With so many broken and bad experiences and leaders indifferent to correct them, it is truly refreshing when you encounter an organization that breaks free from the herd. I recently encountered, or rather re-encountered, an organization that left me with a very positive brand aftertaste.
Although I’ve walked, biked, and driven by the Room&Board home furnishings store several, OK – hundreds of times, since its opening in my Seattle neighborhood, I’ve never given it much notice. This is partly because I miss the Barnes and Noble bookstore that previously occupied the space, but mostly because I already have a house stuffed full of furniture.
My numbness to their brand recently began to take shape though. After skimming through their catalog I received in the mail, I landed on the back page. It was here, that made all of the difference. It takes a special kind of company to offer a guarantee that doesn’t expire with hard time bound rules. Room&Board is such a special company. I’d be inclined to visit the store when I find myself in furniture shopping mode again. Here is why:
When you shop with Room & Board, you’re also buying the assurance that we’ll be here if you need us. There are no strict, time-limited warranties. We stand behind the quality of our products and the prices we charge. If you’re not completely satisfied with your purchase or any part of your experience, just let us know. We’re here to help.”
On the website they go on to explain, “We know that buying furniture for your home is more than just a financial decision. It’s also an emotional investment. From the first sketch to the final product, we work directly with the people who build our furniture, eliminating the middleman and saving you from unnecessary mark-ups. These relationships allow us to bring you the perfect combination of quality materials, craftsmanship, design and price.”
There are 3 immediate lessons to take away from this that you can apply to your own organization:
Some interactions will have more impact than others. For me in this instance, it was a message on the back of a catalog received in the mail. Do you know which touchpoints and channels matter the most to your customers and prospects?
Purchasing decisions are more complex than being purely economic. An important dimension to purchasing decisions is emotion. Room&Board recognizes that customers are making an emotional investment. Do your customer interactions and communications reflect the three dimensions of value (emotional, functional, economic) or are they stuck in a pattern that still believes customers are inherently ruled by logic and reason?
A customer experience philosophy can guide an organizations response, communications, product roadmap, strategy, operations, etc. Does your organization have such a customer centered philosophy to guide you, or are you solely ruled by profits, margins, growth, and share price?
Please reflect on these lessons and this story, no matter the size, type, or shape of your organization. You are slowly becoming either more or less relevant in world full of customers that continues to reward brands and organizations that give a damn about the customer experience. The size of your organization and tenure do not provide you with any immunity from providing bad or broken experiences.
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.
Whether you lead an organization or are the newest kid on the block, you need to know how things work inside the organization. Don’t bother looking at the organizational chart; that isn’t the way work actually gets done or decisions are made. In fact, much of what is decided is undocumented and the workflow invisible. You know when it is done, or in contrast, when it’s not. But, the inbetween state is sometimes really hard to see, especially if you are not looking. There are attributes of a healthy innovation culture that build in safeguards, even when people are not looking. In contrast, all the controls and processes put in place in an unhealthy innovation culture won’t make the organization more innovative any more than an overweight person can think their way to thin.
Bridled and Blind or Agile and Conversant
What is the model inside your organization for staying in tune with a changing business landscape and customer ecosystem? Do you have a way to rationalize what you believe inside the organization with the external customer reality? And, how responsive will you be when something changes? How quickly will you notice and which role or department will it be that senses the change? How will each department be informed? Will they respond in a way that is consistent and uniform with smooth handoffs, or will there be ripple effects, balled dropped, cycles burned and ultimately, opportunities lost? Literally, if your organization’s were a horse, how would you describe it? Bridled and controlled by others, marching blind, or ready to shift directions and conversant?
Most organizations don’t have very authentic dialogue around these subjects let alone operating mechanisms or mental models in place to suddenly shift course. This isn’t good for customers, employees, or for the business. In Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall, in my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT, I explore these subjects. Readers will gain recipes and tools to have more productive conversations that lead to outcomes beneficial to customers and to the organization.
In that chapter, among other examples, I share how Joe Fugere of Tutta Bella Pizza was able to form a quick response team that seized the opportunity to serve Tutta Bella Neapolitan style pizza to the President of the United States along with 65 other people aboard Air Force One. I also share how a large mobile operator with vastly more resources habitually lets opportunities pass them by. If you want a healthier innovation culture inside your company read the stories, reflect on the recipes, and begin to shift your conversation; Your future stakeholders will be happy you did.
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.
Enough! 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.
Is your 2014 living up to your expectations? To the extent it’s not, is the universe solely to blame? Or, are you complicit in drifting off your own plan, not being clear on your own path forward, or not paying attention to the details that matter?
If you are like most people, you vacillate between a paper reality and the killer application or device that is finally going to get you organized. Maybe you hear yourself saying, “This one will be unlike all of the others!”
I don’t mean to take the wind our of your sails, but there are some pretty basic shortcomings to a one size fits all approach to most anything. If you don’t believe me, try eating only one food for a week and see how interesting your outlook and mood become. Maybe you can start with carrots. Carrots for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Maybe you are living the paperless office dream that no human being I know of actually is. Maybe you have it all figured out, your process and technology working seemingly together in your smoothly sailing life. Maybe that is the story you are telling yourself and perhaps it’s true. But, if you are reading this far, then maybe you’ve come up short and are looking for solutions.
I use the daily flight plan to keep my top dozen or so actions visible. Sure, I use other tools, both electronic and paper, but this is one I rely on. After sketching Big Pictures on these daily flight plans numerous times, I simply added a Big Picture in miniature form to the latest version. Learn more about the Big Picture in Chapter 12: The Three Psychological Zones in my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT, or on the Big Idea Toolkit website. Learn more about the icons at the top by reading the original flight plan blog post.
You’ve heard it before that it take 21 days to form a habit. No matter the time, if you don’t have a visible tool or reminder, it will be harder to stay the course. Try the Free Daily Flight Plan for the next 20 days or so. I think you and the universe will be pleasantly surprised. Good luck in your productive and insightful ventures. Please let me know how it goes.
Did you get it done today? What about last week, did you finish all that you were piling on? How about last year? How did you fare in 2013? If your year were a song, how would it sound?
If you are like most people, you wandered in the swamp a bit, got some things done, and have a long list of projects that you’re now re-prioritizing. Your 2013 song probably lacked harmony.
We all tend to be overconfident in accomplishing too much in too little time. After all, our ambitions will always exceed our ability to execute, given the available level of resources. It doesn’t matter if we are acting alone or with a large group; smart creative people can simply think of stuff faster than that same stuff can be done. Our priorities change and our lives and workflow are often interrupted by unplanned activities and people. We may even interrupt ourselves as we generate ideas that come at times inconvenient. If our lives in such a state were put to music, that music would be full of staccato notes or might even resemble a cat randomly dancing on a piano keyboard.
I prefer my music and life more harmonious so I created a tool for myself to help stay on top of my changing priorities. I call it my Daily Flight Plan. I print and use this daily. You should use it, or something like it, too.
I periodically update the calendar on this Daily Flight Plan productivity tool and always make it available for FREE. This version has a Q1 2014 calendar along with week numbers. Print one and use it daily to keep track of what you are doing. If you want to learn more about the visual cues at the top then read the original blog post or read my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT. If you want to compliment this with a larger format sticky note based wall planner, then check out the PlayBook from the Big Idea Toolkit.
I hope your 2014 is more fun, more impactful, and more meaningful than your 2013 was. If your 2013 rocked then maybe you can lend an ear, hand, brain, or whatever to someone that struggled. While GDP and the stock market are up in the U.S, most people’s personal economies are still fragments of their former selves and not improving rapidly. There are plenty of people that need help. Reach out. For ideas on what to do check out Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed in my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT.
Good luck, have fun, and make more meaning. I hope your 2014 song is easy on the ears.
Whether 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 Kindle 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.
Mobile technology is a great lifter, providing people of most any means the ability to learn, share, communicate and even publish. But, sometimes technology needs to be augmented with objects of a nontechnical nature, like the pencil, the pen, a calendar, ordinary paper, or the movable sticky note.
We’ve all been talking on the phone while at the same time had the need to see a future date, write down what we are hearing on the phone or capture an idea. Of course, if we are really bored on the phone (or in a meeting), we’ll also need a place to doodle. Few reading this may remember the Pee Chee folder, a staple of yesteryear, where students could doodle or otherwise fashion their paper folder treasure with names of rock bands, their best friends, or the like.
Yes, technology might give us the ability to entertain our time away playing games, send messages, or access information, but it doesn’t help in the situations mentioned. For those you still need paper, pencil, a calendar, etc. That is why I created and use the daily flight plan.
I’ve also made it free and available to you. It is good for all of those things already mentioned but it also gives me the ability to list my dozen or so priorities for the day. I’m guessing you have some too, unless you are a cat. If you are a cat, please turn your reading device over to the person who feeds you. After all, they need your feeding to be a priority.
The Daily Flight Plan is:
The daily flight plan helps me to stay focused on the things I’ve committed to. It also helps me to understand the trade-offs when I get interrupted and need to shuffle my priorities. It can help you, too.
When you set priorities and make them visible, there is more likelihood you’ll complete them. Having this visibility helps you to prevent committing to things unseen. You can set a task, and know where it falls on the calendar so that you can prevent disappointing yourself or others. You can also see how many weeks away something is. This is especially useful for planning out activities across time rather than leaving everything to be completed at the last minute. The daily flight plan uses week numbers, a universal concept that you can also enable in your electronic calendars.
Fun fact: If you used the daily flight plan M-F for every week of the year, you’d have methodically and predictably completed 3120 tasks that might otherwise be left undone, undeveloped, incomplete or completely forgotten.
On the daily flight plan there are mental reminders for the 3 legged stool, 3 funnels, touchpoints and some guiding principles that can help you stay on top of your game. By doing so, you’ll be much more productive, reduce your stress, and still make time to play those games or actually talk on the phone.
Why You Should Read The Experience Design BLUEPRINT
The Experience Design Blueprint is a fusion between how to create better customer* experiences and how to build a healthy innovation culture. Experience and innovation are big words, not easily agreed upon by any 3 people so, why are they important?
* of course customers may also include visitors, staff, guests, patients, donors, board members, volunteers, clients, investors, shareholders, partners, suppliers, citizens, voters, tenants, officials, members, employees, caregivers, participants, residents, soldiers, inmates, interns, passengers, and more depending on your organizations and its priorities.
Experiences are important because they are all around us. Sometimes they happen to us, good or bad. At other times we are the ones creating and influencing the experiences of others. Most of us, from the CEO on down to front line employees, don’t understand the factors that make up an experience, much less how to intentionally design a great one. If we don’t know how to create better experiences then our path to get there is at best, a hodgepodge laid by specialists that might see the trees, but not the forest. Each of us needs to understand the Experience Hoop and Halo of Chapter 1.
Unless you are working in a government granted monopoly or protected regime, to thrive in this hyper-connected, socially aware, world community, you’ll need to do better to win the hearts and minds of others.
This book is written for those who serve in the capacity of employee, volunteer, leader, board member, teacher, etc. While a customer experience (CX) professional or innovation practitioner will gain new perspective and add to their toolbox, it is also written for those “outsiders.” The people behind the scenes, those that make decisions that affect others and impact organization’s performance. If you want to build a healthier organization with happier customers then read this book.
A Journey of Confidence and Competence
My goal in writing this book is for you to feel knowledgeable and skillful in creating better experiences, no matter your audience. I want you to feel confident and empowered to actually play a part in designing better experiences, no matter what your official title or role is. That is why I begin with defining experiences. In the first section of the book, we make the invisible visible. We walk through situations you can relate to like renting a car. We first see how to model them looking from the organization’s perspective, but also from the customers viewpoint. We then understand the factors that can be leveraged to improve what our audiences experience. (Ch 7 Improving the Journey). This is a multidisciplinary systems approach. Most people are not trained in designing and delivering better experiences though each of us is fully capable. See the related post on Tapping Your Inner Designer.
But, that is only the first section of the book. I also want you to be able to deliver on the promise of better experiences so that your audience takes notice and you make an impact in the real world. So, the second part of the book is about innovation and contributing toward making a healthier organization.
Once you know how to design more remarkable experiences, it is equally important to make those possibilities come to life.
Once you know how to design more remarkable experiences, it is equally important to make those possibilities come to life. Imagine if Disneyland was an unrealized vision, never brought to life.
Providing Great Experiences is Everybody’s Business
While VP’s of Customer Experience or Chief Innovation Officers will benefit by reading this book, it is directed toward all of us, those leaders and individual contributors in small business, nonprofits, and governments who need such customer experience strategy and leadership, but aren’t likely to add it to the payroll. In fact, designing and delivering great experiences is everybody’s business from the CEO to the newbie only recently hired – the customer experience isn’t about a particular title or department.
Designing and delivering great experiences is everybody’s business
Easy Learning for You to Make an Impact and Share with Others
In this book, I’ve worked hard to provide mental models with practical applications and examples that you can easily grasp and put to use immediately. This book can help to bridge the divide between the new digital youngsters that know everything and the old school practitioners that remember what it was like to be a customer in a more empathetic world comprised of organizations who cared.
Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations
No matter where you sit in the organization or what type of organization you’re involved in, happier customers and a healthier organization should be front and center. But, if you are like most people, your conversations fall short and your tools are incomplete. If you want to want to make a bigger impact and help those alongside you do the same, this book is for you. It has 78 full-color images and illustrations, 25 inspiring real-world examples, and 56 recipes that can be applied to creating happier customers and building a healthier organization.
Curse of the Lumpy Snowball
If you’re currently working for a “customer experience immune” monopoly or regime, this book may help you in your next assignment, after the customer revolution renders your current employer’s empire irrelevant. That’s a special case called the Curse of the Lumpy Snowball that I explore in Chapter 8.
I hope you’ll read my book and join me on this journey of continuous improvement, relevance, and sustainability. Your audience deserves it and your innovation culture is waiting to flourish. Below is a breakdown of the book by chapter and further down are links to reviews and how to get a copy of the book for yourself.
Chapters in The Experience Design Blueprint:
Section 1: Making the Invisible Visible
Chapter 1: What Makes an Experience?
Chapter 2: Making the Customer Come Alive
Chapter 3: Who is in the Sandbox?
Chapter 4: Modeling the Customer Journey
Chapter 5: The Rental Car Journey
Chapter 6: Aiming for Remarkable, Unbroken, and Generous Design
Chapter 7: Improving the Journey
Section 2: Making a Bigger Imprint
Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System
Chapter 9: The Neighborhood
Chapter 10: Bees and Raccoons
Chapter 11: Barriers to Innovation and Overcoming the Wall
Imagine for a moment that your mental model for creating rain was dance. Or imagine that a boat is propelled through the water by the collective thoughts of the passengers. Sounds a little ridiculous right? Not having an accurate mental model to explain how things work or how to make decisions and orient yourself to the world can be very counterproductive. Yet many leaders, and the organizations that give them permission to lead, have mental models that simply don’t work. People are dancing, but the rain never comes and the boat seems to be heading in a direction that few, if any, benefit from. Worse yet, some leaders may not even have a mental model at all. Instead, they hang on to patterns and biases they’ve developed or inherited that appeared to work for a time, at least until they don’t.
When you get stuck, you lack a mental model of how to proceed, similar to a 1st grader trying to tackle an algebra problem or a chef trying to perform brain surgery.
As individuals we eventually face challenges that call us to act but the situation hasn’t provided us with any mental models of how to proceed. We face this in our personal lives as well as our professional lives. Though many situations we face in our personal lives might be predictable – as many have experienced them before – they are nonetheless new to us at the moment e.g. love, death, marriage, divorce, childbirth, job loss, 50th wedding anniversary, accidents, graduation, etc.
Mental models are all around us. We use maps to find places, we have mental models of what grocery stores look like so we can navigate aisles and make purchases. We also have mental models around how to wear glasses and cut a piece of wood using a handsaw. We get visual cues from those that we observe doing those same things. But, do you know how your organization actually works. Specifically how does it make and keep promises to its customers and other stakeholders? What is your mental model for that?
Here is a fun assignment: Gather a small group of people from your organization. Have each of them draw on a single sheet of paper how the organization makes and keeps promises to its various stakeholders. Then share it and discuss the differences. Alternative assignment if the first one is too threatening. Ask a child to explain how a phone works or to plan the next family vacation and see what unfolds.
It turns out that the world has been swimming in positive psychology for a couple of decades. Amid that, we have many things to cite in the world that aren’t so swimmingly positive. And how many of us have fallen prey to the motivating seminar or sales pitch, only to fail later when we return to our old habits and practices. Being positive, having unabated enthusiasm, and putting blinders up to all things negative, doesn’t create the warm, fuzzy, prosperous future we once thought it would.
In the December issue of Psychology Today, Annie Murphy Paul, explores the uses and abuses of optimism (and pessimism). Like the author of the article suggests, as in many things, context matters. It turns out that there is a time to be optimistic and a time to be pessimistic. Sometimes it is helpful to think of things that might go wrong.