Learn Like a Featherless Crow and You Will be Ready to Fly

crow image painted on wood - The Experience Design BLUEPRINT - DelightabilityThere is a story I share in my book about a couple of tiny featherless crows that were nudged from the nest, probably prematurely. After a few mishaps and related rescues over the course of several days, I finally witnessed some unusual activity in the far corner of my yard. The little, newly feathered crows were hopping up the bank onto progressively higher rocks, and then jumping off the ledge at the top, honing their flying skills as gravity played its part. It was quite a treasure to see the featherless birds mature and eventually turn their clunky sky jumps into masterful flight. There is a lesson for humans here.

Practice Makes Perfect, Not Training

Like baby crows, we need to practice those things we want to become more proficient in. Training alone seldom provides the opportunity for mastery. Imagine a baby crow sitting through the crow equivalent of flight instruction. Without the hours spent flying (or trying) the real world lessons would come slowly, if ever. Every baby crow starts out a failure, but with much potential for flight.

“I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States, (1809 to 1865)

Hopefully, as you embark on the 2nd half of the year, you begin practicing like a determined featherless crow. Soon, you’ll be flying about wondering why you took so long to begin.

5 Actions for Business Leaders to Help the Company AND the Economy

This Pesky World of Work Has Changed

The world of work has changed and it’s not coming back as we once knew it. Whether you are the chief people officer at the top, leading a department, or forging the way forward as an individual contributor, you’ve by now realized the new normal is not like the last normal.

Forces Beyond Your Control

Some forces acting on your organization are out of your control: industry consolidation, globalization, public policies of all sorts, advances in technology, a flight to values, demand for increased transparency, distrust of government and banks and cable monopolies, shifting workforce demographics, etc.

But, this doesn’t mean you are powerless, ineffective, and should sit on the sidelines. Of course, you could choose to do nothing. But, that usually isn’t a very good option for getting a desirable outcome. Your proverbial ship will eventually hit the reef ahead if you don’t veer port or starboard. You must take action. The annals of company histories are chock full of such victims that witnessed innovation from the sidelines. The marketplace is an unforgiving lover; your’e hot when your’e hot, and forgotten when you’re not. Size or tenure do not insulate you from marketplace realities.

Some Sobering Facts:

  • companies are running leaner than ever
  • employees feel insecure and overworked
  • work is increasingly specialized
  • leaders are forced to do more with less
  • employee engagement has declined and loyalty has evaporated in both directions

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

Don’t look to the media, politicians, and economist for answers. You won’t find relevant prescriptions there. What you will find is self serving rhetoric bordering on sensationalism and focused on getting somebody elected or re-elected. They each have an agenda that is unlike yours and certainly not like your customers, employees, vendors, partners, or communities you occupy. The correct prescription is to do what is right for the business and all of its stakeholders. So, what the hell is a business leader to do?

Here are 5 Actions Business Leaders Can Initiate Now

If you are a leader by committing to these 5 actions, you will help your company and the economy at the same time. If you are not the business leader you don’t have to sit on the sidelines while your organization unravels. Consider today the “elbow nudge the leader at work day.” For additional clarity on any of the following 5 actions see the slideshare.net presentation below or my book, The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healther Organizations. Pay particular attention to Chapter 14: The World of Work Has Changed.

  1. Create an innovation neighborhood. Stock it, in part, with outside entrepreneurs. Add fractional talent that you cannot attract for a job, but would still like to work with your organization. Shake things up by adding “entrepreneur seasoning.”
  2. Recognize and abolish your internal innovation hurdle (IIH). It’s really ok that your next business opportunity may only be a $ 20 million business as opposed to a $ 1 billion business. Small is the new big – get used to it and get good at it or you’ll be a Berlin Wall remnant.
  3. Treat people with dignity and respect . Add people to give current employees more capacity. Stop fear mongering tactics, period. Reduce executive pay before shedding employees upon bad news. The raving fans you build start inside your own organization. You are at a disadvantage if you don’t start there.
  4. Adapt your non-discriminatory policy to include the unemployed and especially the long term unemployed and veterans. Reprimand or fire those that break the policy. Go for diversity in everything. If everybody inside your organization looks and acts the same – your organization’s unwinding has already begun.
  5. Be more collaborative by sponsoring, using the talent within, and becoming a resident of co-working spaces.

Need help with any of these or want to discuss? Please get in touch.

3 Easy Lessons from a Home Furnishings Company that Gives a Damn about the Customer Experience

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.

room and board catalog cover image

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:

Our Guarantee
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.”

room and board catalog back page guarantee image

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.

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

For more guidance and self help read my book or reach out if you’d like some help. We’d love to help you build an enduring brand that matters.

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

Your Busy Program is Running You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greg Olson is a business coach to leaders and the author of The Experience Design BLUEPRINT:
Recipes for Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations. Chapters in the book that pertain to this blog post include Chapter 8: The Promise Delivery System and Chapter 14: The World of Work has Changed. Read it on Kindle or any device using the free Kindle Reader application.

Free 2014 Q2 Calendar Tool to Make Daily Living a Little Less Argh

Delight Flight Plan Q2 2014 image Delightability - Big Idea Toolkit
Click to Download Full Sized PDF

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!”

pushing plate of carrots awayI 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.

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.

Daily Flight Plan for Productive People

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.

Q1 2014 Calendar Daily Flight Plan graphic - Click Image to Download full Size PDF from Delightability
click image to open latest Daily Flight Plan Calendar as PDF

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:

  • Printable
  • Glanceable
  • Writable
  • Carryable
  • Free

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.

3-legged-stool of operations - promoting value - delivering value - balanced personal life - Delightability LLC.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.

Download your free daily flight plan and begin your path to more productivity.

For more info on the 3 legged stool, touchpoints, and 3 funnels see the prior blog post. These models are also covered in more detail in my book: The Experience Design BLUEPRINT: Recipes for Creating Happier Customers and Healthier Organizations.

3 Doors of Change: a Model for Sustainable Change

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.

image of 3 Doors of Change Model from DelightabilityOur 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.

image of Big Picture with 3 Doors of change model from Delightability shown
Click to View Full Size

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.

image of Alignment door number 2 from 3 Doors of Change - DelightabilityTeams 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