Innovation Lessons from a Runaway Toddler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

about the author

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

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

What do performance continuums reveal about your business?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

about the author

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

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

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

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

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

Don't Let Your Organization Become a Lumpy Snowball

Don’t Let Your Organization Become a Lumpy Snowball

This article was inspired by a recent article in Wired. Dell. EMC. HP. Cisco. These Tech Giants Are the Walking Dead. The author raises interesting points and provoked me to write this article. I hope I similarly provoke others to think, write, and discuss. My comments are not so much about these companies in particular though much of what I say may ring true for them.

More Makers Please and Less Takers
For too long now, many companies have been fixated on the short run. A short-term focus cripples a company, little by little. It is exacerbated when the company’s leadership has an overall attitude of “taking” as opposed to “making”. You witness this mentality in various actions of the corporate playbook including stock buybacks, excessive executive compensation, layoffs timed near earnings reports, tax avoidance, austerity measures, and poorly thought out mergers and acquisitions. Much of the M&A activity we see is intended to prop up financials as opposed to fundamentally making a stronger innovation culture that can propel the creation of innovative products and services. Value is combined, rearranged, and extracted as opposed to created. Executives and their backers can do extremely well under this scheme, especially in the short run. Employees and society, not so much.

Creating a Culture of Care Within the Organization
Organizations are a bit like human bodies in that you can focus on satisfying short-term cravings, but those decisions often don’t lead to healthy systems or longevity. Companies large and small need to continue to shape and shift their strategies as the business landscape changes,  technology evolves, and customer ecosystems shift. To survive, they need a longer term focus with short-term actions that don’t harm the organization. To accomplish this, they need engaged employees. They also need customers and communities that care about the company as well as its products and services. When companies are takers and solely focused on the short run, this would-be loyalty can evaporate, if it existed at all.

Size Matters Less than the Ability to Respond
Size alone doesn’t cripple a company. It’s true that being too small you’ll have insufficient resources to make a large impact. But, being too large is not a problem onto itself. The problem is one of responsiveness no matter the size of the organization.

How Would Your Organization Perform in the Logrolling Competition?
Companies wedded to the past lack agility to change their footing quickly. And, that’s bad news since the world outside the organization isn’t static. Imagine a logrolling competition. On one end of the log is a company fixated on the past. On the other side, a more nimble organization, lighter on its feet. The race begins. As the log spins in the water, both organizations are rolling with it, together. But, then a sudden stop and reversal of direction. The agile opponent responds by shifting their weight, focus, and movement accordingly, whereas the wedded-to-the-past opponent ends up in the water. The equivalent soaking happens in healthcare, technology, automotive, insurance, financial services, software, food, hospitality, and nearly every industry and sector you can imagine as more nimble startups or even restarts outmaneuver their opponents.

Protecting Yesterday as Though it is Tomorrow
It’s also why you see organizations engage in extreme chest thumping and massive lobbying to protect the enterprise of yesterday. Can you say fossil fuel, cable monopoly, giant food, consumer goods, etc. The giants of industries that become outdated and displaced often have the financial resources to reinvent themselves, if only they had the will. Unfortunately, their blinders hinder this action. See related post, Don’t Let Your Ideology Blind You to the Facts. The funny thing about the future is that it eventually arrives, whether you’ve prepared for it, or not.

The funny thing about the future is that it eventually arrives, whether you’ve prepared for it, or not.

Building a More Responsive and Increasingly Relevant Organization
A responsive organization that can shape and shift its course, as the world outside changes, is the best insurance against joining the ranks of companies that have lost their mojo or worse. If you want to avoid the lumbering and desperate “Hail Mary” attempts that will eventually exhaust and break the will of your people, then you’ll need to be more mindful of your audiences, inside and outside the organization. You’ll also need to balance the promises you make and keep across these various stakeholders. One mental model to use in accomplishing this is the Promise Delivery System™ from Chapter 8 of my book, The Experience Design Blueprint. Every organization has a Promise Delivery System by which they make and keep promises (or don’t) to their various stakeholders. Make your Promise Delivery System visible for each stakeholder and you’re on track to building a more responsive and increasingly relevant organization.

The Dreaded Lumpy Snowball
Ignore your Promise Delivery System and you may be unknowingly and unwittingly building a progressively lumpier snowball of an organization. And, we all know how that ends. Sadly, the large lumpy snowball melts in place or breaks under its own weight as people eventually attempt to move it.

about the author

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

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

Preventing the Next Scandal

image of whistle for prevent the next scandal blog post - delightability

Wells Fargo Joins Seemingly Endless List of Companies with Chief Executives Involved in Scandal

[September 29, 2016 update – Add Wells Fargo and its chief executive, John Stumph, to the seemingly endless list of scandals that could have been prevented. Read on to learn how to prevent the next scandal.]

Preventing the Next Scandal
German prosecutors raided the offices of Volkswagen AG to secure evidence for the investigation of the company in the emission-cheating scandal. Volkswagen stock has plummeted and the CEO has resigned, maintaining the story that he had no involvement in any wrongdoing. Also, the head of Volkswagen’s U.S. business answered questions from a congressional panel. But, somewhere, deep within the organization, is a person or people who knew exactly the genesis of the software cheat. They also likely know how the cheat has been able to persist through the delivery of 11 millions cars to the marketplace. So, where was the whistleblower?

And the Whistleblower is …
The whistleblower is nonexistent. There isn’t one. And, it really isn’t any surprise. Traditionally, there hasn’t been a safety net for would-be whistleblowers. Their lives are often wrecked by the people in governments, agencies, and corporations whose practices they expose. History reveals it is easier to systematically wreck the lives of the whistleblower and demonize them, than it is to make changes to a system that has run amok to the advantage of some. The list of wrongdoers, both people and organizations is long. View “list of whistleblowers” on Wikipedia and you’ll have days of entertainment, albeit in a dreaded, “watching the aftermath of a train crash”, sort of way. You’ll recognize some high-profile companies and organizations, but you may not know the back stories that led up to the moment the whistle blew. The lead up is the most important and often untold story.

Wasted resources
Imagine all of the resources, human and technological, inside and outside VW, that are focused on the emission cheating scandal. Now add to that, the resources involved in the multitude of other scandals and investigations happening. And to that, imagine further adding the resources yet to be consumed for future scandals that will sadly unfold. It’s abhorrent. Surely we can better make use of those resources, not the least of which would be to spend more time with family and friends and in strengthening our communities. It’s time we stop trashing the human race and the environment in the short run and pretending as though there will be no long-term consequences for generations to come. There always are long term consequences. Short term indulgent thinking is like junk food. It might satisfy our immediate hunger, filling us for the moment. But, it lacks nutritional value and substance. And in the long run, it doesn’t work for your waistline or your health.

Short term indulgent thinking is like junk food. It might satisfy our immediate hunger, filling us for the moment. But, it lacks nutritional value and substance.

You wouldn’t have blown the whistle either
Ask yourself, if you were an employee inside Volkswagen and knew about the emission cheating software, would you have said anything? To whom would you tell? How? When? You probably would not have said anything. Who has the courage to do say or do anything differently than toe the line? After all, if you’re livelihood is dependent upon continued ruinous behavior, whether it is emissions cheating or other nefarious activity, you’re not very motivated to change. Especially if you want to continue eating, paying your bills, and getting about in your life. Why disrupt it, especially for abstract things like other people you don’t know, the climate, or the environment. It’s even easier to justify bad behavior when the results of your actions are “at a distance” or you don’t see the immediate impact in the near term.

The time for change is NOW
As a society, we need a rethink, a re-frame. It’s time we pivot our behavior toward human progress, not away from it. Some of our past behaviors have not been stabilizing for any democracy on earth and they have retarded human progress and harmed the environment. Here are three things we can do to prevent the next Volkswagen emission cheating scandal or Enron debacle or Peanut Corporation of America poisoning or [fill in the blank here].

  1. Create a safety net for would-be whistleblowers
    As I’ve written about previously, we need a culture of care from the board room to the dining room. We also need a safety net for people that can sound the alarm when they see an innovation culture gone awry, whether it is involved in financial engineering, food production, emission scandals, government abuse, healthcare fraud, military wrongdoing, or some other area of society. We need a safety net for the people who have the courage to stand up and declare a system breakdown. But, we know most people won’t tell stories or reveal that bad things are happening unless they feel safe. So, let’s create a safety net for people to tell us when bad things are happening. If a whistleblower advances an accusation and then subsequently gets fired as a result of it, instead of having to crowdfund their way back to financial health they can draw against the safety net aka Whistleblower Insurance Fund. Fund the safety net through fees paid by the perpetrators of past egregious behaviors. In that sense, it is an insurance policy organizations pay into, triggered by their past bad behavior. It could be corrective in that people will feel safer to sound the alarm early, possibly preventing later disastrous and more costly circumstances. So, who would fund such an insurance scheme today? For starters, the banks that engaged in financial engineering that brought about the global financial crisis, automotive makers who delayed recalls that knowingly killed unwitting vehicle occupants, oil companies that have ruined ecosystems, etc.
  2. Create an Early Warning System. Probably the best innovation for policymakers in government and industry would be to collaborate on a system that prevents the need for whistleblowers in the first place. Alongside the notion of “ideas can come from anywhere” organizations also need to instill the notion of warning flags and that anybody can invoke them. As in automotive racing, a black flag means disqualification and a return to the pits. Nobody shoots the messenger, the flagger is safe to be the flagger in future racing events. We need to revere the person that waves the proverbial “unsportsmanlike-conduct” flag. When a rogue engineer, or accountant, or marketer, or whomever, does something that doesn’t appear to advance an agenda that favors humans and the environment or worse outright harms it and subsequently the organization, then we need to make this visible. And, we need this to be made visible long before the train is off the track and things cannot be easily corrected. 11 million cars is the current tally for VW cars affected, along with a 40% slide in stock price, a six billion dollar set aside for fixes (and climbing), halted sales, diminished resale values, and a tarnished brand. An early warning flagging system would be much less expensive.
  3. Declare a Stop. As a species, we originally create industries to do useful things for humanity. It makes us unique from other animals on the planet. And, when industries and institutions stop doing useful things for humanity we need to unwind them, divert them, correct them, check them, and even revoke corporate charters. I’m not suggesting that Volkswagen should go away; I don’t think they should. I think there are many good and innovative people that can do tremendous good for themselves, their country, and for a global community. But, when their culture or leadership prevents them from doing this or their harm exceeds their good, then they need to be stopped.

Conclusion
It is important that preventative measures be taken ahead of more ruin to humans and the environment. Government regulation is necessary but insufficient. We need a more holistic and inclusive system that isn’t reserved for trial lawyers and the judicial system to work on behalf of things already dead or harmed. A free market without any oversight is like the pudgy little kid at mom’s party that takes more cookies when guests are not looking. Pretty soon the cookies are gone and mom’s friend Marge never got one. It’s not immediately obvious why. Thankfully, in our increasingly global community, people are looking. You should be, too.

This article is a call to leadership in all industries, government, and academia to consider that as a human species we ought to be sunsetting wasteful, deceptive, and harmful practices that manufacture financial crises, harm people and the environment, waste human potential, and then remedy it later through courts. Let’s put that nonsense in a museum. But, this article is also a call to action for every member of civil society to engage leadership in that conversation and hold them to a higher account. We can and must do better.

Rather than attack whistleblowers, let’s create a safer environment where we can learn from them, confront our collective reality, correct our behaviors going forward, and move on to creating a better world with more nutritious cookies for mom, Marge, and all. These are conversations worth having inside your organization, with elected officials, among elected officials, and at your dinner table. Or, we can continue to talk about the next scandal over our collective spilled milk.

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. In Chapter 8: Social of the book Gregory provides historical perspective around whistleblowers as well as promotes ideas that would help make society more civil with respect for truth, increased accountability, and transparency. This is good for nations and good for investors in companies who get caught up in scandal.

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

Greg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. Chapter 8: Promise Delivery System in The Experience Design Blueprint especially pertains to this article. The promise delivery system is a mental model for making and keeping promises to an organization’s various stakeholders. It is technology agnostic. Any organization can operationalize a promise delivery system using whatever technology and personnel it has at its disposal.

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.

Customer Schmustomer: Audience Schmaudience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

about the author

Gregory Olson is the author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true.

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

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

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

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

A Tiny Comparison of Two Giants: Amazon and Microsoft

A Tiny Comparison of Two Giants
While I’m working on my next book, I sometimes refer to my last one. Not because they are related, they are not. But, because as a self-published author and consultant, I need to let people know I exist. So, here is the funny juxtaposition I see. Two giants were birthed in my proverbial back yard, namely Microsoft and Amazon. And, while each of these companies boasts legacy, scale, and reach that most other companies will never know, the two titans are very different. I want to share a tiny comparison from my point of view as a customer of both.

Amazon is mindful of my experience
It’s true. Amazon IS mindful of my experience. It began a long time ago with one-click before most dot-coms imploded in the first internet bubble and long before iPhone or Android devices ever reached the market. But, Amazon didn’t let their foot off the accelerator. They’ve continued to expand products and services, seemingly with the customer top of mind. They even purchased Zappos, a notoriously customer-centric company. And, then they did the right thing. They left Zappos alone, letting them run as a wholly owned subsidiary. But, it’s not just the big bets I’m talking about that has Amazon mindful of customer experiences.  It’s the little things, too.

screen shot of amazon sync to furthest location for blog post - delightability

Little things have a cumulative effect in winning hearts and minds
Case in point. When I read my book (or any book) on my Kindle Fire HD or Kindle Application on PC or Android, then at a later time open the same book on a different device, I get a very thoughtful prompt. The prompt asks me if I want to continue reading from the last read location. Little things like this have a cumulative effect in winning the hearts and minds of customers. This is true whether it is an application like the Kindle Reading App or your own personal relationships. If you don’t believe it, then ask your partner.

Kudos to Amazon
Kudos to the Amazon engineers and others that made this little thoughtful feature a reality. It is a tiny thing in the grand scheme of the Kindle Platform, but it is very much appreciated. It is customer centric and as a customer, albeit a tiny one, I truly feel it.

Contrast this with my experience with Microsoft
I probably have tens of 1000’s of hours invested in using Microsoft products. One such product is Microsoft Word. My current book project is intended to be around 225 pages completed. I’m currently at 323 in the rough (with notes) and about 149 completed, pre-edit pages.  I’ll eventually strip out the notes and get it fully tuned to reach my goal of 225 pages, within a scosche. Of course along my writing journey I’ve spawned many other ideas for books, companies, apps, services, talks, blog posts, etc. I don’t have huge expectations that Microsoft would accommodate the organization, linking, revision control, and a host of other ideas that could make Word more powerful and relevant to my writer’s journey. After all, a product engineer might argue that there are many types of personas using Word and they can’t cater to the nuances of each of them.  Again, I wouldn’t expect that.

However, what I would expect is that autosave doesn’t make my computer go non-responding. Chock that up to an older version of Word? Perhaps. I’m granting that you have “Instant Autosave with Multitask” on the newer version. You do, right?

Be careful of the brand baggage you bestow on customers
Autosave isn’t my pet peeve here. Every day, I reenter my 323-page manuscript (and growing) with the intent of continuing work from where I was last working. This is understandable. Much like preparing a meal in a kitchen or creating a building on a construction site, when you return to the site, you want to begin where you last ended. A lengthy document isn’t any different. It could be my book, a technical manual, even your own strategy document or go-to-market product plan. While Amazon gives me the friendly thoughtful prompt, from Microsoft I get nothing. When I open my lengthy manuscript I expect to see [return to last known edit?], but instead, I receive the very first page, every time. Little things like this annoy, rob customers of time, disrespect, and over time, the negative brand aftertaste builds our brand baggage. Then negative word-of-mouth sets in.

Pretty please Microsoft
It’s not too late. There is hope. Problems like this are knowable and solvable, that is if you listen to customers and become obsessed with serving them. I’ll know that you really care about customers, even tiny ones like me, when you take care of little things like this. I want to believe you can do this. Microsoft, you are a product of my own back yard. I’ve done an internship there. I’ve been a consultant there. I’ve used many of your products and have had some good experiences, too. But, it’s time you become newly OBSESSED with customers. After all, they are the reason you have a business today and in the future. Little things do matter, even for giants like you.

Recent Articles:
If you especially enjoy an article, please share it with others and consider subscribing (it’s free and without ads)

about the author

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author. His latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow.

Greg also 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.

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.

Don't Let your Ideology Blind you to the Facts

The nature of politics is polarizing, it has been and will be. With various stakeholders involved in internal and external affairs, governing a body politic will necessarily create tensions between opposing points of view.

Conflict itself is not the problem; discourse is healthy. In a civilized society, we debate, hold forums, investigate, tweet, post, blog, and otherwise share, opine, and converse. We no longer duel to the death, resort to fisticuffs, or otherwise inflict bodily harm on those who disagree with us.

The problem is when facts become assaulted or when politicians and wannabe politicians conveniently create new “facts” when existing facts don’t fit their ideology. It is a dangerous and destructive path when facts no longer represent reality. Because, by definition, they have to.

Expunging the facts and resorting instead to some ideology is akin to mythology. It might make for good lore among followers but doesn’t have a credible place in governing. If we want to make real human progress we’ll have to begin a journey of becoming reacquainted with reality and the healthy conversations that accompany it.

The assault on facts goes beyond political circles. At work, in your home, and in your community, you are either a witness to, defender of, or perpetrator of this assault on facts. The same is true in the board room. When society disregards facts, we open the doors to more scandalous corporate and political behavior. I think we’ve all had a long enough go at war, strife, and manufactured economic crises.

“Don’t get so set on your goal that you lose your humanity.” Cicero

As John Lennon said, “Give peace a chance.” Let’s begin our investment in human progress by accepting and confronting our collective reality. When politicians and corporate leaders don’t, then let’s reject them and their blinding ideology relegating them to history books containing other mythological creatures and beliefs.

about the author

Gregory Olson’s latest book is L’ impossipreneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book about a brighter future where we live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. It’s a dreamer’s handbook with “impossible” ideas including the Truth Sculpture, Data Observatory, Propaganda for Good Network, Truth Machine Intelligence Service, Truth Ticker, Empathy Builder, Make Meaning Department, and more.

Greg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTexperiences and then making them come true.

Greg is a business and marketing consultant who founded strategy and design firm, Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers success will follow. He also believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help.

 

A Culture of Care Begins With YOU!

A Culture of Care Begins With YOU!
When I first began writing this post I was targeting leadership, but then I realized many people with titles of leadership have adopted belief filters that will render this message inert. They’ll never see it and if they did, many will think their circumstances so unique the message doesn’t apply to them. But, you are smarter than this, so read on.

sorrow image - culture of care blog post at delightabilityThis week, 3 noteworthy things happened:

  • The CEO of Volkswagen resigned amid the discovery of emission cheating vehicle software and the subsequent battering of the company stock
  • Turing Pharmaceuticals bowed to public pressure and agreed to reverse an abrupt 5000 percent price hike of the life saving drug Daraprim
  • The former owner of the now defunct Peanut Corporation of America was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his role in a salmonella outbreak that killed 9 people and sickened hundreds

Pope Francis addresses the U.S. Congress
Amid these negative developments Pope Francis addressed members of the U.S. Congress.
I want to focus on a few words that Pope Francis shared, namely “culture of care”. Here they are in context.

“In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.”

Think about the possibilities for those words, “A Culture of Care”.

image for reasonable investor test - culture of care blog post at delightabilityReasonable Investor Test
I want to share a personal story. In 1998, I started a software company. As the founding CEO, it didn’t take long to realize I had two jobs, raising capital and building the organization’s operations. We hired an outside CEO to help and I took the reigns as the Chief Operating Officer. As the company grew I couldn’t be party to every decision, nor could I attend every meeting, though employees continued to seek my approval. I invented a test they could employ on their own, without me in the room. I called it the Reasonable Investor Test.

I explained it to them like this. Imagine yourself presenting your decision to a collection of 16 reasonable investors that politely assembled to hear your story.They are sitting across from you at a large table looking you directly in the eye. You are about to explain to them the decision you plan to make or the action you will take. If you can look them in the eye and justify the decision or expenditure, then it passes the test. If you would not be willing to do this then you probably should not make the decision or take the action you are considering.

I concocted this test after our CEO and VP of Sales decided to prematurely celebrate a customer win by indulging in a lavish and expensive meal for themselves. I begrudgingly approved the expense, but I didn’t think reasonable investors would have appreciated their invested money being spent this way. We never did win that customer and the CEO and VP of Sales never understood or embraced the Reasonable Investor Test. But, again you’re smarter than this, so read on.

Life beyond the spreadsheet or whim
A culture of care, like life, is a bit more complicated than what might initially appear favorable on a spreadsheet or what one might feel like doing at the moment. I’m guessing the former CEO of the Peanut Butter Corporation might today consider more stakeholders. I’m also guessing that the former CEO of Volkswagen might employ some sort of Reasonable Stakeholder Test for employees to use in guiding their own work or that of colleagues. Investors are not the only stakeholders just like spreadsheets are not the only tool. There are many other stakeholders to be considered, customers, employees, the environment. And closer to home, stakeholders might include neighbors, the community and even members of your household.

cooperation image - culture of care blog post at delightabilityFreed from the shackles of inaction
Pope Francis shared great words with Congress. I hope members not only listened, but that they heard him. Imagine if Congress freed themselves of their own proverbial mental shackles and focused forward, to a new era, a “people-first” era that confronts reality, embraces science, respects natural resources, and advances prosperity for all households, even the people who don’t currently have one. Imagine possibilities where members act cooperatively, embracing a culture of care, leading the way the for the nation.

penguin image - culture of care blog post at delightabilityBut, even if they don’t, a culture of care can begin with each of us. At home, in school, in our communities, at work, even in the online community. So what about you? How will you create a culture of care, in your home, in your work, in your community? You’ll likely need a test to go with it. What will be your equivalent Reasonable Investor Test? We really can all do better as individuals, organizations, and the world community. I hope you’ll do your part. Onward.

about the author

image of Greg-Olson-Managing Director of Delightability and author of Experience Design BLUEPRINTGregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author. His latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow.

Greg also 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.

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.