Making a sandwich reveals your biases

Making a Beautiful Tasty Sandwich

So, you’re making a sandwich, a beautiful tasty sandwich. You gather the fresh pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, cheese, mayo, mustard, fresh ground pepper, etc. Then you reach for the bread. You open the plastic bag and if you are like most people, you automatically skip past the heel, like your looking for an ace in a deck of cards. You go straight to the “good stuff” towards the middle.

Running on Autopilot

Caught you! You’re like a robot or a computer running an algorithm, not even aware you’re running the program. Or rather, the program is running you. Why don’t you like heels? No, really, why? I’m pretty certain you’ve never performed a taste test to compare the crusty exterior with the interior. You’ve probably never examined it for detectable flaws. You likely are completely unaware of why you eschew, the crusty one. Maybe you’ve simply aped mother or father or a sibling. The reason doesn’t really matter. The fact is you have a blind-spot and a bias. It likely isn’t the only one. We all have them. I do, too.

avoiding heels is a bias most of us share - The Experience Design Blueprint - Gregory Olson - Delightability

Biases in the office

Patterns that are codified into the DNA of an organization reside with individuals. Schooling, past experiences, beliefs, and values all shape the biases we bring to work each day. Biases held by individuals and entire departments become woven into the innovation fabric of the enterprise. One classic and common bias is financial. “What is the business case?” “What is the expected ROI?” “Is this a big enough business to matter?” These biases for immediate results or large returns squash budding ideas that really could be the next big thing, if nurtured. Smart people everywhere are upholding these biases and unable to move forward. They are stuck in their own thinking; much like a trained elephant is tethered to the ground with only a small chain and spike that it could easily break free from.

Biases in our lives

Biases come in many forms. For some it is about not eating heals. Sometimes, these biases and blind-spot lead us to act in ways that are intolerant of others, insensitive to our surroundings, suspicious of others motives, and unbelieving of others abilities.

I once had a friend that came home from a job and went on to tell me about the completely incapable, intolerable, irritating new hire that had started that day. Within a couple of weeks the bias had subsided and the two pals were spending time together. What other blind-spots and biases might you have? Ask a friend or colleague to observe your patterns and practices. You might just learn something about your habits.

There you have it, robot. I hope you’ll soon savor the special loaf end, that crusty exterior, whether you slather it with butter and strawberry jam, make bread pudding, or homemade seasoned croutons. And, if you still decide to throw those heals in the compost, then at least you’ll do so with your eyes and mind wide open. Enjoy your sandwich.

about the author

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

The chapter in The Experience Design Blueprint that especially pertains to this post is:

  • Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall

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.

 

Inaction is not the Same as Voting NO

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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

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

The Real Skills Gap

Telesope Seeing the Invisible - DelightabilityThere is a pervasive issue that plagues our economy yet it is mostly invisible, unless we look for it. I’m going to help you to see it. It is the Skills Gap.

We’ve all heard media, politicians, and pundits refer to the skills gap in this country. It’s true we do have a skills gap. But it isn’t the one they’ve been referring to, where people are trained for the wrong jobs, lack technical skills or a college education. All of that is simply not true in a universal sense. It isn’t anymore true than the statements all dogs are ferocious or all email is spam.

Each of us knows family, friends, and colleagues whose personal economy has suffered in spite of their college education, skills, and experiences. You probably also know people that are super-employed by greedy corporations that work their employees tirelessly, refuse to hire more people, while stockpiling more and more cash.

No, this skills gap is of a different sort. As a society, we’re becoming less empathetic to those not like us. This is making us less human. This is our real skills deficit.

The decline in empathy is all around us. It is a fact. You can find studies that show the decline over the last 40 years. But, you don’t need to. You need only reflect on your own experiences.

Examples of Empathy in Decline

Over Labor Day weekend I experienced a lack of empathy when I re-entered the U.S. at the Canadian border. I had my keys taken away and my car searched. I guess I look like a smuggler or terrorist or my backpacking story triggered some false instinct. Of course I did nothing wrong. It’s just that we are at war with ourselves. I think I would have felt more empathy from a bear encounter than I did from the border agent interaction.

If you’ve traveled aboard a commercial airliner in recent years, you’ve no doubt been treated as a dangerous object by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Even, in our own communities, we’re ruled by red light cameras.

When the police outfit themselves in combat gear and appear as robocops they look and behave less human. They also further insulate themselves from the communities they are supposed to protect and serve. The events in Ferguson displayed a lack of empathy in all directions.

Some municipalities have gone so far as to outlaw homelessness. Police and firefighters have been ordered to destroy the donated tents of people experiencing homelessness. They didn’t merely dismantle the tents, they actually destroyed them with box cutters. What a horrible misuse of power by the mayor and what a horrible thing to have to do as a public servant. The lack of empathy in all directions can be witnessed by reading the comments on the video posted on YouTube, St. Petersburg Police cut tops off homeless people tents. The war against people “not like us” rages on.

We have systematically been reducing our own empathy.

We are communal by nature yet when we don ear buds and bury ourselves in front of screens of all sizes we avoid real discussion and face to face interaction. We no longer visit video stores or interact with bank tellers. We buy online and pay at the pump. We are having less and less human interactions.

Think of your own conversations and those you hear around you. How many of these conversations actually matter on a human level. Too many would be meaningful conversations are not happening.

We are increasingly isolated. We have technology that connects us to each other more than at any point in human history, yet we are connected in less authentic ways. It is much easier to ignore or exit a conversation that is only online. Internet and social media bullying are sadly commonplace. Unfriending and the “conversations” that precede that act are inflammatory and lack components of a healthy dialogue. Few would have the courage to act this way face-to-face.

So, yes, we have a skills gap. We are forgetting how to be human. We are becoming less empathetic. Technology and our busy states of mind are our allies for ignoring what’s wrong in our communities and in the world.

We Pay Homage to Things that Don’t Matter

Newspaper Showing World Closing Prices - Delightability Blog PostMaking matters worse, as a society, we are paying attention to the wrong things. These things further harden us and make us even less empathetic.

I think each of us does want a more humane and just world, where people are genuinely peaceful and happy. But, those things are hard to measure and don’t carry headlines, so instead we measure things like GDP, the DOW, and the S&P 500. We measure things that tell a story that media and politicians want retold – and we in turn, pay attention. Even American Public Media’s Marketplace that purports to present news on business, economics, and money for the rest of us, chants the numbers as though they mean something to main street America. Imagine if we were listening instead to, “HumanPlace” or “ProsperityPlace” or the like.

Unfortunately, the larger human story is going untold. We do have a prosperous nation, if you measure it by GDP and the DOW. But, we have poverty in this prosperous nation. We also have droves of educated but unemployed and underemployed people. And, of those that are working, most are largely disengaged.

These things are not part of our national dialogue or priority, but they should be. Instead what is heard is, “If you don’t have a job, it is your fault. Skills gap, remember. If you don’t have enough work, get more education. If you are suffering from poverty, again, it must be your fault. If you are a college educated fast food worker, just try harder. Pick yourself by your bootstraps and just do it.”

This is all hogwash and only serves to polarize and distract all of us. So, what can we do?

Platform for Human Progress

I imagine a Platform for Human Progress. The platform would be about two things: 1) We’d relearn empathy – we’d systematically restore empathy in schools, in police departments, in the workplace and dare I say it, online; and 2) we’d develop human potential – we’d have a people first agenda.

What would a Platform for Human Progress look like? Technology would be involved.  So would forums and events. Institutions of all types and sizes, and of course government. In fact, the employment security department would morph. It would become less about policing benefits and more about helping people to reach their potential, irrespective of education, experience level or industry. No longer would people automatically become invisible or be labeled as discouraged workers, no longer looking for work, simply because their unemployment  benefits were exhausted. A human centric side project of Delightability that has debunked both the skills gap and the notion of discouraged workers is Please Count Me. This website gives Americans the opportunity to self report their employment status no matter if they are unemployed, under-employed, fully-employed, or super-employed.

We’d want the Platform for Human Progress to scale while at the same time being careful not to concentrate more wealth and control into the hands of a greedy few. Maybe we’d embrace small as the new big.

There is No Innovation or Progress Without People

I think investing in people should be a national priority. There is too much idle wealth and talent on the sidelines in the U.S. and in the world. Yet, there are many problems to solve and opportunities to explore. There’s no innovation or progress without people. This is important work for all of us.

Let’s return the keys to the kingdom to the makers and remove them from the takers, speculators, and manipulators. 

If we can build vaccines for diseases we cannot see, and build fabric winged airplanes that can carry us to other continents can’t we also build systems that help humans that are negatively affected by public policy, technology changes, and corporate greed? Of course we can. If we did, we’d be a real superpower, not simply a military superpower. Maybe, as a country the U.S. would then rank as high, or surpass Norway or Denmark as having the most prosperous and happy people.

In all that we do, we need to start asking the question, “What about the people.” Repeat that 100 times, “What about the people.”

We need to measure the success of the platform and our nation in terms of: Can individuals secure food and a future? Are they achieving their potential?

Maybe we can learn from the work of the Grameen Foundation’s Progress Out of Poverty Index. Hopefully, we’d replace it with Prosperity Index; the Legatum Index might be a good place to start. The Legatum Prosperity Index™ is an annual ranking, developed by the Legatum Institute, of 142 countries. The ranking is based on a variety of factors including wealth, economic growth and quality of life. In 2013, the U.S. dropped out of the top 20 for the Economy sub-index.

We collectively need metrics that matter to human progress and prosperity. We need to communicate these metrics and hold ourselves and others accountable to improving them. This would be a shift much like John F. Kennedy’s Man on the Moon speech that sparked a nation to action.

In Conclusion

Humanity is a big subject and even though each of us play a tiny, time limited role, each of us can make a bigger impact with our conversations and the challenges we put on others. I challenge every reader of this article to be more human, more empathetic, and to hold others to a higher, human standard. Maybe pose the question, “Is that helping or hurting humans?”

A New Conversation

I don’t have all of the answers. I think the answers are spread across all of us. But, we’ll need better conversations to draw them out. I hope you’ll share this message with others so that we can close the most important skills gaps we face, being human.

I’m going to leave you with a little quote from the universe.

“When you understand, that what most people really, really want is simply to feel good about themselves, and when you realize that with just a few well-chosen words you can help virtually anyone on the planet instantly achieve this, you begin to realize just how simple life is, how powerful you are, and that love is the key.”

Fly little bird,
The Universe (Sign up for Mike Dooley’s Notes from the Universe)

 About the Author

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

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

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

small linkedin iconsmall facebook iconsmall twitter icon

 

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

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

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

The United Nations Ambitious Goals and You

Comment turned blog post

This blog post started as a simple comment on a video interview of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  But, I as I reflected on my own heritage and the comments being posted, my simple comment evolved to this blog post. Below is the short embedded video. If you click through to play it on slideshare, you’ll see a wide range of comments each representing a particular point of view.

Shaping my own perspective

My own view of the subjects in the video are shaped in part by being of mixed race, specifically Native American Indian, Estonian, and Swedish ancestry. My view is also shaped by my volunteer board work I do with Oikocredit International, an organization that has effectively lifted people out of poverty for nearly 40 years. You probably haven’t heard of them, which is why I’m on the board of Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for Oikocredit International. Operating in over 80 countries and with nearly 1 billion U.S. dollars of cumulative capital invested, Oikocredit has made a conscious decision to do good in the world, by giving people a hand up, not a hand out. Oikocredit is a leader in measuring the impact of its investments through the use of the Grameen Foundation’s Progress out of Poverty Index and also the internally developed Environmental, Social, Governance scorecards (ESG). Our tagline is Investing in People.

A brief history of exploitation in the United States

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

Dig a little deeper in your middle class pockets

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

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

The video is about humanity not politics

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

The men and women behind the curtain

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

You may not own your values

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

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

A shared agenda that puts people first

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

 

about the author

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

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

More Reasons to Dislike My Local Cable Monopoly

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

A recent experience with my local cable provider.

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

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

The communication I would have liked to receive.

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

Mr. Olson,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

about the author

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

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

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

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

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

room and board catalog cover image

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

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

room and board catalog back page guarantee image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CVS Pharmacy Writes Future by Saying Good Bye to Cigarettes

Bravo to CVS for their Decision to Stop Selling Tobacco Products

Some think it to be a poor decision that will harm earnings and inconvenience customers. If we were living in a different time, with different knowledge, and CVS was scrapping by needing to sell anything in order to put food on the table, I’d agree. But, this isn’t the case. Healthcare has become more complicated, competitive, and future focused. Meanwhile, CVS has become an integrated pharmacy company with a wide and growing breadth of capabilities. Punching customers in the face and then offering to dress their wounds isn’t consistent thinking and it isn’t good business. With smoking being the leading cause of premature disease and death in the United States and it exacerbating other conditions like hypertension and diabetes, it no longer makes sense for a healthy-human centered business to continue supporting such a deadly habit.

A Polarizing Decision
The decision to stop selling cigarettes and tobacco related product is polarizing. CVS customers that smoke will now likely shop elsewhere for cigarettes and other needed items as well. But, the nonsmoker audience that already eschewed tobacco products will likely see the company as more committed to its promise of helping people on their path to better health. This change actually frees up CVS from conflicting and confusing messages as they begin to offer smoking cessation therapy and engage on a national smoking cessation program.

A Courageous Decision
It is as though CVS is saying, “If you want a serious pharmacy that is interested in making and keeping people healthy, then come to CVS. But, if you demand a nicotine fix from your local pharmacy in addition to making other purchases, then please shop elsewhere.” Saying something IS saying something. CVS will likely attract a multitude of new customers who believe that taking a stand against smoking, is taking a stand towards healthier communities.

“We’ve got 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners who are helping millions of patients each and every day,” said Larry Merlo, the chief executive of CVS Caremark.

In my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations, one of the recipes I share is especially relevant to this story. It is also relevant to every organization you’ll ever be a part of.

From the book:
Recipe #3: Write the Future You Want
Create the stories that you wished customers would retell. Write these down. In Chapter 7: Improving the Journey, you’ll learn some tools and techniques to intentionally design these new customer journeys.

Imagine the powerful stories told by the millions of patients that are helped by the 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners serving across 7,600 CVS stores. Stories about managing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, kicking the smoking habit, getting flu shots, alleviating symptoms, managing diseases, etc. In short, stories about getting healthier, being more comfortable, and managing diseases throughout our human journey.

With customers (patients) at the center of focus and with the future in mind, opportunities abound. CVS and its stakeholders can design new services that win the hearts and minds of customers, increase employee engagement, more than offset the lost revenue from cigarette sales, and ultimately lower the cost of healthcare. But, the product to cut or shape shouldn’t begin and end with cigarettes alone. Fully embracing Recipe #3 will have CVS moving toward a future where other current products are scrutinized and similarly dropped, while other products might be newly introduced. Again, it all depends upon the stories we wish our customers to recall and tell others.

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

Are You an Idea Asset or an Idea Liability?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

When Your Organization Becomes a Leaky Boat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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