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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
Connect with Greg on Linkedin, Facebook, or Twitter.
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
The lack of success and outright failure of change initiatives has caused us to design a sustainable and effective model for change. Though change doesn’t happen without people, our experience shows us that many leaders jump from decision to implementation, skipping the critical step of gaining alignment of the people who will carry the burden.
Our human centric change model embraces people; we call it the 3 Doors of Change. Think of successful change initiatives having to pass through each of the 3 doors in order for the change to take hold and make a lasting impact. Getting through door number 1 is easy and involves making a decision, crafting a vision or a plan. Here is where organizations often invest time and resources into making a better, more informed decision.
Door number 3 is implementation. It is here where plans are put to the test. The mechanical performance of actions are performed to get the desired results. The execution police are relentless in keeping us on task even though we may have lost site of what we were doing, or the original purpose behind it. The belief that employees or volunteers blindly adhere to whatever has been decided may be a hangover from the industrial age and era of specialization where people were thought of as efficient assembly line workers, chunking out whatever the factory boss had configured the line to do.
But, most of us don’t work in factories. And, even fewer workers today have a sense of duty to whoever is barking orders.
So, why is it that we still act like we work in factories? Because institutions and organizations are slow to change save for the rare organization that crafts new rules and norms. HR, Training and Development departments, and leaders are seldom well versed in psychology, campaign design, and shaping human behavior. Think of your current organization and all of the organizations that you’ve worked with and for. How much did you learn about getting other people on board your train? That is exactly what is needed for successful change and the subject of door number 2, alignment.
Door number 2 is the pathway to sustainable change. Here is where activities and campaigns help to on-board, inform, and empower people to participate. As members of teams and participants to others’ plans, we crave to be heard and to be ready for what is asked of us. Visit any social network or a highly functioning team and you’ll witness this in droves.
The Big Idea Toolkit has this change model built in. The path on the Big Picture is intentionally a “z” shape. At first, when you make a decision and move through door number 1 you feel like you are moving forward. But, then you feel like you are going backwards when trying to gain alignment. Time seem to slow d o w n while your working through alignment. After gaining alignment, you’re moving forward again. These feelings of moving forward then backward and forward again are reinforced by the blue z shaped path on the Big Picture.
Teams that skip door number 2, jumping to implementation too quickly, eventually return to gain alignment of the rest of the people that will carry out the change. Think of changes you’ve been apart of or witnessed. It IS very possible that change occurs quickly, effortlessly, and even invisibly But, for this to happen you’ll have to include attributes that help with door number 2, alignment. In the best of cases, you’ll have a high alignment-word density in your change initiative. Alignment words to consider include: valued, inclusion, expression, respect, participation, secure, authentic, credible, relevant, focused, incremental, clarity, easy, purpose, destination, community, sharing, and payoff.
Change efforts needn’t be top town or driven by legislation. No boss told you to put yourself on Facebook or LinkedIn or begin text messaging yet, you did all of those.
If you want to make a bigger impact for yourself and others you’ll need to pay attention to the 3 Doors of Change. You’ll look less like a politician, lawmaker, or bureaucrat and more like an 21st century change master that aligns people to make great things happen. And, in a lopsided world rife with ailments we could all use more greatness.
Please share your experiences around alignment with teams? What are some of the tactics you have successfully used or others have used on you? Comment here, on Facebook, twitter, or email Greg Olson
Have you ever felt as though a project had a life of its own, running like freight train down the tracks. Like watching a glass fall off the counter, sometimes we feel powerless in our projects, even the very ones that we initiate. The feeling can be even worse if you are jumping aboard another person’s project.
Personalities and biases will definitely begin to come out when you are working on a project with other people. Some people are mindful of execution and stay very disciplined whereas others may abandon the current plan because new information leads to more promising possibilities. Sometimes projects are completed on time and on budget with their intended outcomes but, other at other times, they are not. And the ride, isn’t necessarily enjoyable. Remember that freight train image? When a project is really out of control it feels more like a FRIGHT train.
What is needed is a better conversation. Sometimes you do have to slow down, in order to speed up.
Getting on The Same Page
We use the Big Picture in our practice to communicate our ideas, get on the same page and move forward together. Using the Big Picture taps the visual thinking parts of your brain and allows you to have more productive conversations. So when people are checked out, going down the wrong path, or the project feels out of control, slow down. Grab the Big Picture, outline the plan using sticky notes to represent the big chunky steps and have a better, more inclusive conversation. Those working with you will thank you for a more enjoyable ride and together you’re much more likely to reach your intended destination.
About The Author
Greg also authored The Experience Design Blueprint, a book about designing better experiences and then making them come true. The Big Picture is discussed further in:
Gregory Olson founded strategy and design firm Delightability, LLC. with the belief that if you delight customers then success will follow. He believes that we all have the potential to do better, as individuals, organizations, and communities, but sometimes we need a little help. Gregory also serves as a volunteer board member for Oikocredit Northwest, a support association for social and impact investor, Oikocredit International.
Today 10,700 people employed by Borders will begin losing their jobs as the company plans to shutter it remaining 399 stores and liquidate the entire business. Once considered a staple, the big chain bookstore might be the flour for a recipe that no longer gets baked.