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.
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.
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
Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone but, are you aware of the other types of ‘preneurs? Perhaps you fall into one of the other types, or you will at some point in your life.
Entrepreneur– this is the traditional risk taker that sees the path they are forging as less risky than working for somebody else doing something that isn’t interesting, isn’t rewarding, or may conflict with their values. They often see what’s next and can’t imagine not pursuing it.
Solopreneur – an entrepreneur acting in isolation without the support of others in the same organization.
Multipreneur – an entrepreneur that is pursuing multiple interests simultaneously either because they have to, in order to make ends meet, or because it is part of a portfolio strategy to see which plays out the best. Or, they may simply have the capacity to do more than one venture.
Intrapreneur– an employee acting as an internal entrepreneur inside the organization that has many of the risk elements of a classic entrepreneur but, is insulated from the brutal reality of having to manufacturer their own paycheck.
Wannapreneur– this person wants to start something but doesn’t know what. They are more constructive that the complainapreneur below but may lack ideas or a clear path forward.
Ideapreneur – this is the person who is stricken with ideas, suddenly and often but they don’t take action. They don’t have to jump on “this” idea because another possible better idea is right around the corner.
Olderpreneur – this is an older experienced person, the age can vary of course, but this person has decided to take their wealth of experience, network, skills, and package it up into a credible “what’s next” story told with the authority and credibility that may be lacking in a younger entrepreneur. Often they are motivated by pursuing an interest, addressing a nagging problem, leaving a legacy, or designing a venture around a lifestyle.
Complainapreneur– individuals that are stuck in the grind and don’t have the courage or clarity to escape. Instead they bemoan their situation, wishing things would change, and eventually they usually do.
Dreamapreneur– those individuals that dream of pursuing a new passion but really never will commit to action. It is simply more fun and much more safe to fantasize about it while enjoying the security of a paycheck, limited working hours, and the familiar.
Adventurepreneur – this person works only to play; these folks might literally have a sign on their door or online profile, “Gone Fishing” or “Kayaking” or “Climbing.”
Loyalpreneur– these are those dedicated employees dutifully carrying out the orders of those they work for in exchange for a paycheck.
Philanthropreneur – a generous, thoughtful person that supports other people’s projects, initiatives, and ventures often times without concern for any payback.
Luckypreneur– somebody who has a job that allows them to make a big impact, make a good living, and also make a difference in the world.
Have another type of ‘preneur to add to the list? Connect and let me know.
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 investor and financial institution, Oikocredit International.
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.
According to the Deloitte Center for the Edge study in 2009, only 1 in 5 employees are passionate about their jobs.
Imagine the untapped potential that exists in the remaining 4/5 of your employee population. What if you could harness their potential and put it to good use, creating value for your customers and for your organization.
Gosh. That sounds mean. Why would you say that? Like a child learning to walk, uninstructed, unencumbered by rules and the walkers operational manual, we all need to run experiments, prototype and get onto the business of walking so someday we can master running. Babies run experiments and eventually they turn many failed attempts into the successful first walk. They go on to refine their walk and eventually master running, skipping, jumping and a host of related activities. In our adult lives we sometimes forget how naturally wired we are to do this. We erect and adhere to rules, systems, and process even when the situation doesn’t call for it. Failure is OK; it can be really good for you and your organization. I pray that you fail and then learn from it to make a difference.
If you can’t walk, then you can’t run. And running is exactly what you need to do to out execute the competition and to sense, satisfy, and delight the needs and wants of your customers.
Have courage to create a new conversation. Take a risk. Build a prototype. Test it for value. If you don’t fail – great. But it you do, share the failing, learn from it, and move on. Think of all of the wonderfulness in the world that we wouldn’t experience if people didn’t have the courage to face potential failure.
Now go out and fail at something to make the world a better place.
Everything has changed, but you’re still executing on the old strategy? Chances are you’ve been too busy to re-examine your strategy, let alone change course. Like most organizations you’ve completed your annual planning and you’re on cruise control –Set it and Forget. Of course, you’ll revisit the strategy in next year’s annual planning session. But what happens when you’re cruising down the road and a competitor, customer, partner, or legislation throws the proverbial monkey wrench in your spokes. Right – your organization will react to it when you encounter that problem. If that is what you believe, then you’ve fallen into the trap. That’s the thing, you can only react to those things you are aware of. Most things that erode your business are more subtle than the abrupt, spoke shearing monkey wrench. Think of a hidden killer like pancreatic cancer. You don’t have years of leading indicators. When it is too late, it is sadly, too late.
One of my mentors once told me “A lot can happen in a little while.” If you caught the Oscars last night, in particular the memorandum part, recall the talent that expired in the past year. Writers, Producers, Actresses, Actors, all removed from the talent pool that brought us great entertainment. The business world is no different. People, businesses, technology, relationships – it’s all changing faster than your annual planning cycle.
So, take a trip around your organization. Are your people keeping up in real time or are they unquestioningly executing on yesterday’s strategy? How ready is your organization to adapt to a shifting strategy? What are you doing to notice trends and changes in the business landscape and customer and partner ecosystems? These are key areas that present both opportunities and threats. Who is watching your organization’s back? Who is spotting dangerous currents or bountiful waters? Is anybody at the table bringing an outside perspective? Do you have sensors in the ground to take notice? Here is a visual tool and 5 steps that will keep your business apprised to the changing world outside your organization.