Are You an Idea Asset or an Idea Liability?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

When Your Organization Becomes a Leaky Boat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Book Now Available, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT

The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations

Dear Friends,

Today, we are proud to announce the publication of a new book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. This highly visual book is chock full of 78 images, new mental models, and 56 recipes that you can immediately apply to your own organization, no matter your title or role.

It doesn’t matter where you sit in the organization, happier customers and a healthier organization should be front and center in what you do. But, chances are your mental models and conversations are hangovers from the industrial era. And, that prevents you and your organization from living up to your potential. If you have the courage to stop accepting mediocrity and to do something different, then The Experience Design BLUEPRINT is your actionable practitioner’s guide that can supercharge your team -whether you are an army of 1 or 1000’s.

The first section of the book is about making the invisible, visible. The aim is to see experiences, the organization, and its stakeholders, in a new light. With new eyes, you can envision promising possibilities for your customers, the organization, and those who serve within.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust

The second section of the book is about making those possibilities come to life. It is about transformation and building an innovation neighborhood amid a world of work that has changed. I’ve also revealed the psychology at play and barriers that work against you reaching your intended destination. The second section of the book has more recipes, more models, and examples that will help you have more productive conversations and create a clear path forward so you can feel less argh and more aha!

I’ve done my part by writing the book and sharing models, examples, and step-by-step instructions for how to design new or repair existing experiences. Using nature and neighborhoods as inspiration, I’ve also provided a practical path forward that is equally relevant to the grass roots start up, the business on main street, or the government agency or large enterprise that struggles to remain relevant in an age of relentless change. No matter the size or type of the organization, the contents of this book apply to you as a human and a citizen of the planet.

Experience Design BLUEPRINT book purchase badge for amazonNow it is time for you to do your part. By reading this book you’ll better understand why you feel the way you do about your own experiences as a customer, an employee, or leader. But, more than that you’ll also better understand how you can shape the experiences of those around you and contribute towards building a more healthy organization and innovation culture. Read a sample of the book. Better yet, invest the equivalent price of 2 cups of coffee and purchase the book. Indulge, get lost in new possibilities, and change your world. Your customers and those serving alongside you will thank you. I thank you too!

I truly hope you enjoy the book, spark new insights, and make a bigger impact in what you do. Oh yeah, one last thing. The book is available in full-color print and also in electronic format, readable on nearly any device. Aside from the various Kindle devices, you can read the book using the free Kindle reading apps available for computers, tablets, smartphones, web browsers.

I want to share this book far and wide, to reach as many people as possible. Please help to spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or whatever medium you prefer.

smiley face for signature - Greg Olson Delightability LLC.

Very Sincerely,

Gregory Olson

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are those fun facts on Starbucks and McDonalds.

About the Author

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

Gregory Olson is a consultant, speaker, and author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.

Connect with Greg on Linkedin, Facebook, or Twitter.

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Exercises and mental models in the book will build your confidence and competence in envisioning better possibilities and then making them come true, whether you are working alone or alongside a team. Chapters in the book that especially pertain to this post include:

  • Chapter 1: What Makes and Experience?
  • Chapter 5: The Rental Car Experience?
  • Chapter 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken, and Generous Design
  • Chapter 7: Improving the Journey
  • Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
  • Chapter 9: The Neighborhood
  • Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed
  • Chapter 14: From Argh to Aha!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

about the author

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

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

10 Quotes to Help You Overcome Your Crummy Situation

Deserters and Dead Men Walking
At some point we all find ourselves in a crummy, untenable situation. That can happen at work whether we are the leader, or the follower. The blame game in high tension environments is omnidirectional and if the oxygen is thin (as measured in cash flow), all kinds of seedy characters suddenly appear on the scene. We can get caught up in having the wrong conversations about things that probably don’t matter, especially not to customers, or a greater set of stakeholders. Many give up and move on before they can turn it around. Others stay put, like dead men walking. This happens in the tiniest of companies as well as the behemoths. So, how do you free your mind if you can’t free yourself?

The Time Machine
I want to share with you an inspiring character that if I had a time machine, I’d visit. Better yet, I’d bring him here and get his take on a few things. That character is Ben Franklin. One of the reasons I admire Ben is that he overcame who he was, to become what he could be. If you didn’t know, Ben Franklin was an indentured servant. The 10th child of a family of little means, his father once considered giving him to the church. Instead, Ben’s eldest brother took him on as an apprentice which was really more of a master – slave relationship complete with periodic beatings. Ben, of all people, could have marched on, beaten down by a system larger than him, but thankfully he didn’t. Ben went on to live 84 years and contributed to humanity in many ways including as a prominent author, printer, politician, postmaster, satirist, inventor, musician, and diplomat. He invented bifocals, electricity, and the United States Postal Service among many other things we rely on today. He created the first library in the colonies and Poor Richard’s Almanac. I still pick up a copy of the Farmer’s Almanac most years and I have library books due right now. Thanks for both of those possibilities, Ben!

Getting Free
Ben was a multifaceted success and certainly fought adversity, whether Britain and the Stamp Act, or his own people in the colonies as he promoted what’s next. He was an outspoken critic of drinking beer on the job, a recipe for declined productivity, he argued. I imagine that idea was not popular. Maybe you are a modern day Ben Franklin.  Or, perhaps you harbor a Ben stuck in your organization or even your family. If so, maybe you should set them free to do their best work. I don’t know what quotes Ben Franklin might find inspiring especially while he was in servitude. But, the 10 quotes below, I imagine would have further fueled the fire in Ben’s belly.  Perhaps these quotes can help you find your new freedom, so that you can do your best work, too.

“We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”
― Oprah Winfrey

“Lightning makes no sound until it strikes.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”
― Ronald Reagan

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
― Albert Einstein

“Imagination works so quickly, quietly, and effectively that we are insufficiently skeptical of its products.”
― Daniel Gilbert, Author, Stumbling on Happiness

“Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.”
― Niccolo Machiavelli, Italian diplomat, political philosopher, musician, poet, playwright (1469-1527)

“We must not say every mistake is a foolish one.”
― Cicero Roman author, orator, & politician (106 BC – 43 BC)

“As the births of living creatures are at first ill shapen, so are all innovations, which are the births of time.”
― Francis Bacon, English philosopher, statesman, spy, Freemason and essayist (1561 – 1626)

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood — and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die.”
― Daniel Hudson Burnham, American architect and urban planner (1846 – 1912)

“People go from denial to despair so quickly that they don’t stop right in the middle and do something about it.”
― Al Gore, an Inconvenient Truth

about the author

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

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

If You Want New Outcomes try Changing your Language and Conversation

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

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

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

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

About The Author

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

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

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

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

Why Leaders Everywhere Continue to Provide Broken Experiences and How to Turn the Tide

Most experiences have evolved and are not intentionally designed. As an example, our experiences getting through security at an airport often requires 3, 4, maybe even 5 bins to get our jackets, electronics, shoes, and other items securely examined by x-ray equipment and TSA personnel. There hasn’t been any increase in capacity for the system to accommodate those bins, if we are pulled aside our items are at personnel risk, and there isn’t a smooth exit as we are reacquainted with our shoes, much like cattle being pushed through a gate.  Read the article where the CEO of the Airline Trade Group is begging for a meaningful security overhaul that doesn’t disgruntle travelers.

We live in a world of specialists but, most cannot afford to hire the specialist needed to create smooth experiences. When we do, we have trouble herding them toward a successful outcome or making a case to retain them in changing business conditions. Not everybody can afford a complete service design overall like Alaska Airlines did to the tune of  twenty-eight million dollars.  But, they did prevent having to spend the estimated five-hundred million to build a new terminal.

In our world of “right now” we don’t make time to listen intently or think deeply. We then race to a quick understanding by dumbing things down so that we can make sense of complicated, interconnected things. What if we all stopped listening to children that struggle to put together their words?

We don’t understand change and human psychology. We still operate under the illusion that saying it is so, makes it so and people will follow the leader. This is especially a problem in a low trust environment where employees view themselves as free agents employed for the moment by the firm that just recently let others go.

There is low employee engagement and it is diminishing. In many environments it is increasingly hard to find the rock star employee that will go the extra mile to own a problem to resolution. More often we cite policy, throw our hands in the air, and rush you to the next person in the chain, or worse we “rush you to the door.”

We lack a common mental model to even understand what comprises an experience. If you don’t’ believe me, ask a colleague to coffee and compare notes. When you are done go for the advanced topic, explain how innovation works inside your organization.

We are unable to get past our biases. We still think abandoned shopping carts is a homeless problem. Never mind that it may be a transportation problem faced by seniors and bus stop moms with children in tow.  We really don’t even want to have the conversation, it’s too messy and not in my purview.  What conversations are you blind to in your organization?

We react to possible dangers while we avoid addressing dangers that lurk everyday.  The threat of terror has creating bad experiences like the TSA agent at SeaTac airport that treated an elderly woman as a terrorist as she struggled to explain her artificial knees.  At the same time Brian Fairbrother, Seattle resident, rode his bicycle down a blind set of stairs on a Seattle sidewalk and died as a results of his injuries. Disaster here was predictable and preventable with thoughtful design.  Everyday neglect by the city played a direct hand in killing one of its own.  No crime board at the local precinct and action taken too slowly.  Where does one report the lurking danger in your city?  Will anybody listen? 

We average the experiences for all audiences. Average is unremarkable for most and outright broken for some.  I recently saw an interactive climbable section of the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland permanently closed because it was not wheelchair accessible. Hopefully, this doesn’t spell danger for bicycles and hiking trails? Not all customers are created equal.  Let’s embrace that we are all differently enabled, not diminish our uniqueness by creating an artificial average. If some can jump higher, raise the bar. If others cannot, then help them.

Most leaders are busy running the business and never slow down enough to work on the business. We mostly don’t know what it is like to be a customer. That is why I like the television program “Undercover Boss.” Sometimes we have to slow down, in order to speed up.

We lack empathy for our customers’ real situations, desires, and challenges. Many organizations have forgotten that they serve customers not shareholders. And, as leaders we often lack the courage to do what is right and change the conversation when it’s not.

Many employees really don’t care about others experiences. We are simply are too focused inwardly, struggling with our own problems, sometimes working multiple jobs to make ends meet. When our own experiences with our employers are broken it makes it hard to compassionately serve others.

Most don’t feel that they are really citizens of the state. With the outsourcing of most everything the original care and feeding of customers doesn’t necessarily translate. We are ill equipped, unwilling, or unable to get ready others to serve.

Experiences are largely invisible. Customers don’t have a way to make visible, their poor experiences except for begging for attention in social media and review sites. Imagine if Customer Relationship Management (CRM)  software actually provided a view for the customer to see. That might be a little scary because customers might then calculate the lost time in dealing with organizations that erode their experiences and rob them of their precious time.  Would you be willing to give your customers a view?

Experiences seldom blend well across channels.  Most things digital are handled by the “digital” department instead of being integrated across channels and into the company’s sales, marketing, and operations.  A visit to the United State Postal Service will quickly reveal that most workers don’t know the capabilities of their own USPS website. They treat it like another company.  This is why I applaud the Citibank’s North America Head of Consumer Marketing, Vanessa Colella’s recent decision to eliminate the digital marketing department citing that we should all be digital, that “digital”  isn’t a department. Read the article here.

We want to have a metric for everything as opposed for some things and do more things right in spite of difficult or nonexistent metrics.  Do you love your puppy?  Well then, show me the metric.  Sometimes you have the courage to do the right thing, even if your big data doesn’t show it.  I applaud Puma and the story of the little red box.  With no clear metric or obvious path to completion or payoff, they had the courage to proceed on a project to eliminate the shoe box and tissue that ships with every pair of shoes sold.  Check out the video at this blog post.

If an employee has a good idea to improve an experience they are often stymied. We don’t have healthy innovation cultures that tolerate and advance ideas that can come from anywhere.  And it seems that the more connected we become, the more we lack the recipe and know how for advancing ideas to reality.  If we work for a really big company then we must really make the case that what we’re proposing is the next great thing, typically measured in billions.  But, most big ventures start as little ventures and we need more ventures of all sizes to make a healthy economy.

We simply lack recipes for making things better for the customer, or for the organization. And… that is exactly why I’m writing the Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. (update: The book is now completed and available in digital or full-color print.)

about the author

Gregory Olson authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. 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.

When Metrics Fail it is Time to Change the Conversation: a Walk in the Park with an Abandoned Shopping Cart

abandoned shopping cart found on sidewalk in the evening - Delightability researchLurking beneath the metrics you’ll find the truth. This truth may have slowly crept up on you and suddenly poked you in the eye as a new reality. But, you say, “We have these metrics and this is the way we measure, and see, and do things around here.” Exactly right, but exactly wrong too.

Here is an easy target to pick on. Abandoned shopping carts litter the landscape most everywhere. City Councils have metrics and want to hold stores accountable for their wayward carts. Stores have metrics and are stuck between cracking down on their patrons and giving them freedom to take carts as needed. Biases are at play too. What looks like a theft problem to the store’s Loss Prevention Manager is a transportation problem to the “bus stop mom” or “urban retirement dweller.” Once you get past the bias that this is a purely homeless problem, you’ll see that kids, and moms, and grandpas all play a part in this problem. Even police are being called upon by municipalities to “do something about this menace.” One police department recently posted on their Facebook page a reminder to the public, that it is a crime to take a shopping cart off of store premises. Each of the stakeholders, save the shopper themselves, have metrics, but who is right here?

The world has shifted – shopping carts have gotten smaller and more maneuverable, the price of gas has continued to rise, and some have opted out of owning personal transportation in favor of walking or using public transportation. But, amid these changes, stores are probably blind to the transportation realities their customers face.

While stores have found more and more ways to understand our shopping preferences and probably have metrics related to the foods we buy and the prices we’re willing to pay, they really have little understanding of why we choose their store, how we got there, and if a grocery cart will be on our list of items to take home today.

So, there you have it, amid all of those metrics the human behind the customer has been forgotten and that is exactly wrong. Imagine if the metrics for a given store revolved less around how much orange juice we purchased and at what price and instead examined who the shopper is and what transportation they used to get to and from the store. That might just spawn some new services and brand loyalty to the stores with courage enough to change the conversation.

“Don’t get so set on your goal that you lose your humanity.”
Cicero, Roman author,orator, & politician (106 BC – 43 BC)

If you are a grocery store leader, city council member, or other stakeholder to the problem and would like to talk, please contact us. We’d love to share with you the findings of a public workshop we hosted where we brought people together from all walks of life to discuss, dive into, and propose a range of possible solutions to the abandoned shopping cart problem.

Here are a few photos of abandoned shopping carts seen around town.  This could be Anytown, USA or beyond.

View the workshop photo album and visit the Big Idea Toolkit to learn more about the large format visual planning system that we used to guide our workshop discussion.

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. 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.

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.