Does it Matter Where Ideas Come From? Sourcing Innovation at McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Your Organization

When I first began to write this article I thought I’d start with a little history and facts to compare McDonald’s and Starbucks. I even thought that it would be nice if I created an infographic that showed the comparison. But, I’m not going to do that. If you hop over to Nasdaq or your favorite stock peering site you’ll find that both stocks are doing well. At the bottom of this article I’ve included links to fun facts about each of the companies.

Both companies have provided great returns to shareholders over the last 10 years. Both of these companies have a large and growing worldwide presence, a huge number of employees and partners. No, I’m not talking about those things because they are not a predictor of future performance. Heck, even each of the companies will remind you of that in their safe harbor statements.  And remember, there are plenty of darling stocks that perform, at least until they don’t.

Remaining culturally relevant and connected to consumers share of mind and wallet
No, I’m going a different direction. I want to talk about things that aren’t so closely tied to stock performance or revered in annual reports and press releases. I want to begin a discussion of how each of these companies source innovative ideas and ask readers if you think that this topic has any bearing on a company’s ability to be sustainable, viable, cultural relevant, and able to gain a share of your mind and wallet.

starbucks infographics on mystarbucksidea
MyStarbucksIdea has launched 277 ideas from customers, and celebrated its five-year anniversary March 2013. (Graphic: Business Wire)

Starbucks practices on sourcing innovative ideas
Starbucks encourages idea submission from anybody, inside or outside the organization and even encourages you to vote, share, discuss, and see other peoples ideas as they are made visible on the My Starbucks Idea website. Experience it for yourself at
http://www.mystarbucksidea.com

One of the reasons for the My Starbucks Idea website is that CEO Howard Schultz wanted to improve the customer experience. He felt that the 60 million customers visiting its stores on a weekly basis might have something to say about what the future Starbucks experience should look like. In that sense Starbucks customers are encouraged to co-create the future. In the first five years of the My Starbucks Idea website, from 2008-2013, 150,000 ideas have been submitted from customers with 277 of those being implemented.

McDonalds no loitering sign as seen in a Seattle McDonald's
Picture of sign seen inside a Seattle area McDonald’s. When asking how that sign made one customer feel, she reported it made her feel hostile. She said she would not be coming back.

McDonald’s official policy on unsolicited ideas
McDonald’s, on the other hand, doesn’t have an equivalent My McDonald’s idea website. If fact, they make it very clear in an FAQ that resides on their website exactly what their policy is concerning ideas, “It is our company’s policy not to consider unsolicited ideas from outside the McDonald’s system. Because we are always working on new ideas and strategies within the Company, we do not review ideas from outside McDonald’s to avoid confusion over the origin of an idea. We realize that we may be missing out on a few good ideas, but we had to adopt this policy for legal and business reasons.” When companies cite policy they appear less human as in the sign I saw at a McDonald’s in the Seattle area.

Did you know that McDonald’s delivers to its customers in 18 countries? But, if you want delivery in your country don’t bother asking or trying to vote on it. Remember, your ideas are unwelcome and irrelevant. I find that a little offensive. I also find it a little off-putting that the McDonald’s system, as they put it, does not include the customer. Any organization’s business system, or promise delivery system as I call it, should have the customer at the core.  Imagine the burden this places on Hamburger University and Franchise owners. They must innovate and own all of the good ideas in isolation, a tall order for them compared to the 60 million customers that visit a McDonald’s each day that may actually have some insights to share and ideas how to improve the McDonald’s experience. For my mental model on a promise delivery system, sign up to be notified of my forthcoming book.

If we are voting on which company and brand will be more culturally relevant across populations and feel more human and alive, I’ll vote for the Starbucks brand. If, on the other hand, we are voting on which brand will attract me for the late night drive through or clean restrooms available during a road trip, I’ll tip my hat to McDonald’s. But, I’m only one customer. I’d like to understand how each of their practices around ideas makes you feel as a consumer? Which brand speaks more to you? 

Try This!  What about in your own organization – does it matter where an idea comes from? Could it come from customers? Does it matter at what level of the organization the idea comes from – Senior Vice President versus the most recent hire in accounts payable? What about a supplier? Do you know the answer and if you do, would others in your organization see it the same as you do? Start this discussion inside your organization.

My book is the Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.  Read it and you’ll be better equipped to design more remarkable customer experiences and then make those experiences come to life in your organization and the business landscape. You’ll also build a more relevant and enduring organization.

Here are those fun facts on Starbucks and McDonalds.

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.

Connect with Greg on Linkedin, Facebook, or Twitter.

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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 5: The Rental Car Experience?
  • Chapter 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken, and Generous Design
  • Chapter 7: Improving the Journey
  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 9: The Neighborhood
  • Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed
  • Chapter 14: From Argh to Aha!

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.

Are you an Entrepreneur or one of the other 12 types of -preneurs?

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone but, are you aware of the other types of ‘preneurs?  Perhaps you fall into one of the other types, or you will at some point in your life.

Entrepreneur  this is the traditional risk taker that sees the path they are forging as less risky than working for somebody else doing something that isn’t interesting, isn’t rewarding, or may conflict with their values.  They often see what’s next and can’t imagine not pursuing it.

Solopreneur – an entrepreneur acting in isolation without the support of others in the same organization.

Multipreneur – an entrepreneur that is pursuing multiple interests simultaneously either because they have to, in order to make ends meet, or because it is part of a portfolio strategy to see which plays out the best.  Or, they may simply have the capacity to do more than one venture.

Intrapreneur an employee acting as an internal entrepreneur inside the organization that has many of the risk elements of a classic entrepreneur but, is insulated from the brutal reality of having to manufacturer their own paycheck.

Wannapreneur this person wants to start something but doesn’t know what. They are more constructive that the complainapreneur below but may lack ideas or a clear path forward.

Ideapreneur – this is the person who is stricken with ideas, suddenly and often but they don’t take action. They don’t have to jump on “this” idea because another possible better idea is right around the corner.

Olderpreneur – this is an older experienced person, the age can vary of course,  but this person has decided to take their wealth of experience, network, skills, and package it up into a credible “what’s next” story told with the authority and credibility that may be lacking in a younger entrepreneur. Often they are motivated by pursuing an interest, addressing a nagging problem, leaving a legacy, or designing a venture around a lifestyle.

Complainapreneur individuals that are stuck in the grind and don’t have the courage or clarity to escape. Instead they bemoan their situation, wishing things would change, and eventually they usually do.

Dreamapreneur those individuals that dream of pursuing a new passion but really never will commit to action. It is simply more fun and much more safe to fantasize about it while enjoying the security of a paycheck, limited working hours, and the familiar.

Adventurepreneur – this person works only to play; these folks might literally have a sign on their door or online profile, “Gone Fishing” or “Kayaking” or “Climbing.”

Loyalpreneur these are those dedicated employees dutifully carrying out the orders of those they work for in exchange for a paycheck.

Philanthropreneur – a generous, thoughtful person that supports other people’s projects, initiatives, and ventures often times without concern for any payback.

Luckypreneur somebody who has a job that allows them to make a big impact, make a good living, and also make a difference in the world.

Have another type of  ‘preneur to add to the list? Connect and let me know.

Whether you are on your own or in the walls of a larger organization surrounded by colleagues, you’ll need to be mindful of the customer and continuously improve your organization. A sure path to do this is to read and follow the 56 recipes in my book: The Experience Design Blueprint: Recipes for Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.

about the author

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

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

If You Want New Outcomes try Changing your Language and Conversation

From Healthcare
The American Medical Association this week voted to declare obesity a disease. This, in a move to change the focus from treating obesity related symptoms, toward prevention. Without the label of disease, insurance companies have largely rejected insurance claims. And, without reimbursements, doctors are reluctant to have conversations about prevention. Prevention, it turns out, has been a big money loser. What has worked is treating the symptoms of obesity – those claims are reimbursed as normal and customary. Sadly, aside from people remaining unhealthy, this practice also increases the costs of an already overburdened healthcare system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, treatment of obesity-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers drives up the nation’s medical bill by more than $150 billion each year.

To Homelessness
The Executive Director of a nonprofit that serves women experiencing homelessness once shared with me a story about a woman that visited her as her last stop in getting help. The women said, “Why do I have to lose everything in order to get any help.” Think about it for a moment, there are homeless and housed. What about those in transition from being homeowners to homeless. Our limited language here also limits our thinking and creative solutions that might be beneficial for all involved. I can imagine an organization that would maintain payments for this person while they sell their home, possibly rebuilding a new life from the equity. Without such an organization, the home is returned to bank and the person loses their equity and a new beginning. This is a situation where everybody loses.

To Developing Nations
The former CEO of World Bicycle Relief shared with me that in Zambia, one place where they sell their rugged bicycles (trucks), there is no word for maintenance. Imagine what that means. If there is no word, then the concept doesn’t exist. Not surprisingly, many broken down and abandoned bicycles litter the landscape. One of his organization’s aims was to not only introduce bicycles as a path to improving lives, but also introduce the idea and provide training for bicycle mechanics and inventory. This is life changing for many.

And in Your Business Too.
We also need new language and better conversations between business leaders, creatives, and customer facing roles, so that we can create and deliver more remarkable experiences to those being served by the organization. We also need to understand better, how and where our big ideas and decisions fit into improving the health of the organization. For this we need new eyes, new thinking, and new conversations.  I’m doing my part – I’ve written The Experience Design Blueprint: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. If you want to get past boring experiences and sputtering performance and get to remarkable and sustainable, you might want to read it. Please share with other like minded individuals that want to do their part to make this world a little better for those that inhabit it today and in the future.

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.

Chapters in The Experience Design Blueprint that especially pertain to this post are those chapters in Section 2 – Making  a Bigger Imprint:

  • Chapter 9: The Neighborhood
  • Chapter 12: The Three Psychological Zones
  • Chapter 13: Taking Flight

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

Chefs Performing Brain Surgery and Rain Dances Creating Crops a Plenty

Image of Hydrofoil for Mental Model Blog Post - Delightability, LLC.Imagine for a moment that your mental model for creating rain was dance. Or imagine that a boat is propelled through the water by the collective thoughts of the passengers. Sounds a little ridiculous right? Not having an accurate mental model to explain how things work or how to make decisions and orient yourself to the world can be very counterproductive. Yet many leaders, and the organizations that give them permission to lead, have mental models that simply don’t work. People are dancing, but the rain never comes and the boat seems to be heading in a direction that few, if any, benefit from. Worse yet, some leaders may not even have a mental model at all. Instead, they hang on to patterns and biases they’ve developed or inherited that appeared to work for a time, at least until they don’t.

When you get stuck, you lack a mental model of how to proceed, similar to a 1st grader trying to tackle an algebra problem or a chef trying to perform brain surgery.

As individuals we eventually face challenges that call us to act but the situation hasn’t provided us with any mental models of how to proceed. We face this in our personal lives as well as our professional lives. Though many situations we face in our personal lives might be predictable – as many have experienced them before – they are nonetheless new to us at the moment e.g. love, death, marriage, divorce, childbirth, job loss, 50th wedding anniversary, accidents, graduation, etc.

Mental models are all around us. We use maps to find places, we have mental models of what grocery stores look like so we can navigate aisles and make purchases.  We also have mental models around how to wear glasses and cut a piece of wood using a handsaw. We get visual cues from those that we observe doing those same things. But, do you know how your organization actually works. Specifically how does it make and keep promises to its customers and other stakeholders? What is your mental model for that?

Here is a fun assignment: Gather a small group of people from your organization.  Have each of them draw on a single sheet of paper how the organization makes and keeps promises to its various stakeholders. Then share it and discuss the differences.  Alternative assignment if the first one is too threatening.  Ask a child to explain how a phone works or to plan the next family vacation and see what unfolds.

For a tour of mental models and recipes for creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations sign up to be the first to know when my next book becomes available, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.

 

When Emails Become Overcooked Carrots

Dear Pushy Brand “Communicator,”

pushing plate of carrots awayIf I receive your email newsletters, updates, press release, etc. and I no longer want to receive your stuff, then please let me easily unsubscribe. Asking me to login to an unwanted “account” in order to change my communications preferences is tantamount to asking me to finish the meal, even though I’ve decided I don’t like the taste. Please recognize that I no longer want to eat.  Maybe I don’t like your food or I’m simply too full.  Whichever the case, please don’t fight me when I push away the plate. Better yet, be a good host and recognize when I’ve long stopped eating and simply offer to take away the plate for me.

Sincerely,

The many peeps that are full of your brand, but not as full as you are

Why Think Positive is so Last Year

positive psychology role in the Big Idea ToolkitIt turns out that the world has been swimming in positive psychology for a couple of decades. Amid that, we have many things to cite in the world that aren’t so swimmingly positive. And how many of us have fallen prey to the motivating seminar or sales pitch, only to fail later when we return to our old habits and practices. Being positive, having unabated enthusiasm, and putting blinders up to all things negative, doesn’t create the warm, fuzzy, prosperous future we once thought it would.

In the December issue of Psychology Today, Annie Murphy Paul, explores the uses and abuses of optimism (and pessimism). Like the author of the article suggests, as in many things, context matters. It turns out that there is a time to be optimistic and a time to be pessimistic. Sometimes it is helpful to think of things that might go wrong.

positive psychology in the Big Idea Toolkit - Delightability, LLC.We find this especially interesting given our work with teams using the Big Idea Toolkit. It turns out people adopt two distinct psychological zones or mindsets, when using Continue reading “Why Think Positive is so Last Year”