An Open Letter to City Leaders in the World Community

image of Delightability visiting Toronto - all rights reserved - Gregory Olson

Dear Leader,

Image of City for Open Letter to City - The Experience Design BLUEPRINT by Gregory Olson

As a Mayor, City Manager, or member of City Council you have a special duty that you’re likely ill prepared for. It isn’t running a campaign, debating hot topics like climate change and minimum wage, or being a good partner to those managing city departments and resources. No, those are traditional and evergreen requirements, necessary but, insufficient to meet the needs of an increasingly demanding public.

Image of Crosswalk for Open Letter to City - The Experience Design BLUEPRINT by Gregory Olson

You see, you’re not so much as managing and governing what is these days as you are expected to be concerned with the future of the city. This means innovation. This means growth. It means economic prosperity for every household. This means a safety net for those that need it, whether their home is ablaze, they are a victim of crime, a super storm, or temporarily rendered irrelevant by a divided economy that puts corporate profits ahead of people and the community you govern. It means anticipating what’s next and being proactive, even if you won’t be the direct beneficiary or in office at the time of implementation.

Your city thrives when all people do better. It is up to you to put people and communities first.  This will take courage, loads of courage, especially if people with an alternative agenda helped put you in office. Part of your job is managing multiple stakeholders that don’t have goal congruence. You’ll need to manage expectations between competing stakeholders. Getting it right will take more conversations with more people and continued learning on your part.

Image of German City for Open Letter to City - The Experience Design BLUEPRINT by Gregory Olson

You need to think and act like a designer, a futurist, and a humanist. You’ll need to adopt new mental models and abandon thinking that trapped your predecessors in a bridled past. But, unfortunately it is likely that you’re poorly trained for these new roles. You might be thinking at this point, “I didn’t sign up for this. I’m busy. That is not my job.” If this is what you think, then you would be wrong.

Rise to the occasion, adopt your new badge of courage, and let’s get to work. There is much potential for your city and I have the confidence that you can do good things, you simply need a little help. I’m going to provide some help, some encouragement, and inspiration. There are plenty of people in your own city that can help, too. They are your co-designers, the people that can help write the story history will one day retell. You’ll need to tap into their energy, capacity, and willingness to get involved in civic matters. That is a challenge we’ll come back to later.

Image of German City for Open Letter to City - The Experience Design BLUEPRINT by Gregory Olson

I’ve written The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. It’s a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. There are people working, living, recreating, and passing through your city right now. You and your colleagues have a large task at hand, namely designing better experiences for these people. But, most likely you aren’t even on the same page when it comes to defining an experience, let alone making them come true.

This is the first letter you’ve received from me, but it won’t be the last. I’ll be sharing more. You can get a head start by reading my book. I’m happy to speak with you and members of your extended team. All reasonable people want vibrant, sustainable cities full of happy people. Let’s make that happen.

With sincerity and optimism,
Gregory Olson (reach me on twitter at delight_ability)

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 to spark conversations among global citizens.  In a brighter future, we all live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. Visit Press-Kit to learn more.

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 has served as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social investor and financial institution, Oikocredit International.

The Real Skills Gap

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

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

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

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

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

Examples of Empathy in Decline

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

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

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

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

We have systematically been reducing our own empathy.

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

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

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

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

We Pay Homage to Things that Don’t Matter

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

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

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

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

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

Platform for Human Progress

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

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

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

There is No Innovation or Progress Without People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Conclusion

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

A New Conversation

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

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

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

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

 About the Author

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

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

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

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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.

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.

Your Busy Program is Running You

This is a message to leaders everywhere. Perhaps you lead a major corporation, a startup, a non-profit, a small business, or a government agency; it really doesn’t matter, the message is all the same.

Signs that you are moving too fast - delightability - experience design blueprintEnough! We’ve all been running the busy program, or rather, the busy program has been running us. It’s a bit like driving down the highway, but going too fast to read the signs passing you by. The symptoms vary but may look like: vacations become working vacations; you’re never “off” the clock; there is no time to relax and even in your “idle” time your busy planning your busy time.

The trouble is these “highway signs” you can’t read in your life as your forging full speed ahead are actually opportunities passing you by. One sign that you missed might have said, BIGGEST INNOVATION OPPORTUNITY. Another might say YOUR DAUGHTER NEEDS YOU. Most people never slow down, in order to speed up, that is until they have a personal crisis. For some, that might be a heart attack, death of a loved one, cancer, divorce, or the recognition that your family no longer recognizes you.

It’s time to WAKE UP! You can choose to stop running the busy program at any time. You don’t need a crisis to have a new consciousness.

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau

Ask yourself what would you do if you had 10 or 20% more capacity? And what about those you lead and interact with. What if each of them had 10 or 20% more capacity?
What if that capacity were used to be creative, what would that look like in your organization? What if that additional capacity were put to use solving those persistent, nagging, seemingly unsolvable “wicked” problems. What if that capacity were nobly
consumed to live a more healthy lifestyle, or to be more balanced between work and family or personal life? Imagine the kids and Fido seeing more of mom or dad. What if each person WASN’T doing 2 or 3 jobs? What would that mean for your organization? For each of your employee’s experience? For your customer’s experience? What about for the economy?

As you return from this Sunday, whether that was an Easter Sunday for you, or any other Sunday, ask yourself, what if? But, then as soon as you are done asking, do something about it; for you and for those that around you. Chances are, if you are running the busy program, you never saw this message, at least not until somebody that cared, forwarded this  post to you.

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

Greg 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 14: The World of Work has Changed. 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.

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.