.

Better Capitalism Requires 3 Reforms

image of Market Street in Paris France - Delightability Rick Steves Tour

[This article is from a talk I gave to members of the Olympic Club on May 10, 2018, A Better Capitalism. The current economic and political framework (capitalism) is failing too many stakeholders. Evidence abounds and isn’t the subject of the talk. With 3 simple policy reforms we are on our way to a better capitalism. This may seem impossible at first. But, so was putting in place policies that enabled the building of massive towers of wealth while doing harm to people, communities, and the environment. I’ve turned off comments but feel free to reach me directly or comment and share on social media.

A Better Capitalism  – an 8 minute talk and an even quicker read

I’m a pragmatist. I believe we can all do better, as individuals, organizations, even the world community. So, I’m optimistic. But, I also live in the real world. In my world view, I see things as connected. They don’t sit artificially isolated from one another. Here are the connections that I see:

  • Growth in the city and tents in the parks and spaces in-between
  • Record corporate profits and the unpaid shadow work each of us perform
  • Globalization, offshore profits, flattening wages, and boomerang kids
  • Hollowed out communities and politicians desperate to remake them
  • Indebted consumers addicted to things and stuff to distract them
  • Marginalized and outraged citizens and the tone-deaf politicians elected to represent
  • Registered voters not participating in a country divided with scapegoats aplenty

We can have lawful, dignified, respectable capitalism or we can have unbridled greed, wanton destruction, and divisive crony capitalism with fewer winners supported at the expense of the public and the environment.

I’d like a better capitalism where we get the spoils of competition, continuous innovation and benefits for the many. I love that our trade and industry are privately owned and operated for profit.

I love capitalism. But, I’d love a better capitalism, even better.

What might that look like? That’s what I’ve been pondering. That’s what I want to tell you. I only have time to tell you about 3 big ideas. Here they are.

Big idea #1 – We need to decouple healthcare and employment.

Here is why. The world of work has changed. There is more and more automation. Companies are paring down employment. They use on-demand help, independent contractors, and are pushing more people to part-time to avoid the full costs of employees.

Uber and Lyft have declared themselves platforms, not transportation companies, even though their main business is providing transportation services. It’s innovative, but make no mistake this is about internalizing gains while externalizing costs to the public.

Imagine instead of fighting innovation, we embraced more of it. Free the innovators. Embrace the gig economy but don’t further cripple labor in the process. We need to decouple healthcare and employment to give 99% of the people a little bit more.

Imagine US businesses were free to focus on their core purpose and could compete more effectively with other developed nations, nations where employees already enjoy national healthcare.

Free businesses from providing healthcare and watch innovation flourish and entrepreneurship soar. American businesses will be more competitive and without adding a single tariff. What this likely means is a #MedicareForAll #SinglePayer system. That is the least expensive healthcare program we have in this country with the best health outcomes. It would also be focused on healthcare as opposed to for-profit sickcare. Get used to hearing that idea. It will come back again and again until it finally arrives.

Big Idea #2 – We need a Parasitic Index.

For too long people have been duped into believing maximizing corporate profits is synonymous with increasing shareholder value. It isn’t the same thing. You can do massive harm to customers, employees, and the environment in the name of short-term profits but you’ll have destroyed shareholder value. Just ask Volkswagen. Ask the CEO of the now defunct Peanut Butter Corporation of America who sits in a jail cell. Ask the former makers of Asbestos.

Maximizing shareholder value should mean providing reasonable returns to shareholders while acting in harmony with the environment, communities, customers, and employees. You balance stakeholders not pit one against the other.

A Parasitic Index would show how much a corporation leeches off society’s infrastructure and labor force – while killing its host in the process. Is the corporation a partner to the community or merely a beneficiary?

Imagine a world in which corporations didn’t extort cities and states for unneeded tax breaks but instead became partners in building stronger communities, improving the environment, and creating more stable democracies. Capitalism that serves is a better breed of capitalism than the unbridled greed varietal.

I just returned from a trip to central and Eastern Oregon. One of the cities I drove through was Prineville. That’s where Les Schwab founded and grew his $1B dollar tire retail chain. His motto was Doing the Right Thing Since 1952. If Jeff Bezos embraced that motto Amazon might look different and they probably wouldn’t have halted downtown development in light of the city council’s proposed “Head Tax.”

Image of Living Wage Sign in Dashi Sushi Coffee Shop Window - Bath England - better capitalism needed
Companies Who Pay a Living Wage Would Score Lower on the Parasitic Index Whereas Companies with Massive CEO-to-Worker Pay Ratios Would Score Higher
image of WPA Plaque Main Entrance Timberline Lodge Mt Hood Oregon - better capitalism needed
When Capitalism Fails Government Steps in to Alleviate Suffering as it did with the Federal Emergency Relief Act which brought economic livelihood and meaning for people with the WPA and CCC

Big Idea #3 – We need Congress to give federal prosecutors the ability to revoke a state-granted corporate charter.

You might need a little background here. The federal government doesn’t provide any mechanism to form a corporation. That is left up to the secretaries of state within each state.

Corporations have long figured out they can abuse employees, customers, and communities with impunity, to maximize profits. They can do so because if the state attorney general where they are incorporated were to harm them, the corporation can simply threaten to move to another “friendlier” state. So, companies based in Delaware, for example, are seldom sued by the State Attorney General of Delaware.

Without the ability to revoke a state-granted corporate charter, bad actors simply pay federal fines if caught in a misdeed and chalk it up to the cost of doing business. Wells Fargo recently paid a hefty federal fine but it was still tiny compared to its quarterly profit. Facebook has a long history of apologies. Losing their right to exist as a corporation would be a much stronger deterrent.

In Summary:

In society, there will always be bad actors because as Mr. Burnham points out there are people involved. Modern capitalism isn’t living up to its potential – maybe that’s because it’s not yet ruled by robots and artificial intelligence. There are still too many greedy humans in the mix.

The 3 ideas I shared will create a better capitalism. A better breed of capitalism for the good of the many, not the few. Let’s confront reality. There are too many forces leading us to a gig economy. Let’s not fight it. Let’s embrace it and flourish in its presence. People need healthcare, let’s make that a priority.

There will always be bad actors. Let’s make it more transparent and unpopular to be one. Like the #MeToo movement did for individual accountability amid sexual abuse a better capitalism includes a parasitic index to shine a light on corporate accountability in a sea of economic abuse.

And let’s give the most egregious organizations a death sentence when warranted. The ability to revoke corporate charters will allow our representatives to protect all of us from some of us.

It not cruel. It’s not personal. It’s just business AND it’s better capitalism.

about the author

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

Greg is a virtual chief marketing officer to small and medium sized businesses. He founded Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers success will follow.

Making Truth Matter

image of What is the Truth From Sagrada Familia entrance - Delightability blog post on Truth

[This article is from a talk I gave to members of the Olympic Club on May 26, 2016. I’ve added a few links and shared it here for members of the Olympic Club and the broader public. I’ve turned off comments but feel free to reach me on social media.]

an 8 minute talk and an even quicker read

Good afternoon gentlemen. Today I’m going to talk about the Truth.

3 noteworthy things happened this week.

  1. First, a new book came out Bravehearts: Whistleblowing in the Age of Snowden. In the book, the senior DOD official in charge of the federal whistleblower program goes public with accusations that key officials retaliated against whistleblowers, destroyed permanent records and altered audits of multibillion dollar programs. They did this under political pressure. This senior official calls into question the very program that is supposed to protect whistleblowers when they report fraud, abuse, and waste.
  2. Another noteworthy thing that happened was the acquittal of Edward Nero, one of the Baltimore police officers involved in Freddy Gray’s arrest and subsequent death. If you recall, the original incident is what sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.
  3. And the 3rd thing that  happened this week is that snopes.com, debunked stories that reported violence and specifically chairs being thrown at  the democratic convention in NV. Numerous media outlets regurgitated the original tale that was casually fabricated in a 140 character tweet. Media outlets on the bandwagon included: The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, the Associated Press, CBS, and NPR.

It has been a really busy week for the TRUTH.

Now, no matter what we believe or how we react to these developments, there is a TRUTH that supersedes our opinions and reactions. I view truth much like I do gravity. You can choose not to believe but that doesn’t make it go away.

What is Truth?

I want to be crystal clear on what I mean when I say Truth. I’m talking about conformity to facts; accuracy. Certainties. The truth I’m talking about isn’t squishy. A moral relativist would have you believe that truth is relative to the circumstances. I’m not talking about a malleable truth or aberration of fact. I’m taking about that which is incontrovertible. Like Newton’s law of universal gravitation. It applies to everybody whether they choose to believe it or not.

Human Responses to The Truth

When we are exposed to a new truth, our reactions fall into a predictable range of human responses:

  1. We can be apathetic. Maybe what we are hearing is simply noise to us. We really can’t be bothered with it.
  2. Another response is we may simply adopt the truth immediately and adapt our own views.
  3. We may also seek clarity. A person can react by seeking new information and knowledge – “Help me to see what you see, Mr. Severs.“

But sometimes the facts don’t fit our current views at all – that internal narrative we play in our head. When our views are challenged with a new truth we have a few OTHER options to choose from.

  1. We can object outright: “That’s not true.” We can do this loudly and aggressively or we can do this quietly, slipping out of the conversation or even the room.
  2. We can also redirect attention: This is the magician’s trick – misdirection. Here, we shift the attention to something else more fitting of our own views.
  3. Another predictable reaction is we resort to any one of several logical fallacies. There are plenty of these to draw from. Most people are unaware of these fallacies even as they commit them.

The original logical fallacies were documented more than 2400 years ago by Plato and his thinking colleagues. You’d think we’d have learned by now.

Here are a few of my favorite logical fallacies.

The Ad Hominem Argument: This is where you attack your opponent’s character or personal traits in an attempt to undermine their argument.

Example: It is conceivable that any one of the presidential candidates could say something truthful. It could happen! But, reactions to their statements could easily be, “Well, he’s a communist.” “She’s a pant suits Nixon.” “He’s a xenophobe” So, we can’t trust them.

Another common logical fallacy is the The Appeal to Tradition: This is the fallacy that a standpoint, action or situation is right, proper and correct simply because it has “always” been that way. Imagine not being able to advance human progress in the name of tradition. You’d still be cooking over fire, hunting and gathering your own food, and you certainly would not be able to read this passage, and least of all on a computer or smartphone.

The opposite of this is The Appeal to Novelty or Innovation. This is the notion that this is NEW, and [therefore it must be] better!”

Then there is the The Big Lie Technique. This is the contemporary fallacy of repeating a lie, slogan, or talking-point until it becomes part of daily discourse and is no longer questioned. An example is  the non-existent “Weapons of Mass Destruction” “WMD’s” in Iraq, used in 2003 as a false justification for invading that country. [See also Mind Hijacked: A History Lesson in Propaganda.]

There are a host of other logical fallacies. [University of Texas at El Paso has compiled a living document of logical fallacies. A nicely designed poster of commonly used logical fallacies has been created by Your Logical Fallacy Is.]

What About Reaction to Lies?

Up to now I’ve been talking about our range of reactions when we are exposed to the TRUTH. But, what if we are exposed to a lie? Sadly, it doesn’t really much matter.

Whether it is fact or fiction if it reinforces our beliefs then we strengthen our views, digging our heels in further. And, if it doesn’t strengthen our views then we dismiss it. Researchers refer to this phenomena as the “backfire effect.”  It is even more pronounced when the new information challenges an especially emotional or long held belief. For a depth reading with examples on WMDs, Stem Cell Research, and Climate Change see this document.

The takeaway from this is: it’s really hard to change people’s minds.  Some people will want to build a wall, no matter the facts presented to them.

Friedrich Nietzsche said it well, “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.” I want to put this another way, “We only see the truth we are looking for.”

Conclusion

I opened this talk with stories about Freddie Grey, the new book BraveHearts, and debunked reports of chairs being thrown at the democratic convention. I used these 3 examples because:

  1. Protecting Truthtellers is important in a free and democratic society. Truthtellers can prevent and end wars and get dangerous products removed from the market. [See also: Preventing the Next Scandal]
  2. Police brutality is inexcusable, period. Lucky for you it wasn’t your family member. But Freddie Gray was someone’s son & brother.
  3. Communication of all forms has become faster AND sloppier. When experienced reporters and media outlets are quick to judge and almost as quick to report, the Truth can Suffer.

TRUTH SHOULD MATTER.

Our republic in caught in the grips of a protracted presidential election. As a nation, we face important issues. It is hard to solve problems when you don’t even agree on the truth.

Ann Richards the former democratic governor of Texas once said, “We’re not going to have the America that we want until we elect leaders who are going to tell the truth not most days, but every day.”

But, the Truth is too important to leave to politicians, alone.

So, What Can WE Do?

In a civilized society each of us has a duty to respect and uphold the truth. We also have a duty to hold others accountable to do the same. Imagine the possibilities if we made the truth matter. In this election year, the Republican and Democratic parties are splintered. They are worried about healing and uniting their respective parties.

Their focus however,  Ought To Be on healing a nation, not a political party.  And, that gentlemen is the Truth.  Now,  I’m counting on You to uphold it.

about the author

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

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.

Gregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.

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.

Customer Schmustomer: Audience Schmaudience

Image of Landscape Design that Impacts Unknown Audiences - Gregory Olson - The Experience Design Blueprint

Customer Schmustomer: Audience Schmaudience
Chances are your organization has multiple stakeholders. And, chances are many of those stakeholders are sadly neglected. The reasons may vary and at first blush you might react with, “It’s because its too costly or too complex to manage all of those relationships.” But, that usually isn’t the reason for the neglect.

image for audiences are sometimes missing for journey map blog post - delightabilityIn reality, most stakeholders receive nary a thought from your organization. You simply have not acknowledged their existence, any more than you’ve inventoried the birds that fly overhead. OK, some smartypants somewhere is saying, “Whoa, wait a minute, our business IS tracking birds.” Yeah, yeah, OK, I hear you.

It isn’t that you’ve intentionally decided to neglect your audience, you didn’t. It’s that you haven’t given them much thought at all. Why would you? After all, you’ve been able to survive this long without paying any attention.

The problem you face, is when others begin to pay more attention to those you’ve neglected. That is often the birth of new organizations whose aim is to supplant yours. And, when that happens, the defection might be tough to prevent or overturn.

So, what’s a good first step? Inventory your stakeholder groups. An easy way to do this is to think of your promise delivery system – the invisible system by which your organization makes and keeps its promises. To whom do you make explicit and implicit promises? And, who is involved in delivering on those promises? Also, who in the extended enterprise helps you? Those are good starters to identify stakeholders beyond the obvious of customers and employees.

image for child as audience for journey map blog post - delightabilityHere are some audience types to spur your thinking, no matter the type or organization you may be involved with: member, customer, donor, investor, visitor, prisoner, voter, citizen, tenant, resident, student, guest, traveler, passenger, performer, elected officials, inspector, owner, parishioner, supplier, vendor, consultant, partner, board member, adviser, council member, leader, refugee, patron, staff, volunteer, client, shareholder, agency, patient, child, doctor, administrator, buyer, licensee, immigrant, refugee, soldier, driver, guide, occupant, person experiencing homelessness, employee, taxpayer.

image for wolves as audience for journey map blog post - delightabilityRemember not all audiences are vocal and present. Consider audiences that may not be vocal or present for interviews including people with disabilities, pets and domesticated animals, animals in nature, environmental resources, etc.

Audiences are varied and complex. When we provide average experiences for everybody, treating all the same, we miss opportunities to connect with people, make them feel special, respected, wanted, and meaningful. Instead, they can become agitated, irritated, disgruntled and disengaged, perhaps dismissing your organization all together. If you are not intentionally designing experiences for your various audience then they are accidentally evolved at best. Organizations can be at different stages of maturity when it comes to recognizing and serving their various stakeholders. No matter where you are at and no matter your resources, you can employ the same tactics as organizations with the most attentive service cultures.

Here are other tactics once you’ve inventoried the stakeholder groups:

  1. Inventory your stakeholder groups
  2. Prioritize audiences by assigning audience “owners”
  3. Develop personas to make the audience come alive inside the organization
  4. Explicitly create a promise delivery system for each stakeholder group
  5. Explore and create customer journey maps for each stakeholder group using the developed personas (and if possible) voice of the customer data
  6. Create an opportunity map with ideas you can implement to improve outcomes for audiences and for the organization
  7. Establish operating mechanisms that keep the promise delivery system working smoothly and the audience conversation alive, even as the external environment changes

about the author

Gregory Olson is the author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations, 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 all live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans.

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

  • Chapter 2: Making the Customer Come Alive
  • Chapter 3: Who is in the Sandbox?
  • Chapter 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken, and Generous Design
  • Chapter 8: Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 9: The Neighborhood
  • Chapter 14: The World of Work has Changed

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.