Why Your Brain Resists the New

image of highway hypnosis for brain resistance blog post - DelightabilityWe’ve all been there, driving down the highway, listening to music, not really paying attention as our mental autopilot seems to be in control. After we awake from our highway hypnosis, we barely recall the minutes that have passed us by and don’t recognize the distance traveled.

This phenomena happens to us more often than when we are driving. Our brains are resistant to change and want to quickly return to a steady comfortable state. They like to “keep it real” by not accepting too much new information that feels wrong or incompatible. When we receive new information we like to treat it like the familiar and force it to fit our established patterns and ways of thinking, like driving on a familiar road. This isn’t diabolical or manipulative, it is simply part of being an imperfect human.

image of fitting to existing patters for brain resistance post - DelightabilityIt turns out this brain behavior is self preserving. Imagine that we didn’t complete patterns and we had to slow down and think about every single l e t t e r that we typed or r e a d. Imagine that we had to re-learn how to walk each day and to tie our shoes and even how to put those shoes on. Or, that we had to consult our mental checklist for everything we came across to assess its potential threat. Of course everyday life would become daunting with the sheer volume of things we encounter and decisions we face as we go about living, working, and recreating.

But, most of us are blind to this brain truth.
And this is unfortunate, because this same phenomenon can also blind us to opportunity or new learning. It can numb us to the problems others face or even that we all face together. Think climate change, the changing world of work, the shortcomings of capitalism, decaying faith, inequality, corruption, security threats, racism, police brutality, idle capital, corporate short-termism, homelessness, marriage equality, sustainable energy, etc. With each of those subjects you have some familiarity or don’t. You’ve either fit those to existing patterns or cast the unfamiliar ones out as irrelevant. This brain’s inner workings don’t discriminate. This phenomenon equally disadvantages leaders as well as those they would expect to follow them.

image of girl looking out window thinking about new ideas for brain resistance post - DelightabilityThink of how long it takes you to accept the new. Think of your struggle with and opposition to new ideas and initiatives. This same pattern making behavior your brain habitually engages in every day is also the reason why you drink the same coffee, listen to the same radio station, visit the same stores, wear the same brand shoes, and everything else that forms your consumer habits.

“It isn’t so much that you think about these things as much as the fact that you don’t.”

It isn’t so much that you think about these things as much as the fact that you don’t. This is bad news for the shopkeeper in your neighborhood that will never gain your business or the bright kid down the street whose promising idea is denied relevance from the outset. But, its also bad new for you. You could deny yourself enriching experiences and participation in making the world or your own neighborhood and community a better place. And, you might unwittingly shut down and discourage others that are trying to do the same.

image of favorite food for brain resistance blog post - DelightabilityAgain you have something new to think about. I recognize this is dangerous and might not fit your existing patterns. While your protective brain might want to discard this fact I urge you to read on.

Think of your favorite food for just a moment. Visualize eating this favorite food. OK, good I still have you. Hopefully inside that brilliant brain of yours, I’ve successfully linked this article with your favorite food. Now, every time you eat your favorite food, I want you to recall this article about your brain behavior when it is confronted with something new.

This idea of brain resistance isn’t actually a new idea, it’s always been here. Maybe you are now only becoming aware. Machiavelli captured the essence of what I’m saying several centuries ago in this quote,

And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.

Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.

Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly….

Niccolò Machiavelli – Italian Diplomat, Political Philosopher, Musician, Poet, and Playwright (1469-1527)

image of high speed train leaving the station for brain resistance blog post - DelightabilityMachiavelli might not have had neuroscience on his side, but he was a keen observer of human behavior. His quote captures well, the barriers that new ideas face. I believe in the resilient of the human spirit. I also believe in the power of collective intelligence. I’m optimistic that good changes are afoot. A more sustainable and more inclusive world is arriving. I look forward to new thinking and the systems and institutions to follow that will put in motion the idle capital and talent that the familiar patterns have sidelined. We needn’t marginalize many of the earths population and create artificial scarcity when we live in such an abundant world. So, give in. Stop resisting a better world. The train of human progress is leaving the station. Please get on board. Humanity needs you.

Guaranteed this will be a better journey than the highway hypnosis that might have you travel to a destination where you’d rather not be. And, remember on this journey, bring along your favorite food; perhaps you’ll share it with a neighbor while discussing that new idea.

About the Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our National Conversation Surrounding Employment is Chicken Feed

image of chicken feed for employment conversation blog post - delightability

Yes, chicken feed, as in a meaningless pittance. The conversation about employment falls short of what is needed.

This blog post is actually inspired by a friend of mine. She is a smart, educated science teacher that in spite the cries for more women needed in STEM jobs she remains among those experiencing long-term unemployment. In response to a recent article about how states are confronting high long-term unemployment (original article here ) she shared this comment.

“My state has decided to sweep us all under the rug and pretend we do not exist. SO much easier that way!! You do not HAVE to deal with it then, as long as you can hide all of us in plain site.”

image of make believe fairy tale house for blog post about employment conversation- delightabilityWe live in an era of make-believe.

It is a bit reminiscent of another time in recent history when officials banned the word tornado. They didn’t want to cause panic. The result was tornadoes still happened and in the absence of warnings, more people and property were unnecessarily harmed, or worse. See related article here.

When we make things visible we can then actually decide to act differently. If we don’t believe in the viruses and bacteria that are invisible to the naked eye then the conversations about preventing infectious diseases are pretty short. We accept germ theory as reality today, but that was not always the case. Before 1880 physicians and scientists believed that diseases such as cholera, chlamydia or the Black Death were caused by bad air. This was referred to as Miasma theory and was in place since ancient times. Learn more here.

Today, we are still lingering in the aftereffects of a global economic meltdown. Some are working too much; others not enough. Save for the extremely wealthy, many have had their fortunes trimmed and debts amassed. The American [insert country here] Dream has been scaled down for many. This seems to be part of the new normal, at least for now.

The World of Work Has Changed.

There are many things that have contributed to a structurally changed world of work. We have witnessed the flight of capital to low cost regions, the shuttering of businesses old and new, the avoidance of taxes by large corporations, increased consolidation in many industries, the resulting financial hardship of municipalities, the creation of exponential organizations that employ a disproportionately small number of people compared to the large number of people they serve (see WhatsApp as a classic example – 55 employees, $19 billion purchase price, 100’s of millions of customers), a gig economy where workers’ rights have largely evaporated, an anti-labor movement by many politicians (some even repealing the weekend), the financial engineering that manipulates markets and even the books of entire economies as we recently learned about Goldman Sachs and Greece. What country or state will pop up next as problematic?

Add to this, an increasing world population and technology that continues to advance and the world might arguably need fewer workers today and in the future. There is too little discussion and proposed solutions in the crossover from the old economy that is still shedding jobs and the new economy that doesn’t create them fast enough. With the most recent announcement Microsoft will have now shed 1/5 of its workforce in recent years. What if our thinking and conversations about the economy and jobs are antiquated. When our ready made patterned solutions don’t seem to be working maybe it is time for change, time to invent new patterns. Making things visible and having a different conversation would be a great start.

Confronting reality is also needed. If we aren’t looking at real employment numbers for the unemployed, under-employed, and those that are super-employed working too many hours, then we really can’t have an meaningful adult conversation about what might be required to improve the plight for the residents of a nation.

Imagine if the U.S. census utilized the same land-line telephone survey methods that the BLS uses for arriving at unemployment numbers. It would be wholly inadequate and it would actually violate the constitution that requires an accurate census every 10 years. See how the census works. I would not be shocked if the many cogs in the BLS machine felt this inadequacy, but lack the courage to sound the alarm, for fear they too, will join the ranks of those they presume to measure.

If, as a nation, we can include all people in a census, file taxes electronically, manage social security and a host of other big government data challenges, then can’t we also design and implement a meaningful index to measure the prosperity of a nation’s inhabitants. Of course we can. This is a solvable problem; it isn’t the equivalent of “jumping to the moon under your own power.”

GDP and corporate profits can be up and to the right, while at the same time, those that helped it get that way may experience personal decline in terms of real wages, household wealth, and overall prosperity.

Aggregate GDP and UI numbers roll up from individual human inhabitants that reside within a nations borders. Local governments and state governments have a easier problem to solve – the borders are simply smaller. A sorely needed innovation in government is the roll-up of meaningful numbers from households, to neighborhoods, to cities, to states, to regions, to countries. This isn’t unique to the United States.

The Legatum Index is a move in the correct direction. The Legatum Institute’s signature annual publication is the Legatum Prosperity Index™, a unique global assessment of national prosperity based on both wealth and well being. This Index is the main vehicle through which the foundations of prosperity are explored. The Index ranks countries based on their performance in eight sub‐indices, including Entrepreneurship & Opportunity, Governance, Personal Freedom, Health, and Social Capital. While not working from the individual level, it does at least take into account a multitude of factors when looking at the comparative prosperity of populations. Learn more about their fine work here or watch the video.

With respect to jobs, the jobless recovery, and all things employment, we’ve returned to an era of noxious air. But, the bad air in play today isn’t from rotting organic matter as it was in Miasma theory.

Rather, it is from politicians and economic royalists that have much to protect by ignoring our current collective reality and instead protecting a system that primarily benefits them at all costs.

When we start measuring human prosperity we can then put in place policies that help increase that prosperity. It is a bit reminiscent of the Declaration of Independence and the “people first” reforms of the Roosevelt era.

In the current political climate I wouldn’t hold your breath for such change, but meanwhile you might want to cover your nose. If this article resonates with you, please share it with other on behalf of the many that remain silent and invisible.

about the author

Gregory Olson is the author of The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true.  As discussed in Chapter 14 of The Experience Design Blueprint, the world of work has changed. And, it is not coming back as we knew it. In this chapter, there is prescriptive guidance for:

  • large businesses
  • established small businesses
  • retirees and volunteers
  • underemployed
  • unemployed
  • Congress and other policy makers
  • and co-working spaces everywhere.

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 image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINThumans. Chapters in L’ impossipreneurs that pertain to this article include Ch 5: Wealth and Economy and Ch 12: World of Work.

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.

 

The Real Skills Gap

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

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

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

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

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

Examples of Empathy in Decline

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

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

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

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

We have systematically been reducing our own empathy.

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

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

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

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

We Pay Homage to Things that Don’t Matter

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

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

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

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

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

Platform for Human Progress

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

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

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

There is No Innovation or Progress Without People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Conclusion

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

A New Conversation

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

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

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

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

 About the Author

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

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

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

small linkedin iconsmall facebook iconsmall twitter icon

 

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

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

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

Tapping your Inner Designer no Matter Your Title or Role

Human History and Design

image showing early cave painting communications design - Delightability

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

image of primitive carry system that has been designed - Delightability

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

image of girl designing sand castle - Delightability

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

You Started Out as a Designer

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

Specialization is Good and Bad at the Same Time

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

image showing dentist work is specialized- delightability

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

Increasing Complexity Breaks Experiences

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

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

Experience and Innovation Literacy

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

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

Will You be a More Thoughtful Contributor to Humanity?

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

About the Author

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

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

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.

Learn Like a Featherless Crow and You Will be Ready to Fly

crow image painted on wood - The Experience Design BLUEPRINT - DelightabilityThere is a story I share in my book about a couple of tiny featherless crows that were nudged from the nest, probably prematurely. After a few mishaps and related rescues over the course of several days, I finally witnessed some unusual activity in the far corner of my yard. The little, newly feathered crows were hopping up the bank onto progressively higher rocks, and then jumping off the ledge at the top, honing their flying skills as gravity played its part. It was quite a treasure to see the featherless birds mature and eventually turn their clunky sky jumps into masterful flight. There is a lesson for humans here.

Practice Makes Perfect, Not Training

Like baby crows, we need to practice those things we want to become more proficient in. Training alone seldom provides the opportunity for mastery. Imagine a baby crow sitting through the crow equivalent of flight instruction. Without the hours spent flying (or trying) the real world lessons would come slowly, if ever. Every baby crow starts out a failure, but with much potential for flight.

“I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States, (1809 to 1865)

Hopefully, as you embark on the 2nd half of the year, you begin practicing like a determined featherless crow. Soon, you’ll be flying about wondering why you took so long to begin.

5 Actions for Business Leaders to Help the Company AND the Economy

This Pesky World of Work Has Changed

The world of work has changed and it’s not coming back as we once knew it. Whether you are the chief people officer at the top, leading a department, or forging the way forward as an individual contributor, you’ve by now realized the new normal is not like the last normal.

Forces Beyond Your Control

Some forces acting on your organization are out of your control: industry consolidation, globalization, public policies of all sorts, advances in technology, a flight to values, demand for increased transparency, distrust of government and banks and cable monopolies, shifting workforce demographics, etc.

But, this doesn’t mean you are powerless, ineffective, and should sit on the sidelines. Of course, you could choose to do nothing. But, that usually isn’t a very good option for getting a desirable outcome. Your proverbial ship will eventually hit the reef ahead if you don’t veer port or starboard. You must take action. The annals of company histories are chock full of such victims that witnessed innovation from the sidelines. The marketplace is an unforgiving lover; your’e hot when your’e hot, and forgotten when you’re not. Size or tenure do not insulate you from marketplace realities.

Some Sobering Facts:

  • companies are running leaner than ever
  • employees feel insecure and overworked
  • work is increasingly specialized
  • leaders are forced to do more with less
  • employee engagement has declined and loyalty has evaporated in both directions

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

Don’t look to the media, politicians, and economist for answers. You won’t find relevant prescriptions there. What you will find is self serving rhetoric bordering on sensationalism and focused on getting somebody elected or re-elected. They each have an agenda that is unlike yours and certainly not like your customers, employees, vendors, partners, or communities you occupy. The correct prescription is to do what is right for the business and all of its stakeholders. So, what the hell is a business leader to do?

Here are 5 Actions Business Leaders Can Initiate Now

If you are a leader by committing to these 5 actions, you will help your company and the economy at the same time. If you are not the business leader you don’t have to sit on the sidelines while your organization unravels. Consider today the “elbow nudge the leader at work day.” For additional clarity on any of the following 5 actions see the slideshare.net presentation below or my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healther Organizations. Pay particular attention to Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed.

  1. Create an innovation neighborhood. Stock it, in part, with outside entrepreneurs. Add fractional talent that you cannot attract for a job, but would still like to work with your organization. Shake things up by adding “entrepreneur seasoning.”
  2. Recognize and abolish your internal innovation hurdle (IIH). It’s really ok that your next business opportunity may only be a $ 20 million business as opposed to a $ 1 billion business. Small is the new big – get used to it and get good at it or you’ll be a Berlin Wall remnant.
  3. Treat people with dignity and respect . Add people to give current employees more capacity. Stop fear mongering tactics, period. Reduce executive pay before shedding employees upon bad news. The raving fans you build start inside your own organization. You are at a disadvantage if you don’t start there.
  4. Adapt your non-discriminatory policy to include the unemployed and especially the long term unemployed and veterans. Reprimand or fire those that break the policy. Go for diversity in everything. If everybody inside your organization looks and acts the same – your organization’s unwinding has already begun.
  5. Be more collaborative by sponsoring, using the talent within, and becoming a resident of co-working spaces.

Need help with any of these or want to discuss? Please get in touch.

Four Great Resources for Humans in a World of Work That Has Changed

Sushi Thai Seattle closed - middle class income disappearing in world of work that changed - DelightabilityThe World of Work Has Changed
The world of work has changed and it isn’t coming back as we once knew it. Once we accept these structural changes as individuals, organizations, and as a country we can go about our business to maximize opportunities for Americans to make a living, make a difference, and make an impact. Full employment for those that want it should be a national goal and priority for any great nation. But, sadly this isn’t part of our national conversation and it certainly doesn’t dominate the media headlines.  SushiThai Seattle, a place I enjoyed in my neighborhood recently closed. Your community has probably felt similar closures. Each restaurant closure or other business that shutters their doors, citing a lack of demand is a symptom of our world of work that has changed. Incomes of many ordinary workers have been decimated. This is a solvable problem if we think differently and work cooperatively.

office building world of work has changed - Delightability

Few Are Insulated in a World Changed
Whether your office is on the 70th floor, in a basement, in mahogany row, cubicle bay, the kitchen table, the operating room, the local coffee shop or a coworking space, you have to agree on this: The world of work has changed. Of course it has, because the world has changed. If you don’t see this, then you are not looking very hard or you are very insulated.

Three Major Forces Changing the Nature of Work
There have been three major forces in play for a while now that continue to shift the nature of work, employment, jobs, careers, etc. They are:

  1. industry consolidation;
  2. advances in technology;
  3. and trade policy.

And yes, there are other forces at play as well like accounting rules, tax policy and loopholes, and plain old fashioned human and corporate greed. But, I’ll leave those discussions for another time.

The Great Costs of Being Idle
Aside from the very visible restaurant and store closures, the ramifications of sidelined talent and organizations unwilling or unable to engage talent is decreased innovation, stalled human progress, and stymied organizations. Problems persist and opportunities go unaddressed. That means more broken experiences and poor service quality for us as consumers, citizens, customers, members, owners, passengers, travelers, etc. For those courageous leaders that do move forward, new possibilities await, in terms of products, services, market share, new ventures, brand loyalty, consumer habits, partnerships, etc.

Stop Waiting and Start Creating
But, you can’t mind meld with your future self or look through the prospectiscope and see future possibilities very clearly. When we do look forward, we tend to actually obsess on looking backwards at earnings, GDP, and the stock market. It is very easy to get quickly trapped by history, paint the future with the past and not see new possibilities. If you rewind the clock to look at iPhone sales and Android devices before those had been invented you’d see zero, 0, zed, nada. No revenue, no profit, no possibilities, especially if you were in an industry or market that was displaced as a result of the more open marketplaces that both of those ecosystems enabled. How wrong you’d be today. But, in your own industry, you may also be wrong. What if you are? How costly will that be?

It takes a special mindset to see what what you are not looking for.

Bigger Thinking is Needed for Larger Possibilities
Steve Jobs had vision. The Open Handset Alliance that collaborated to bring us the Android operating system had a vision and purpose. Kennedy’s man on the moon speech sparked a nation to action. Hundreds of thousands of jobs across a range of industries and institutions were the result. That would be a whole lot of employment today; it was an even larger percentage of workers in its day given there were fewer workers. We benefit from innovations of that era, to this day. Imagine the possibilities of our collective future if we only nudge our attention in the right direction. Imagine if the corporations sitting idle on a collective $1.95 trillion offshore were to put that money to innovative and good use in local communities, the nation, and in the world. Oh, the possibilities.

Each of Us Has a Role to Play in Our Collective Future

Whether you are an independent worker today, become one tomorrow, or hire independent workers, here are four resources to hopefully inspire and educate you on a World of Work that has forever changed:
image of The State of Independence in America report from MBO Partners - World of Work has Changed - Delightability1) The State of Independence in America report from MBO partners is a treasure trove of facts and figures that are sure to educate, inspire, challenge, and maybe even validate some of your observations and experiences. Chances are you won’t simply have a J-O-B as most have been accustomed to in the past. And, you won’t solely interact with others that have J-O-Bs. If you look around, you’ll notice this to be very true already, and getting more true.

Freelancers Union A Federation of the Unaffiliated smaller - The World of Work Has Changed - Delightability2) Freelancers Union is a website dedicated to being a Federation of the Unaffiliated. Founder and Executive Director, Sara Horowitz, participated in a panel discussion with Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation and President Bill Clinton, among others on June 24th, 2014 at the Clinton Global Initiative in Denver, Colorado. Sara represented the humongous and growing collective of freelancers and independents working in America. This is very important since most of these people are largely invisible. They don’t show up in unemployment or under-employment numbers. By the Bureau of Labor Statistics own admission in their Technical Paper 66 – Design and Methodology of the Current Population Survey, “The labor force concepts and definitions used in the CPS have undergone only slight modification since the survey’s inception in 1940.” Ah great – so basically the methodology for measuring labor force participation was invented shortly after the great depression and has yet to embrace a new reality that includes the internet, mobile phones, co-working spaces of all shapes and sizes,  liberation from land based telephone lines, social networking, etc. This is very wrong and why at Delightability we’ve taken a step in a new direction with number 3 on our list.

Please Count Me - Human Centered Community Project for Americans to Self Report Employment Status - Delightability3) Please Count Me is a community website for Americans to self report their own employment status whether fully-employed, super-employed, unemployed, or under-employed. This is a human centered community project we started at Delightability to shine a light on some of the structural changes in this country and the need to have a better conversation, reduce ignorance and rhetoric, and hopefully affect policy and lawmakers to do the right thing for the entire country not just the wealthy and influential that finance campaigns. Add yourself to the workers in more than half the states that have already added themselves to the count. Read the alternative jobs report.

book cover image - The Experience Design BLUEPRINT  by Gregory Olson of Delightability 4) Another resource is my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. Aside from practical tools, exercises, and recipes that can be applied to any size and type of organization, the book specifically has a chapter with prescriptive guidance for large business, small business, underemployed, unemployed, coworking spaces, congress and other policy makers to work cooperatively toward full employment, human progress, and reaching our collective potential.  See Chapter is 14. The World of Work Has Changed.

Continue the Conversation
While these four resources I shared are US centric, my friends in Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, The United Kingdom, Germany, Hong Kong, Australia, and other countries will no doubt be sparked by localizing the concepts in these resources as well. Comments are closed here but please email me or message me on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook with other resources you find inspiring. Thank you Sabine for making me aware of 400 Euro “mini-jobs” in Germany. More on that in a future post.

Blindly Staying the Course When a New Direction Is Needed

The Organizational Schematic

Whether you lead an organization or are the newest kid on the block, you need to know how things work inside the organization. Don’t bother looking at the organizational chart; that isn’t the way work actually gets done or decisions are made. In fact, much of what is decided is undocumented and the workflow invisible. You know when it is done, or in contrast, when it’s not. But, the inbetween state is sometimes really hard to see, especially if you are not looking. There are attributes of a healthy innovation culture that build in safeguards, even when people are not looking. In contrast, all the controls and processes put in place in an unhealthy innovation culture won’t make the organization more innovative any more than an overweight person can think their way to thin.

Bridled and Blind or Agile and Conversant

Is your Organization like a horse with blinders - Delightability llc - The Experience Design BLUEPRINTWhat is the model inside your organization for staying in tune with a changing business landscape and customer ecosystem? Do you have a way to rationalize what you believe inside the organization with the external customer reality? And, how responsive will you be when something changes? How quickly will you notice and which role or department will it be that senses the change? How will each department be informed? Will they respond in a way that is consistent and uniform with smooth handoffs, or will there be ripple effects, balled dropped, cycles burned and ultimately, opportunities lost? Literally, if your organization’s were a horse, how would you describe it? Bridled and controlled by others, marching blind, or ready to shift directions and conversant?

Most organizations don’t have very authentic dialogue around these subjects let alone operating mechanisms or mental models in place to suddenly shift course. This isn’t good for customers, employees, or for the business. In Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall, in my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT, I explore these subjects. Readers will gain recipes and tools to have more productive conversations that lead to outcomes beneficial to customers and to the organization.

In that chapter, among other examples, I share how Joe Fugere of Tutta Bella Pizza was able to form a quick response team that seized the opportunity to serve Tutta Bella Neapolitan style pizza to the President of the United States along with 65 other people aboard Air Force One. I also share how a large mobile operator with vastly more resources habitually lets opportunities pass them by. If you want a healthier innovation culture inside your company read the stories, reflect on the recipes, and begin to shift your conversation; Your future stakeholders will be happy you did.

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGreg Olson is a business coach to leaders and the author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. Chapters in the book that pertain to this blog post include Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System and Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall. Read it on Kindle or any device using the free Kindle Reader application.

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.