An Open Letter to City Leaders in the World Community

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

Dear Leader,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

His latest book is L’ impossi preneurs: A Hopeful Journey Through Tomorrow, a light-hearted and deadly serious book to spark conversations among global citizens.  In a brighter future, we all live more meaningful lives, governments invest in people and sustainable progress, and technology serves humans. Visit Press-Kit to learn more.

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

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.