Tag Archives: Customers

4 Ways to Create Trust with Your Customers

4 Ways to Create Trust with Your Customers

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

What brands do you trust the most? And why? There are certain products and companies that seem to own the trust of their customers. It stems from product quality, reliability, managing expectations, good customer service and, perhaps most importantly, consistency.

Keep in mind that consistency is related to all of the attributes mentioned. A consistently bad experience and poor quality, while still consistent, is the opposite of what you’re trying to create. And inconsistency is almost as bad. A great experience one day followed by an average or poor experience will cause customers to question what the next experience is going to be. A pattern of inconsistency kills confidence and trust.

Let’s break it down:

1. Quality and Reliability: A product or service must do what it’s supposed to do. When you think of the most successful brands, you trust them because you know what you’re going to get. That comes from confidence in the product and/or the customer service. If that confidence is broken, it can take a long time to rebuild trust—if the customer even chooses to give the company or brand another chance. For example, a popular restaurant chain had an E. coli outbreak. Even with a stellar reputation, it took years to regain the trust of its customers.

2. Customer Experience: Customer service must be easily available. Customer service isn’t a department. The best companies know that serving the customer is more than reacting to problems, answering questions and resolving complaints. It’s the way customers are treated throughout their entire journey with a company or brand.

And while you may want to have a 100% flawless experience in which the customer never has to reach out, it’s impossible. Every company is going to have problems. In the early days of Amazon, Jeff Bezos was famous for saying that Amazon should be so good that it didn’t need a customer support department. Maybe it was that good, but when the product left the warehouse a third party took over the shipping. And if the package was lost in transit, who would the customer blame? To the customer, it was Amazon’s fault. So, Amazon needed a support center, even for problems that weren’t its fault.

It’s not if there will ever be a customer service issue, it’s when. The best organizations recognize the need for an excellent experience combined with excellent customer support, when needed.

3. Managing Expectations: You don’t have to WOW a customer to get them to say, “Wow.” When people describe a “Wow” experience, it’s typically over-the-top. The problem is that you can’t always be over the top. The opportunities to be over-the-top or go above and beyond happen when there are special situations, such as a problem that is handled so well that the customer says, “Wow!”

The key is to not worry about trying to be over-the-top with every interaction, but to be just a little above average. It is consistent and predictable above-average experiences—even just a tiny bit above average—that make customers say, “Wow!” Speaking of consistent and predictable, we move on to the next attribute …

4. Consistency: Anything less than a consistent experience erodes trust. Consistency is where “the rubber meets the road.” As just mentioned, it is the consistent and predictable above-average experience that gets customers to say, “Wow!” What gets them to that point is when they say, “They are always so helpful … always so knowledgeable … they always respond quickly. …” It’s the word always followed by a positive comment. Often, those comments are basic expectations. Shouldn’t all employees be helpful, knowledgeable and respond quickly? Of course. Just meeting a customer’s expectations, with maybe a more positive attitude, will fuel the experience to be better than average. Consistency creates trust. Anything less erodes it!

Think of the brands you trust and why. The product does what it’s supposed to and meets your expectations. The experience is consistent, and the customer service is great. And to emphasize just how important the customer service part of this is, our 2022 customer service research found that 83% of customers trusted a company or brand more if it provided an excellent customer service experience.

If all of this seems like common sense, it is. Unfortunately, common sense is not always so common. So, be a little uncommon. Deliver quality and reliability, manage expectations and create a consistent and predictable experience that gets customers to say, “I’ll be back.”

This article originally appeared on Forbes

Image Credit: Pexels

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3 Ways to Get Customer Insights without Talking to Customers

3 Ways to Get Customer Insights without Talking to Customers

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Most of my advice to leaders who want to use innovation to grow their businesses boils down to two things*:

  1. Talk (and listen) to customers
  2. Do something

But what if you don’t want to talk to customers?

After all, talking to customers can be scary because you don’t know what they’ll say. It can be triggering if they say something mean about your product, your business, or even you as a person. It can be draining, especially if you’re an introvert.

Plus, there are so many ways to avoid talking to customers – Send a survey, hire a research firm to write a report, invoke the famous Steve Jobs quote about never doing customer research.

Isn’t it just better to stay tucked away in the office, read reports, state opinions as if they are facts (those opinions are based on experience, after all), and make decisions?

Nope.

It is not better. It is also not safer, easier, or more efficient.

To make the best decisions, you need the best data, which comes from your customers.

But that doesn’t mean you need to talk to them to get it.

The best data

The best data helps you understand why your customers do what they do. This is why Jobs to be Done is such a powerful tool – it uncovers the emotional and social Jobs to be Done that drive our behavior and choices (functional Jobs to be Done are usually used to justify our choices).

But discovering Jobs to be Done typically requires you to talk to people, build rapport and trust in a one-on-one conversation, and ask Why? dozens of times so surface emotional and social JTBD.

Luckily, there are other ways to find Jobs to be Done that don’t require you to become an unlicensed therapist.

Observe your customers

Go where your customers are (or could be) experiencing the problem you hope to solve and try to blend in. Watch what people are doing and what they’re not doing. Notice whether people are alone or with others (and who those others are – kids, partners, colleagues, etc.). Listen to the environment (is it loud or quiet? If there’s noise, what kind of noise?) and to what people are saying to each other.

Be curious. Write down everything you’re observing. Wonder why and write down your hypotheses. Share your observations with your colleagues. Ask them to go out, observe, wonder, and share. Together you may discover answers or work up the courage to have a conversation.

Quick note – Don’t be creepy about this. Don’t lurk behind clothing racks, follow people through stores, peep through windows, linger too long, or wear sunglasses, a trench coat, and a fedora on a 90-degree day, so you look inconspicuous. If people start giving you weird looks, find a new place to people-watch.

Observe yourself

Humans are fascinating, and because you are a human, you are fascinating. So, observe yourself when you’re experiencing the problem you’re hoping to solve. Notice where you are, who is with you, the environment, and how you feel. Watch what you do and don’t do. Wonder why you chose one solution over another (or none).

Be curious. Write down everything you did, saw, and felt and why. Ask your colleagues to do the same. Share your observations with your colleagues and find points of commonality and divergence, then get curious all over again.

Quick note – This only works if you have approximately the same demographic and psychographic profiles and important and unsatisfied Jobs to be Done of your target customers.

Be your customer

What if your business solves a problem that can’t be easily observed? What if you don’t have the problem that your business is trying to solve?

Become your customer (and observe yourself).

Several years ago, I worked with a client that made adult incontinence products. I couldn’t observe people using their products, and I do not have important (or unsatisfied) Jobs to be Done that the products can solve.

So, for one day, I became a customer. I went to Target and purchased their product. I went home, wore, and used the product. I developed a deep empathy for the customer and wrote down roughly 1 million ways to innovate the product and experience.

Quick note – Depending on what’s required to “be your customer,” you may need to give people a heads up. My husband was incredibly patient and understanding but also a little concerned on the day of the experiment.

It’s about what you learn, not how you learn it

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking there is one best way to get insights. I’m 100% guilty (one-on-one conversations are a hill I have died on multiple times).

Ultimately, when it comes to innovation and decision-making, the more important thing is having, believing, and using insights into why customers do what they do and want what they want. How you get those insights is an important but secondary consideration.

* Each of those two things contains A TON of essential stuff that must be done the right way at the right time otherwise, they won’t work, but we’ll get into those things in another article

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Dare to Think Differently

Dare to Think Differently

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

As many of my colleagues are aware, I am at heart, a maverick, an unorthodox or independent-minded person. Who is curious and inquisitive, and finds change and challenging the status quo exciting, fascinating and stimulating. I am also, considered, by some, as a misfit, someone whose behaviors and attitudes sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way, that often rocks the boat. There is a range of consequences for people like me, who dare to think differently, especially now that I have also achieved the status of a Modern Elder – “the perfect alchemy of curious and wise, with curiosity leading to expansive inquiry while wisdom distills what’s essential.”

Coupled with both the challenges and constraints of the currently disrupted Covid-19 and digitized world, I am finding that the consequences of being different have intensified, become more impactful, and are often, quite confronting. Where differences cause resistance to change, divisiveness, and conflict, rather than maximizing differences in ways that embrace our humanity, diversity, to harness collective intelligence to make the organization, or world a better, more inclusive, and safer place.

Diversity is of the Essence

According to Jonathan Sacks, in his book “The Dignity of Difference- How to avoid the clash of civilizations,” he states that “we are living in the conscious presence of difference”.

Which exists in the home, in the street, in our workplaces, communities, and countries where we constantly encounter groups and cultures whose ideas and ideals are unlike ours. “That can be experienced as a profound threat to identity. Identity divides.” Considering that “the world is not a single machine, it is a complex, interactive ecology in which diversity – the biological, personal, cultural and religious – is of the essence.”

“When difference leads to war, both sides lose. When it leads to mutual enrichment, both sides gain.”

As is currently being evidenced by the tense and tentative Ukrainian and Russian border confrontation, with its potentially tragic consequences. Where Yuval Noah Harari states in a recent article in The Economist – “At the heart of the Ukraine crisis lies a fundamental question about the nature of history and the nature of humanity: is change possible? Can humans change the way they behave, or does history repeat itself endlessly, with humans forever condemned to re-enact past tragedies without changing anything except the décor”?

People Who Dare to Think Differently

Adam Grant, in his book “The Originals – How Non-Conformists Change the World” describes an original (n) as “A thing of singular or unique character; a person who is different from other people in an appealing or interesting way; a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity”.

The book goes on to explain strategies, through studies and stories how to champion new ideas and fight groupthink, in constructive ways that maximize diversity and differences and promote dissent, as the basis for cultivating original thought to effect positive change.

Ray Dallio, in his book Principles explores this further, suggesting that “if you are like most people, you have no clue about how other people see things and aren’t good at seeking to understand what they are thinking because you’re too preoccupied with telling them what you yourself think is correct.” Often causing divisiveness rather than inclusion, resistance to change, and as a consequence, missing the possibilities and opportunities that may be present.

This also impedes our overall adaptiveness and creativity in an exponentially changing, world, to make real progress, and constructively change and limits the potential for innovation, growth and ability to contribute to the common good.

Change Management Has Changed

In a recent article from the Boston Consulting Group, they stated that  “Effective change management requires leaders to shift away from one-size-fits-all approaches and develop an expanded set of context-specific strategies”.

Which are truly adaptive, collaborative, energize, catalyze change, harness, and mobilize people’s and customers’ collective intelligence, in ways that are appreciated and cherished by all, and contribute to the common good.

To ultimately collectively co-create a set of different, empowered future-fit leaders, teams, and organizations – who courageously, compassionately, and creatively contribute toward an improved future, for customers, stakeholders, leaders, teams, organizations as well as for the good of the whole.

Welcoming Dissent and Thoughtful Disagreement

At ImagineNation™ we dare to think differently and teach train, and coach people and teams to maximize their potential to lead, manage, coach, through implementing and embedding change and innovation, differently.

We enable people to lead in the imagination age by empowering, enabling, and equipping them to be and think differently to:

  • Flow with some people’s need to be “right” and in control, when they are being defensive, abusive, and divisive, even when disagreement and conflict occur.
  • Artfully and skillfully use cognitive dissonance and creative tension to pull people towards a new possibility and envision a new and compelling future.
  • Be inclusive to support mutual enrichment, through co-sensemaking, that helps them create “order” (in their own context) and simplicity from complexity and change.
  • Self-regulate and self-manage emotionally in the face of uncertainty and volatility.
  • Be relatable, empathic, inspiring, and artfully and skillfully influential in helping people open their minds and hearts toward co-creation, collaboration, and experimentation that ensures a shared contribution for mutual gain.
  • Be creative and inventive to maximize their multiple and collective intelligences through learning, contrarian thinking, constructive debate, and creative conversations that generate discovery.

In ways that engage deep generative listening, inquiry, questioning, and differing that uses cognitive dissonance to unleash the creative energy that triggers and generates thinking differently.

When people are trusted and empowered to think differently, they co-create a frequency that allows, awakens, and activates their adaptive and innovative leadership qualities, consciousness, states, and qualities of mind and heart, to effect positive change.

Taking wise and intelligent action

It also enables them to wisely choose the most intelligent actions that result in adaptive and innovative outcomes.

This helps creativity to flourish and disrupts and interrupts those people, whose complacency, conformity, and rigidity create divisions, and feelings of desolation and exclusion that kill our capacity and competence to collaborate, create and invent.

Leaving me to wonder and inquire;

  • What if the “strangers” among us simply listen, with open minds and open hearts to the thought, feelings, and opinions of others, with both curiosity and detachment?
  • What if we could collectively co-create safe containers and collective holding spaces, that maximize our differences and diversity, and simply share a creative conversation about what could be possible?
  • How might we maximize our diversity of thought, to enable us to think differently about the issue, opportunity, or problem in ways that supported differences for mutual enrichment?

There is no wisdom on one point of view

Might this result in a deeper connection when there is polarization between people?

Might it be possible to co-sense and co-create a sense of inclusion, and an opening for a deeper philosophical exploration and discovery for thinking differently about the role, nature of and impact prescriptive points of view on how people truly feel, really think, and deeply act in our globalized and connected world?

Might it help us collectively to co-create making it a better place?

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, May 4, 2022. It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus, human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and to upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context. Find out more.

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Re-Skilling and Upskilling People & Teams

Re-Skilling and Upskilling People & Teams

The pandemic has increased the pace of change in a digitally accelerated world, and at the same time, it is forcing organizations, leaders, and teams to become more purposeful, human, and customer-centric. Where managing both the future and the present simultaneously requires people to unlearn what has worked in the past and relearn new mindsets and behaviors as to what might be possible, useful, and relevant in the future.

This is crucial to enabling people to perform at their best, and it requires investment in reskilling and upskilling people to be future-fit to meet the needs of previously unheard-of occupations, newly emerging flexible job options. All of which are being transformed by the pandemic, coupled with technologies created by accelerated digitization. Where organizations, leaders, and teams can increase speed, agility and improve simplicity and strategically generate new ways of tapping into the power of and harnessing and mobilizing people’s collective intelligence.

To better enable them to balance and resource organizational digital, agile, or cultural transformational initiatives with the needs of its people, users, customers, and communities, and execute them accordingly.

Collective Intelligence

Collective intelligence is group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration, efforts, and engagement of diverse groups, tribes, teams, and collectives. Which poses a great opportunity, which is also critical to recovery, for organizations to attract, retain, manage and leverage talent  through reskilling and upskilling people to be future-fit by:

  1. Enhancing flexible work options

The recent World Economic Forum Job Reset Summit reported that – “in 2020, the global workforce lost an equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs, an estimated $3.7 trillion in wages and 4.4% of global GDP, a staggering toll on lives and livelihoods.”

McKinsey & Co in a recent article state that – as many as 25 percent more workers may need to switch occupations than before the pandemic.

This means that in a hybrid work environment, without the constriction of location, and with the ability to leverage connection digitally, at little, or no cost, there is a greater talent pool to draw from. Including, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article “What your future employees want most” untapped pools of talent such as the “home force” which includes bringing people back into the workforce including people who put their careers on hold due to raising children, caring for the elderly and retired baby boomers.

It also means that some people will be more likely to prioritize lifestyle (family and personal interests) over proximity to work, and will pursue jobs in locations where they can focus on both – even if it means taking a pay cut. Workers will be more likely to move out of cities and other urban locations if they can work remotely for a majority of the time, creating new work hubs in rural areas.

  1. Measuring the value delivered and not the volume

Designing people and customer-centric work experiences, roles gives people the space to unlock their full potential, maximize their impact by delivering transformative results that contribute to the common good and to the future of humanity.

It also encourages cross-fertilization of creative ideas through teaming and networking, maximizing the power of collaboration and collaborative technologies to create and capture value, through inventing new business models, services, and products that users and customers appreciate and cherish.

  1. Prioritizing continuous learning, reskilling and upskilling

At the same time, customer expectations and preferences are also constantly changing, giving rise and opening doors to new roles and opportunities, that may have never previously existed.

Organizations also need to discover and explore new ways of competing and future-proofing against uncertainty and disruption. They also need to invent new ways of boosting productivity and improving efficiency, through adapting and flexing to flow with the new reality and to ultimately grow and thrive within it.

There are also opportunities to solve complex problems by increasing reciprocity and collaboration through cross-functional partnerships, collectives, tribes, and ecosystems, designed to capture and deliver value co-creatively.

Continuous learning

Reskilling and upskilling people to be future-fit by maximizing collective intelligence require disrupting complacency and stagnation and creating an environment of continuous learning and trust.

Where people are focused on delivering a great customer experience and have the permission and safety and are “allowed” to:

  • Value and leverage differences and diversity in ways that evoke, provoke, and create new ways of being through unlearning, and through relearning to adopt a beginner’s mind, develop a paradox lens, and elastic thinking strategies to pivot quickly into new roles and structures as situations demand.
  • Challenge the status quo, by withholding judgment and evaluation, through developing vital generative questioning, listening, and debating skills to deep dive into and unleash creative and inventive ideas.
  • Continuously learn, to remain both agile and adaptive, collaborative and innovative, to discover, evolve, and grow talent in ways that are both nimble and sustainable.
  • Create lines of sight between strategy, structures, systems, people, and customers, identifying and maximizing interdependencies, through intentional collaboration where everyone knows that their efforts contribute to, and make a difference to the delivery of organizational outcomes.
  • Provide rigor, discipline by driving accountability and by constantly measuring and sharing feedback and results to allow for engaging people in continuous learning, iterative process, and real-life pivots.

Leveraging collective genius

Only by prioritizing reskilling and upskilling people to be future-fit organizations will leverage people’s collective genius and enhance their agility to survive and thrive, flow, and flourish in a VUCA world.

Organizations that are future-focused will create meaningful and purposeful hybrid workplaces that increase peoples’ job satisfaction and support.  That provides flexible work options, continuous learning, and focus on generating value delivery will build people’s loyalty and retention and lower hiring costs over time.

An uncertain future

According to the World Economic Forum Job Reset Summit – “While vaccine rollout has begun and the growth outlook is predicted to improve, and even socio-economic recovery is far from certain”.

Yet, with so much uncertainty about the future, there is one thing that we can all control and is controllable, are our mindsets – how we think, feel, and choose to act in any situation, especially in our communication, problem-solving, and decision-making processes.

All of us have the freedom to choose, to develop our independent wills, and create new ways of being, thinking, feeling, and doing – to meet the needs of a wide range of previously unheard-of occupations that are emerging, to provide more flexible, meaningful and purposeful job options.

To leverage the current turning point, which is full of possibilities and innovative opportunities for enabling organizations, people, and customers to be more equitable, resilient, sustainable, and future-fit, in an ever-changing landscape, impacted by the technologies created by accelerated digitization.

This is the next blog a series of blogs, podcasts, and webinars on Developing a Human-Centric Future-Fitness organization

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 8-weeks, starting October 19, 2021. It is a blended learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of a human-centered approach to innovation, within your unique context. Find out more.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Managing Both the Present and the Future

Managing Both the Present and the Future

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our last blog, we described the three characteristics that offer senior executives a “unique unfreezing opportunity” from the disruptive COVID-19 hiatus and the rate of exponential technological change. These involved developing a future-ready company that builds upon pandemic-related accomplishments and re-examines (or even reimagines) the organization’s identity, how it works, and how it grows. This means that every organization, regardless of its size and specialization, requires its leaders, and teams paradoxically, to be both competent and confident and be both human-centered and customer-centric, in effectively managing both the future and the present.

Simultaneously, we all need to ensure that they capture the best of what we’ve all learned to keep the digital momentum going and, at the same time, initiate the shift to quantum –  by exploring, discovering, identifying, and unleashing the possibilities and opportunities of a post-COVID-19 world. To maximize, what McKinsey & Co describes as a “turning point” for economies: where new patterns of consumer and business behavior have emerged at extraordinary speed and can be sustained over long periods of time because digitization has accelerated change faster than many believed previously possible.

Unlearn, relearn, reskill and upskill

Reinforcing that managing both the future and the present requires generating new ways of harnessing and maximizing people’s collective and connective intelligence by:

  • Investing in helping people unlearn, relearn, reskill and upskill to meet the needs of jobs transformed by technologies created by globally accelerated digitization.
  • Helping people create vital new references and landing points for a future that they may not have previously imagined, and by;
  • Supporting them in being comfortable with the discomfort this brings.

Focusing on developing an organizational culture that is more adaptive and innovative, where people operate as a connected, mentally tough, and emotionally agile workforce; and are enabled and empowered to dance at the edge of their comfort zones, co-create value, deliver a great customer experience and succeed in a transforming market.

Both Human and Customer-Centric

Through developing both human-centric and customer-centric relationships that:

  • Enable people to shift from human-centered doing to human-centered being through connecting compassionately, creatively, and courageously through reciprocity and collaboration. Acknowledging that consumers have shifted largely to digital channels and many people are at home “nesting” and at the same time “languishing” in their remote and virtual workplaces.
  • Empower people to become customer-centric by co-creating collective value that customers appreciate and cherish. Acknowledging that the virus has interrupted, accelerated, and even reversed longstanding and conventional consumer and business habits.
  • Engage people in co-creation and in taking collective action to ensure that the rebound is not uneven. Enabling people to reboot creatively by maximizing the opportunities arising from the acceleration in the adoption of digital, automation, and other technologies.

As well as using innovation to add value to the common good in ways that improve humanity, by focusing on people, profit and planet.

Seizing the opportunity – it’s paradoxical

Developing future fitness requires people to not only unlearn, and see the world with fresh eyes, it also involves being able to sense and perceive it through a paradox lens; which helps us shift our focus across polarities of thought, from binary and competitive to critical, conceptual, and complementary thinking.

An often-quoted example is that as humans, we need to both exhale and inhale, we need to both rest and be active, rather than just do one or the other, or simply just either exhale or inhale, either rest or be active.

This means that a paradox is formed by contradictory yet interrelated elements that consistently coexist, and as leaders, teams, and coaches, we need to master this to develop the capability of managing both the future and the present simultaneously.

Embracing paradox

Embracing paradox involves being able to consciously shift cognitively from perceiving a prescriptive “either/or” world, which makes things black and white, right and wrong, mandatory or voluntary.

Towards embracing both poles, or polarities, and finding a balance within the dis-equilibrium.

As leaders, teams, and coaches, to seek equilibrium, by balancing both an ability to maximize and minimize people by exerting both powers over them, and by sharing power with them, to unleash both possibility and necessity thinking.

Dancing with dis-equilibrium

Letting go of an “either/or” perspective creates the safe spaces that allow people to flow with “what is” and to then evoke and provoke our thinking to perceive “what could be” possible.

By leading through dancing with dis-equilibrium to co-create a state of equilibrium to be an effective, agile, and creative leader and team member in a disruptive VUCA world.

In ways that allow people to confront and flow with tension and conflict, scrutinize any inherent contradictions by evoking and provoking creative ways in which the competing and complementary demands can be met in managing both the future and the present simultaneously.

Being both human-centric and customer-centric

Developing future-fitness requires leaders, teams, and coaches to be both human-centric and customer-centric simultaneously – to co-create organizations that integrate the values of human-centered design as a framework to balance the needs of the organizations with the needs of its users, customers, and communities, and for the common good and future of humanity.

Being human-centered

Being human-centered is also defined as being “marked by humanistic values and devotion to human welfare” which means that to create more human-centered leaders, teams, and people – we need to know how to shift the paradigm both from human-centered doingand towards human-centered being by:

  • Helping people explore and embrace their own humanness.
  • Being willing, enabled, and empowered to develop reciprocal and collaborative relationships.
  • Connecting to ourselves and others openly through how we feel, express and tap into our own emotions and those of others we interact with.
  • Being altruistic in serving the common good in ways that potentially add value to the future of humanity.

Being customer-centric

Customer-centricity is a way of doing business that fosters a positive customer experience at every stage of the customer journey. It aims at building customer loyalty and satisfaction leading to referrals for more customers. Anytime a customer-centric business makes a decision, it deeply considers the effect the outcome will have on its customers and users.

To create more customer-centered leaders, teams, and people – we need to shift the paradigm from seeing business as both a source of revenue, wealth, and profit and towards customers being the reason and source of business success, or not, by:

  • Developing a customer-centric purpose, vision, and mission that every leader, team, and team member is aligned to, and has a line of sight to, and is able to contribute towards its achievement.
  • Anticipating customer and potential user needs.
  • Ensuring that there are a rigorous and regular customer and cultural assessment metrics and feedback mechanisms in place.
  • Ensuring that leadership and team capabilities to adapt and grow are aligned to achieve the purpose, vision, mission, and goals.
  • Enabling every leader and team member to connect with, and listen to customers, and then build products that meet customer needs, anticipates customer wants, and provide a level of service that keeps customers coming through the door and advocating for the brand or business.

Harnessing collective and connective intelligence

Reinforcing that managing both the future and the present requires generating new ways of harnessing and mobilizing people’s collective and connective intelligence in ways that ultimately co-create organizations that integrate the values of both innovation and human-centered design as a framework.

This helps balance the needs of the organizations with the needs of its users, customers, and communities, as well as enables leaders, teams, and organizations to collaborate towards contributing to the common good and to the future of humanity.  It will also help people co-create both vital new reference points and landing strips for a future that they may not have previously imagined, and support them in being comfortable with the discomfort this brings.

This is the next blog series of blogs, podcasts, and webinars on Developing a Human-Centric Future-Fitness organization.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 8-weeks, starting October 19, 2021. It is a blended learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of a human-centered approach to innovation, within your unique context. Find out more.

Image credit: Pixabay

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Co-creating Future-fit Organizations

Co-creating Future-fit Organizations

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our second blog in this series of three, we opened the door to a threshold for a new kind of co-creative, collaborative and cohesive team spirit that catalyzes change through “innovation evangelism”. Focusing on building both internal and external talent, through empowering, equipping, and enabling internally cohesive and effective innovation teams.  They apply their collaborative and collective intelligence towards initiating open innovation initiatives co-creating future-fit organizations that are human-centric, adaptive, engaging, inclusive, collaborative, innovative, accountable, and digitally enabled.

Innovation evangelists are change catalysts who courageously experiment with different business models and processes, to crowdsource broad and deep innovation capabilities. Usually in new ways that breakthrough corporate antibodies and barriers and deliver sustainable, meaningful, and purposeful change.  Where, according to the recent Ideascale “Crowd Sourced Innovation Report 2021”crowdsourced innovation capabilities have grown and innovation output indicators like implementation rate and time to implement have improved. In fact, businesses that were able to rapidly adapt and focus on innovation(in 2020) are poised to outperform their peers in the coming years”.

Innovation teams don’t innovate

The purpose of an innovation team is to create a safe environment that unlocks organizational and its key external stakeholder’s collective intelligence and innovation agility (capacity, competence, and confidence) to build the capability to change as fast as change itself.

Where the goal is to create a high performing, connected, and networked workplace culture where people:

  • Understand and practice the common language of innovation, what exactly it means in their organizational context, as well as exactly what value means to current and potential customers as well as to the organization,
  • Develop a shared narrative or story about why innovation is crucial towards initiating and sustaining future success,
  • Have the time and space to deeply connect, collaborate, and co-create value, internally and externally with customers, suppliers, and other primary connection points to build external talent communities and value-adding ecosystems,
  • Maximize differences and diversity of thought within customers as well as within communities and ecosystems,
  • Generate urgency and creative energy to innovate faster than competitors,
  • Feel safe and have permission to freely share ideas, wisdom, knowledge, information, resources, and perspectives, with customers as well as across communities and ecosystems.

How innovation teams learn and develop

Sustaining success in today’s uncertain, unstable, and highly competitive business environment is becoming increasingly dependent on people’s and team’s abilities to deeply learn, adapt and grow. Yet most people and a large number of organizations don’t yet seem to value learning and adaptiveness as performance improvement enablers, especially in enabling people and teams to thrive in a disruptive world.  Nor do they understand how people learn, nor how to strategically develop peoples’ learning agility towards potentially co-creating future-fit organizations that sustain high-impact in VUCA times.

At ImagineNation™ we have integrated the four E’s of learning at work; Education, Experience, Environment, and Exposure with 12 key determining factors for co-creating future-fit organizations that sustain high-impact in VUCA times through our innovation team development, change, learning, and coaching programs.

Case Study Example

  1. Educational customisation and alignment

After conducting desktop research and key stakeholder sensing interviews, we customized our innovation education curriculum specifically to align with the learning needs of the innovation team.

We aligned the program design to the organization’s strategic imperatives, values, and leadership behaviors, we reviewed the results of the previous culture, climate and engagement surveys, as well as the range of business transformation initiatives. We then applied design thinking principles to “bring to life” the trends emerging, diverging, and converging in our client’s and their customer’s industry sectors.

Focusing on:

  • enabling people to perform well in their current roles,
  • building people’s long-term career success,
  • developing their long-term team leadership and membership development capabilities,
  • laying the foundations for impacting collectively towards co-creating future-fit organizations.
  1. Experiential learning a virtual and remote environment

We designed and offered a diverse and engaging set of high-value learning and development experiences that included a range of stretch and breakthrough assignments as part of their personal and team development process.

Focusing on:

  • encouraging people to engage in a set of daily reflective practices,
  • offering a series of customized agile macro learning blended learning options, that could be viewed or consumed over short periods of time,
  • engaging playful activities and skills practice sessions, with structured feedback and debrief discussions,
  • providing an aligned leadership growth individual and team assessment process,
  • introducing key criteria for establishing effective team cohesion and collaboration,
  • linking team action learning activities and evidence-based assignments to their strategic mandate ensuring their collective contribution towards co-creating future-fit organizations.
  1. Environment to support and encourage deep learning

We aimed at creating permission, tolerance, and a safe learning environment for people to pause, retreat, reflect, and respond authentically and effectively, to ultimately engage and upskill people in new ways of being, thinking, and acting towards co-creating future-fit organizations.

Focusing on:

  • developing peoples discomfort resilience and change readiness,
  • encouraging people to be empathic, courageous, and compassionate with one another, to customers as well as to those they were seeking to persuade and influence,
  • allowing and expecting mistakes to be made and valued as learning opportunities and encouraging smart risk-taking,
  • reinforcing individual learning as personal responsibility and team learning as a mutual responsibility and establishing a learning buddy system to support accountability,
  • offering a series of one-on-one individual coaching sessions to set individual goals and support people and the teams’ “on the job” applications.
  1. Exposure to different and diverse learning modalities

We designed a range of immersive microlearning bots by providing regular, consistent, linked, multimedia learning options and a constantly changing range of different and diverse learning modalities.

Focusing on:

  • providing an informative and targeted reading list and set of website links,
  • setting a series of coordinated thought leading webinars, videos, podcasts, and magazine articles aligned to deliver the desired learning outcomes,
  • outlining fortnightly targeted team application and reinforcement tasks,
  • helping the team to collaborate and set and communicate their passionate purpose, story, and key outputs to the organization to build their credibility and self-efficacy,
  • designing bespoke culture change initiatives that the innovation team could catalyse across the organization to shift mindsets and behaviors to make innovation a habit for everyone, every day.

Collectively contributing to the good of the whole

Co-creating future-fit organizations require creativity, compassion, and courage to co-create the space and freedom to discuss mistakes, ask questions, and experiment with new ideas. To catalyse change and help shift the workplace culture as well as crowdsource possibilities through open innovation.

In ways, that are truly collaborative, and energize, catalyze, harness, and mobilize people’s and customers’ collective genius, in ways that are appreciated and cherished by all. To ultimately collectively co-create a future-fit organization that contributes to an improved future, for customers, stakeholders, leaders, teams, organizations as well as for the good of the whole.

This is the final blog in a series of three about catalyzing change through innovation teams, why innovation teams are important in catalyzing culture change, and what an innovation team does, and how they collectively contribute toward co-creating the future-fit organization.

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 8-weeks, starting Tuesday, October 19, 2021.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of a human-centred approach and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, within your unique context. Find out more

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Innovation Teams Do Not Innovate

Innovation Teams Do Not Innovate

Guest Post from Janet Sernack

In our first blog in this series of three blogs, we reinforced and validated the importance and role of collaboration. We then described the range of emerging new, inspirational, and adaptive models that lean into complexity and catalyze and embed sustainable innovative workplace culture change. Where some organizations, like Alibaba, Disney, Google, Salesforce, and GE, developed their future fitness by courageously investing in catalyzing, igniting, and leading change through innovation teams.

Innovation teams are teams that don’t innovate!

Conventional team collaboration performance and development approaches are still relevant and foundational to long-term organizational success.  And, a new range of organizational needs are emerging in our fast-changing and disruptive world, that complement conventional team development processes including the importance of:

  • Providing a unified and holistic and systemic “collective mind” focussed on adding value to customers,
  • Being agile, focused, and in charge to make faster decisions,
  • Sharing resources and insights to reduce costs,
  • Working interdependencies to improve efficiencies and productivity,
  • Shifting focus from being competitive towards co-creating ecosystems to solve bigger, more complex problems, to lead, embed, and sustain value-adding change in a disruptive world.

According to the authors of Eat, Sleep Innovate, an innovation team is formed to develop “something different that creates value” and do this best in a culture where such behaviors come naturally.

These behaviors include:

  • Curiosity
  • Customer obsession
  • Adeptness to ambiguity
  • Collaboration
  • Empowerment
  • Accountability

Purpose of innovation teams

The purpose of an innovation team is to create an environment that unlocks an organization’s collective intelligence (capacity, competence, and confidence) and builds the capability to change as fast as change itself.

Usually, through providing mentorship, coaching, and learning process in ways that align, engage, enable, equip and leverage peoples’ collective intelligence to:

  • Adapt to higher levels of ambiguity and uncertainty,
  • Challenge the status quo and help break a conventional business as usual habits, leadership styles, and comfortable ways of working,
  • Provoke future “fast forward” (horizon three) thinking,
  • Support the implementation of digital and organizational transformational efforts,
  • Collectively and collaboratively drive innovation across organizations pragmatically and make it a reality,
  • Leverage synergies across ecosystems to solve complex problems and deliver increased value to customers.

Ultimately, to provoke and evoke future “fast forward” creative discoveries and experiment with new platforms and possible future business models to help guide future renewal and reinventions.

Delivering these, as smart and multi-disciplinary teams in ways that are timely, agile, and disciplined that potentially support and bring significant value to customers, the market, and to the organization.

Unconventional stretch collaboration requires connection, cognitive dissonance, and conflict

Experimenting with, iterating, and adapting new collaborative models, enables organizations and their leaders, to shift their focus – from being defensively competitive towards being creatively constructive.

Where the goal is to create a high performing, connected, and networked workplace culture where people:

  • Have the time and space to deeply connect, collaborate, and co-create value,
  • Maximize differences and diversity of thought,
  • Generate the urgency and creative energy to innovate,
  • Feel safe and have permission to freely share ideas, wisdom, knowledge, information, resources, and perspectives.

Innovation teams create discord and generate conflict

At ImagineNation™ we have found that the best way for innovation teams to perform is through building safety and trust, whilst simultaneously being safely provocative and evocative in creating discord and conflict to disrupt peoples conventional thought processes, behaviors, and habits.

To engage people in maximizing differences and diversity to generate creative ideas, and experiment with inventive prototypes, that ultimately solve big and complex problems and deliver commercially astute, innovative solutions.

By connecting, networking, and focussing on co-creation and emphasizing collaboration, inclusion, and mutual accountability, and not on being competitive.

Dealing with the organizational blockers – Innovation teams

At ImagineNation™ our experience has enabled us to understand and reduce the range of key common blockers to transformational and innovation-led change initiatives.

Where we support clients identify, and resolve and remove them by enabling and equipping innovation teams to:

  • Develop agile and innovation mindsets: building capability in safely exposing and disrupting rigid mindsets through customized mindset shifting, behavioral-based, skills development programs.
  • Understand the impact of the organization’s collective mindset: supporting teams to develop an empathic understanding of one another, then shifting how they feel and think to act differently, and cultivate the discomfort resilience when facing the challenges and failures in the innovation rollercoaster ride.
  • Enable leadership development: through educating, mentoring, and coaching leaders to grow their adaptive, collaborative, engaging, and innovative team leadership and membership capabilities.
  • Foster the development of an adaptive and innovative culture: by applying the cultural assessment and diagnostic processes that result in pragmatic culture change initiatives.
  • Ensure strategic alignment: sensing, perceiving, and developing a mutual focus, common language and understanding, and a collaborative networked way of working, that bridges the gap between the current and desired states.

Setting up an innovation team – the critical success factors

At ImagineNation™ we have also helped our clients identify, and embed the critical success factors, that enable innovation teams to drive and embed innovation-led change and transformational initiatives by ensuring:

  • Alignment to the mission, vision, purpose, values.
  • Strategic allocation of resources.
  • Leadership team sponsorship and mentorship.
  • Investment in team members and leader’s capability development.
  • Thinking big and focussing on clarifying and delivering future “fast forward” far-reaching solutions to highly impactful challenges.
  • Organization engagement and enrolment in implementing changes and creating, inventing, and delivering innovative solutions.
  • Lines of sight to stakeholders, eco-system players, and customers, taking an empathic value-adding perspective at all times.

Innovation teams – an unfreezing opportunity to co-create future-fit organizations

Embracing this type of collaborative approach creates an unprecedented opportunity for organizations, who have been upended as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, to develop a sense of urgency toward unfreezing and eliminating their corporate antibodies.

Empathizing with the range of challenges leaders are facing right now, where many are slowly waking up to a post-covid world, where there is an unprecedented and urgent opportunity to co-create a “new normal” that is well-designed to lift any of the emotional barriers to teamwork, locked-down relationships and online fatigue.

Opening the door to a new kind of co-creative, collaborative and cohesive team spirit that allows and encourages people to re-imagine, re-learn, reinvent and co-create new, fresh future fit, adaptive and innovative, people and customer-centric systems, structures, business models, and ecosystems.

All of which are mandatory for delivering future “fast forward” strategies for applying the collaborative and collective intelligence required for increasing value in innovative ways that people and customers appreciate and cherish, in ways we have not previously imagined, that connect with and contribute to, the good of the whole.

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 8-weeks, starting Tuesday, October 19, 2021.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of a human-centred approach and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, within your unique context. Find out more

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What is digital transformation? – EPISODE THREE – Ask the Consultant

Live from the Innovation Studio comes EPISODE THREE of a new ‘Ask the Consultant’ series of short form videos. EPISODE THREE aims to answer a question that many people struggle to answer or accurately discuss:

“What is digital transformation?”

Digital transformation is a complicated topic for people to speak intelligently about and to explore in depth because there is so much misinformation and confusion about what a digital transformation actually is – a lot of it espoused by technology vendors.

Together in this episode we’ll explore what digital transformation is by looking at two definitions that show what digital transformation is not.

1. Wikipedia’s bad definition of Digital Transformation

“Digital Transformation (DT or DX) is the adoption of digital technology to transform services or businesses, through replacing non-digital or manual processes with digital processes or replacing older digital technology with newer digital technology. Digital solutions may enable – in addition to efficiency via automation – new types of innovation and creativity, rather than simply enhancing and supporting traditional methods.”

— Wikipedia

2. This Definition of Digital Transformation Gets Closer But Still Isn’t Right

“Digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. It’s also a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment, and get comfortable with failure.”

— EnterprisersProject

So, let’s dig into what Digital Transformation really is …

A digital transformation is the journey between a company’s current business operations to a reimagined version of itself from the perspective of how a digital native would build the same business operations leveraging the latest technology and scientific understandings of management science, leadership, decision science, business and process architecture, design, customer experience, etc.

A digital transformation can only be successfully achieved if you put customers and employees at the center to create a human-centered data model and explore the intersection between what’s needed and what’s possible to simplify processes, reduce complexity, and to design elegant experiences.

The key thing to remember is that technology comes at the end, not the beginning, starts by making strategic choices, and focuses on identifying and building the needed capabilities to execute the new strategy.

Here is a quick review list of ten things to keep in mind for a successful digital transformation:

  1. Reimagine your business from a digital native perspective
  2. A Human-Centered Data Model (customers & employees)
  3. Put your customers and employees at the center
  4. Identify intersection of what’s needed & what’s possible
  5. Simplify processes
  6. Reduce complexity
  7. Design elegant experiences
  8. Technology comes at the END – not the beginning
  9. Start by making strategic choices
  10. Build capabilities needed to achieve your transformation

}} Click here to watch the video {{

Help Shape the Next ‘Ask the Consultant’ Episode

  1. Grab a great deal on Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire on Amazon while they last!
  2. Get a copy of my latest book Charting Change on Amazon
  3. Contact me with your question for the next video episode of “Ask the Consultant” live from my innovation studio

Below are the previous episodes of ‘Ask the Consultant’:

  1. EPISODE ONE – What is innovation?
  2. EPISODE TWO – How do I create continuous innovation in my organization?
  3. All other episodes of Ask the Consultant


Accelerate your change and transformation success

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Are You Lying to Your Customers?

Are You Lying to Your Customers?

It seems like every company these days is trying to claim that they are innovative, trying to claim that they are customer-centric, trying to claim that their employees are important to them. But are they?

Can all this be true?

Or, are all of these companies lying to their customers, lying to their employees, and lying to their shareholders?

Many companies say that they are committed to innovation, but employees know the truth. If employees’ experience around the innovation efforts of the company (and its outcomes) isn’t consistent with the innovation messages being communicated, then not only will innovation participation and outcomes be low, but ongoing trust and loyalty will be further eroded in the organization.

Employees can see the Lucky Charms on your face when you say you’re committed to innovation publicly, but behind the scenes your actions demonstrate that you really are not.

And don’t be fooled, customers will start to see the Lucky Charms show up on your face, no matter how hard you try and convince them that the marshmallow goodness is not there.

If you aren’t going to define what innovation means to your company, if you aren’t going to create a common language of innovation, if you aren’t going to teach people new innovation skills and support innovation at all levels by making limited amounts of time and capital available to push their ideas forward, then don’t say you’re committed to innovation. You’ll tear the organization down instead of building it up.

Lying to CustomersIf customers don’t see you increasing your level of value creation, improving your level of value access, and doing a better job at value translation (see Innovation is All About Value), especially when compared to the competition, then they too will become disillusioned, frustrated, and start to look for other alternative solutions that deliver more value then all of your offerings.

Meanwhile, shareholders behave like customers on steroids. If you are being rewarded with an innovation premium by the market, you can’t be “all hat and no cattle” for very long, meaning you have to deliver compelling inventions on a repeated basis with a strong potential to become the innovations that drive the future growth of the company. This is hard to do once, let alone on a repeated basis. We will likely see Apple be the latest victim in the next twelve months.

Why? Because AAPL is at an all-time high based on the likely high percentage of people that are likely to upgrade from an iPhone 4 or 5s to an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. What about after that? Well, the smartphone industry is about to enter the same place that the PC industry hit a few years ago, when replacement cycles began to lengthen, reducing revenues, and forcing prices (and margins) lower. Simultaneously carriers will seek to extract more of the margin from the overall equation, and if Google/Motorola/Lenovo, Nokia and others start to bring $99 smartphones developed for India and other places to the richer economies that will in their next generation likely be “good enough” compared to the high end $699 handsets, more people will choose to wait longer between upgrades, or trade down with their next purchase, much as they did when $400 laptops started to become the rage.

So, what are we to learn from Apple’s pending share price collapse about the middle of next year?

Well, the first thing we will learn is that continuous innovation is hard. Now I’m not saying that Apple is going to go away, HP and Dell haven’t gone away, but Apple’s share price in Q2/Q3 2015 will struggle, they will face employee defections, and it will become more like Dell, HP and Microsoft than Facebook or Google. Not because those companies are any more or less innovative than any of the others, but because the growth paradigms are different and those companies are still in a different place on their growth curves.

We can also learn that continuous innovation requires consistency, commitment, the ability to recognize and prepare for the inevitable peaking of any growth curve, the organizational agility necessary to change as fast as the wants and needs of your customers and your environment, and the ability to understand what your customers will give you permission to do (so you know where to go next when your most profitable growth curve begins to peak).

You should see by now that continuous innovation is about far more than technological innovation, but instead requires not only continuous commitment, but also a continuous willingness and ability to change, and a continuous scanning of your environment using a Global Sensing Network.

Do you have one?

What is yours telling you about your company’s future?

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Think Like a Tech Company or Go Out of Business

Think Like a Tech Company or Go Out of Business

by Braden Kelley and Linda Bernardi

Even in 2014, there are business sectors who feel they are not ‘tech companies’. News flash: Whether you are a consumer products company, an insurance company, a hotel, or a pharmaceutical company, your business is a technology business. Why?

Technology is the link between any business and its customers. To say technology is not core to your business strategy, means you think customers are not the key to your business success. So, your business is a technology business whether you want it to be or not.

Today technology is how you market and sell your products, make your business more efficient, and most importantly, how you stay connected to your customers. Some companies mistake the importance of technology to mean that they need to open a twitter account and monitor social media, put in an ERP and CRM system, and revamp their web site. But the importance of technology in today’s business environment is more than that.

ERP and CRM are common tools, a requirement to remain competitive, and while social media and the internet are important to sales and marketing success, they are becoming yesterday’s news as customers develop deeper connections to their mobile devices. If you aren’t on their devices and interacting in a meaningful way with them there in real-time, you won’t stay connected to them in the long run.

Let’s look at the impact on a few different industries whose members tend not to see themselves as technology companies:

1. Fortune 100 consumer product goods (CPG) companies
2. Hotel Chains
3. Big Box Retailers

1. Fortune 100 CPG companies typically manufacture large quantities of consistent products and have visually pleasing (static) web pages for consumers. But they don’t use technology well enough to detect what the market wants before it knows it, often fail to personalize or customize products to customer needs, and usually lack the online networks that could help connect other customer product needs together into new potential product ideas that the company could co-create with their customers. Often connection means post mortem analytics on data collected in the past, or, analyzing previous customer interactions with static web pages. Creating authentic customer connections requires online and mobile technology these companies usually don’t possess. I don’t mean apps (which often are pretty much the same as a website), but new physical/online/mobile engagement models that inspire customers to stay connected to the company (and each other) in a dynamic, evolving community. Rethinking is needed here. The customer is not just a buyer but an influencer. If CPG companies want to sell that next bottle of $300 facial cream, they better consider delighting, and not just marketing to, their customer base.

2. AirBnB has proven to be a major disruptive force in the hotel and hospitality business, grabbing a massive foothold in a market that the Homeaway.com member companies created and should have dominated. Resistance to AirBnB is massive and lawsuits are abundant, but for a moment let’s go beyond the hype and explore the angst of traditional hotels. AirBnB created a highly connected, effective community of property owners and property renters. This bi-directional ecosystem can only thrive if they are both happy and satisfied. To experience what they’ve created, first go to a traditional hotel website (pictures of room, building, lobby) and then go to AirBnB and browse the hundreds of customer experiences their property owners offer. On the hotel site you’ll see they’ve created the mechanics of paying to rent a hotel room, while on AirBnB you’ll see that they’ve created both an ecosystem and an experience.

3. Big box retailers have done a poor job of seeing themselves as technology companies capable of fending off challenges from online-only retailers. Target made the mistake of seeing themselves as a retailer, not a technology business, and so they outsourced their ecommerce to Amazon in the beginning, only to regret doing so because Amazon was able to learn which 20% of their inventory drove 80% of their profits, and when.

Meanwhile, Costco and Walmart, despite being two of the most successful retailers in the world, have struggled to find success online because they can’t get beyond their brick and mortar heritage to see themselves as a technology business with an integrated online/offline ecosystem. Seriously, it is 2014, do we still need to get our Costco circulars in the mail? Nothing has changed about Costco’s interaction with its customers. Walmart exacerbated the disconnection between the two sides of their business by creating a separate online division and exiling it to Silicon Valley. Costco sells different products online than offline. The results of both of these approaches have been far from stellar.

Build a Common Language of Innovation on your team

Technology Lowers Barriers to Entry

In the history of the world, it has never been easier to start and scale a business to a global footprint, not in a matter of decades or years, but in months. And it is not just the other companies in your industry and technology-driven startups that you have to worry about if you choose not to view yourself as a technology company and move as fast as they do. You have to worry about competition from established technology players like Google and Amazon too, because one day they (or people that used to work for them) might decide that your market is attractive enough to enter and come disrupt your industry. For example, Amazon has become a book publisher and a financial services company.

Technology Enables Experiences

Technology enables the creation of customer experiences. I am going to choose my insurance company based on my experience. At the end of the day if all prices are comparable, then how the businesses you interact with make you feel, and the connections you’ve built with them will matter more. Without an emphasis on using technology to make your business a social business, you will find your company displaced by others that do. You must lead your industry in identifying opportunities to use technology to get closer to your customers. The future of business will be all about delighting customers and making their experience more personal.

Technology is not just a tool, but central to everything you do in today’s always on, always connected digital age.

Here are ten ways that technology can help you become a more social business:

  1. Building Connections
  2. Developing Networks
  3. Global Sensing and Prediction
  4. Sharing Recommendations
  5. Creating Experiences
  6. Personalization
  7. Customization
  8. Co-Creation
  9. Crowdsourcing
  10. Open Innovation

To give you an example of what things will look like in the future, the forward thinking health insurance company will leverage the mobile device for virtual ID cards, drug interaction warnings, personal triage, mobile care, wellness, cost sharing calculations, FSA/HSA administration, diagnostics, and more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, no matter what business you are in, it is very dangerous not to see technology as a competitive differentiator and a core driver of your business. Instead, you must constantly look at how you can become more of a technology company in order to enable deeper customer connections and more meaningful experiences. Today if you don’t connect with, understand, delight and start predicting your customer’s needs/wants, you may not thrive in your industry and your competition and new entrants who do embrace technology will replace you.

This article is brought to you by Linda Bernardi and Braden Kelley. Collectively, we have over 30 years of experience working with large, global multi-disciplinary enterprises. We write this with care and passion as we want your enterprises to succeed. We would love to hear your thoughts.


Guest Collaborator:

Linda BernardiLinda Bernardi is a Technology Strategist, Investor, and Founder & CEO at StraTerra Partners, The Bernardi Leadership Institute and a Strategic Advisor at Cloudant Inc. She is also the Author of Provoke, Why the Global Culture of Disruption is the Only Hope for Innovation. Learn more here about Linda’s work on disrupting large enterprise analytics.

Please note the following licensing terms for Stikkee Situations cartoons:

1. BLOGS – Link back to https://bradenkelley.com/category/stikkees/ and you can embed them for free
2. PRESENTATIONS, please send $25 to me on PayPal by clicking the button 3. NEWSLETTERS & WEB SITES, please send me $50 on PayPal by clicking the button
License for presentations - $25
License for newsletters and web sites - $50

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