Tag Archives: Interviews

Growing Your Business with Customer Obsession

Growing Your Business with Customer Obsession

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

A 21-year-old college senior and his roommate started a business that stored students’ belongings over the summer. They rented a warehouse and hired a local trucking company to pick up items at the dorms and take them to the warehouse to store for the summer. The company was becoming a college business success story. Then, in the middle of final exam week, the trucking company quit the project with 84 more pickups and customers left to service.

What does an entrepreneurial senior in the middle of final exams do? If he’s customer-focused (and he is), he stays up all night studying and doing pickups himself, honoring his commitment to these 84 students and still passing his exams!

That’s the beginning of Mark Ang’s story. Today, just six years later, Ang is the CEO and co-founder of GoBolt, which has evolved into a successful logistics company from what he and his roommate, Heindrik Bernabe, started in college. That company has gone beyond serving college students and now provides logistics and “last mile” delivery services for many businesses and well-known brands. Currently, they have over 1,500 employees, 14 warehouses and hundreds of trucks across the U.S. and Canada. The company is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, a multi-year winner of Deloitte’s Fast 50 and a recipient of the SupplyTech Breakthrough Award for Last Mile Solution Providers.

I interviewed Ang for Amazing Business Radio, and we talked about the secret of his success. Today, his company continues to grow at an exponential rate. The secret, according to Ang, is to live by these three main principles:

1. Customer Obsession

Just as he honored his commitments to his customers during his final exam week in college, he continues to obsess over making sure his customers are taken care of in a manner that will grow their trust and confidence in the organization.

2. Failure Is Not an Option

Ang would not accept defeat when the trucking company he hired in college broke their agreement. He figured out how to juggle school and business and came out on top of both, and he continues to focus on this principle today.

3. An Insatiable Desire to Win

This is where “Failure Is Not an Option” comes to life. Combining this principle with a love and obsession for your customers gives you a formula for success.

Even with these three principles in play, you must still be smart about running a business. These principles serve as a backdrop to many of Ang’s processes, strategies and tactics for running the company. Here are some of his customer-obsessed strategies that have helped him grow the business to where it is today:

Availability: A brand needs to be available to its customers 24/7. While not all businesses need around-the-clock support, his company does. Technology can answer the most basic questions at any time of day. Ang and his partner, co-founder and CTO of the company, leverage technology to deliver the best customer service.

Communication: Brands must provide communication channels that are convenient for customers. The customers will reach out by phone, email, chat, social media and other channels, and the company must be there to listen and respond.

Get It Right the First Time: This is another way of saying first-contact resolution. If agents have the correct customer information in front of them, they should be able to handle questions, problems or complaints on the first call. No customer should have to call back again and again to get an issue resolved.

Proactive Customer Support: If there is a problem the company knows about, reach out to customers before they call in. The credibility and trust that builds is huge. For example, a shipment might get delayed because of the weather. Ang believes (and he’s correct) that the right thing to do is to immediately inform the customer. It may not be good news, but it is information that the customer needs.

Ang’s final comments in our interview were to invest the time needed to create the optimal experience. Customer support, by nature, is reactive. It’s easy to get inundated with activity as you work in your business and not on your business. Take time to learn about what your customers want, research the right technology for your business and spend time with your team to understand what they need to be a customer-obsessed organization.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com

Image Credit: Shep Hyken

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Latest Interview with the Future Forward Podcast

Latest Interview with the Future Forward Podcast

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Teresa Spangler of The Future Forward Podcast, about my work as a community builder, workshop facilitator, and thought leader on the topics of human-centered change and innovation, and some of my work with clients to create delightful customer and employees experiences, digital transformation, foresight, and innovation strategies.

But mostly in this information-packed interview, I reveal key lessons I learned along the way about how to recognize and make the most of opportunities, to make change happen, and to ultimately make a difference.

Some of the elements of the conversation came from things I discuss in my latest book Charting Change and its associated Change Planning Toolkit™. Both introduce a powerful visual, collaborative approach to human-centered change and transformation.

But we also spoke about imagination, artificial intelligence, world building, foresight and futures research.

Here is the YouTube version of my visit with the Future Forward podcast:

But, it is also available in most other places where quality podcasts are found:

If you’d like to sign up to learn more about my new FutureHacking™ methodology and set of tools, go here.

Accelerate your change and transformation success

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Branding versus Bonding

The Importance of Community in Marketing

Exclusive Interview with Mark Schaefer

Mark W SchaeferConventional marketing wisdom says that communities are a great way to connect with your target audience in an engaging and meaningful way. Typical justifications for building communities include:

  • Creating an opportunity for your brand to stand out from the competition
  • Providing a platform for customers to interact and collaborate with you and each other
  • Monitoring and responding to customer feedback quickly
  • Helping build trust and loyalty with your customers
  • Driving organic growth and engagement

But successful communities go beyond company-outwards branding and instead create customer-inwards bonding.

I had the opportunity recently to interview Mark Schaefer, a globally-acclaimed author, keynote speaker, and marketing consultant. He is a faculty member of Rutgers University and one of the top business bloggers and podcasters in the world. Mark is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, Chief Executive Officer of B Squared Media and on the advisory board of several startups. He has been a contributor to Harvard Business Review and Entrepreneur magazine.

His latest book is Belonging to the Brand: Why Community is the Last Great Marketing Strategy and explores how companies can make more effective use of communities in their marketing activities.

Below is the text of my interview with Mark and a preview of the kinds of insights you’ll find in Belonging to the Brand presented in a Q&A format:

1. Marketers are trained to reach the right audience with the right message to be successful. How is community different from audience?

From a brand marketing perspective, an audience — a group who opts-in to your content — is very important because they’ve allowed themselves to be connected to your message. However, an even more powerful opportunity exists if you can turn that audience into a community.

There are three distinguishing features of a community:

  1. There is communion. People know each other. They may become friends, collaborate, and help each other. This is important because that emotional benefit transfers to the brand!
  2. Purpose. People need a reason to gather. They want to grow something, change something, build something. How does this purpose intersect with the purpose of the brand? That’s when the magic starts to happen.
  3. Adaptability. The priorities of a community will change over time as the world changes. A community cannot be rigid in its structure or it will become irrelevant.

2. Why should marketers invest in learning how to build and connect with communities?

I have been in marketing nearly four decades and I can say with some authority that our job is harder than ever! Many traditional channels just don’t work any more. We are in a streaming media society now and most people sim0lt block us out.

Community provides a new way to connect in a meaningful way with customers. In fact, it might be the only type of marketing people won’t block. It’s the only kind of marketing people actually need because community is essential to our psychological health, especially now.

So, I think it makes sense for businesses to at least consider community since that may have no other choice.

3. Why do people join communities?

Psychological studies show that community is not just a nice-to-have. It is essential for our social well-being. Studies show that we are even physically better off when we have meaningful relationships in a community. So this is a deep-seated need in us from the beginning of time and it will always be there.

4. How can we be more connected than ever before, but also more alone?

I think social media gives us the impression that we are just a click away from a relationship but we’re not. Much of this time online is empty social calories. There is definitely a positive role social media can play in connecting people and building relationships, but it is also a powerful source of disconnection, depression, and isolation. Much of this problem was amplified by the pandemic, but the global mental health crisis has really been creeping up on us since the 1960s.

5. Are there secrets to intentionally building a community?

Belonging to the Brand - Mark SchaeferMy book provides a framework for building a community. Some of the essential steps include:

  1. Assessing the culture — Community is a business strategy, not just a marketing strategy. Is the organization behind the idea?
  2. Establishing purpose — is there a meaningful reason to gather?
  3. Building a tribe — Where are the important early members?
  4. Leadership — Nurturing a community is much different than what we are accustomed to in a traditional marketing role.
  5. Building — Building a community is constant hard work
  6. Measurement — This is difficult in a community but my book provides a path forward

6. What should marketers be most careful of when using community as a marketing strategy?

Most communities fail because they are designed to sell stuff! Obviously, we do need to sell stuff, but that’s not a reason to gather. If you provide great value to your customers, they will naturally be attracted to your products and services.

7. Should everyone be equal for a community to be successful?

I’m not sure if people are ever equal in every way. We all have our own unique talents. In a community, leaders will naturally emerge. A big part of community management is recognizing emerging leaders and bestowing them with status.

8. Where should companies build a community?

There is no cookie-cutter answer to that. But it helps if the community is part of a person’s natural daily organic experience. For example, if your customers like Facebook and visit there every day, it would be easy for them to find your community there. Try not to build your community in a place that requires new skills or an extra click.

9. Who in the marketing department should own community strategy?

I’m not sure that is important as long as it IS the marketing department. It’s unbelievable to me that 70% of existing brand communities do NOT report to marketing. This is frankly hard to understand. A community is the front line of your business — the most important customer connection. How can that no be part of marketing?

10. What does community success look like?

In the long term, there has to be a financial benefit, but in the short-term, engagement is probably the most important metric. For example, Sephora is a global cosmetics retailer with hundreds of brick-and-mortar locations. However, 80 percent of their revenue comes from their online community.

Their most important metric? Engagement. If people are talking about the company’s content and activities, it is a sign that are staying relevant and moving in a way that will lead to more brand advocacy and sales.

In the context of social media, I’m not a big fan of engagement as a metric, but in community, it is probably the most important leading indicator of financial success.


Thank you for the great conversation Mark!

I hope everyone has enjoyed this peek into the mind of the man behind the inspiring new title Belonging to the Brand!

Image credits: BusinessesGrow.com (Mark W Schaefer)

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Lobsters and the Wisdom of Ignoring Your Customers

Lobsters and the Wisdom of Ignoring Your Customers

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

Being the smart innovator (and businessperson) you are, you know it’s important to talk to customers. You also know it’s important to listen to them.

It’s also important to ignore your customers.


Customers will tell you what the problem is. If you stay curious and ask follow-up questions (Why? and Tell me more), they’ll tell you why it’s a problem and the root cause. You should definitely listen to this information.

Customers will also tell you how to fix the problem. You should definitely ignore this information.

To understand why, let me tell you a story.

Eye Contact is a Problem

Years ago, two friends and I took a day trip to Maine. It was late in Fall, and many lobster shacks dotting the coast were closed for the season. We found one still open and settled in for lunch.

Now, I’m a reasonably adventurous eater. I’ll try almost anything once (but not try fried tarantulas). However, I have one rule – I do not want to make eye contact with my food.

Knowing that lobsters are traditionally served with their heads still attached, I braced for the inevitable. As the waitress turned to me, I placed the same order as my friends but with a tiny special request. “I’ll have the lobster, but please remove its head.”

You know that scene in movies when the record scratches, the room falls silent, and everyone stops everything they’re doing to stare at the person who made an offending comment? Yeah, that’s precisely what happened when I asked for the head to be removed.

The waitress was horrified, “Why? That’s where all the best stuff is!”

“I don’t like making eye contact with my food,” I replied.

She pursed her lips, jotted down my request, and walked away.

A short time later, our lunch was served. My friends received their lobsters as God (or the chef) intended, head still attached. Then, with great fanfare, my lobster arrived.

Its head was still attached.

But we did not make eye contact.

Placed over the lobster’s eyes were two olives, connected by a broken toothpick and attached to the lobster’s “ears” by two more toothpicks.

The chef was offended by my request to remove the lobster’s head. But, because he understood why I wanted the head removed, he created a solution that would work for both of us – lobster-sized olive sunglasses.

Are you removing the head or making sunglasses?

Customers, like me, are experts in problems. We know what the problems are, why they’re problems, and what solutions work and what don’t. So, if you ask us what we want, we’ll give you the solution we know – remove the head.

Innovators, like you and the chef, are experts in solutions. You know what’s possible, see the trade-offs, and anticipate the consequences of various choices. You also take great pride in your work and expertise, so you’re not going to give someone a sub-par solution simply because they asked for it. You’re going to provide them with olive sunglasses.

Next time you talk to customers, stay curious, ask open-ended questions, ask follow-up questions, and build a deep understanding of their problems. Then ignore their ideas and suggestions. They’ll only stand in the way of your olive sunglasses.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Innovation and Transformation Advisory and Connection Opportunity

Innovation and Transformation Advisory and Connection Opportunity

Braden Kelley has been focusing on human-centered change and innovation for more than twenty years, bringing in elements of design thinking, customer experience, employee experience and digital transformation as needed.

On November 18, 2022 our founder will be in New York City (Midtown Manhattan) and available to connect for any of the following purposes:

  • Private keynote or workshop for your organization
  • Certification session on the Change Planning Toolkit™ and/or FutureHacking™ sets of tools for your team
  • Featured keynote speaker or workshop for a sales event or conference
  • Advisory session to provide input on a specific innovation project or your overall innovation or transformation program
  • Audio or video podcast appearance
  • Grab a coffee or a meal — to connect or reconnect
  • Or, if you think Braden should interview you on camera to join the video interviews he’s done with luminaries like Dean Kamen, Seth Godin, Dan Pink, Roger Martin, Kevin Roberts, and most recently – PepsiCo’s Chief Design Officer Mauro Porcini – Braden will bring his video camera!

If you work in Manhattan or are willing to travel in from elsewhere in the greater New York City metropolitan area (or the world) and are looking to increase the innovation or transformation capabilities of your organization or to de-risk an innovation project by getting an outside perspective, or just to connect, contact Braden to book time on November 18, 2022.

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Bridging the Gap Between Strategy and Reality

Bridging the Gap Between Strategy and Reality

by Braden Kelley

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Whynde Kuehn, author of the new book Strategy to Reality.

Whynde Kuehn is the Founder and Managing Director of S2E Transformation. Whynde is a recognized global thought leader and a long-time pioneer, practitioner and educator in digital transformation, strategy execution and business architecture, a foundational discipline for enabling end-to-end transformation and organizational agility. She regularly speaks, writes and chairs/co-chairs events with a mission to advance best practices and facilitate community and advocacy across the globe. Whynde is Co-Founder, Vice President, and Academic Committee Chair of the Business Architecture Guild®, a not-for-profit organization focused on the advancement of the business architecture discipline.

The interview dives into how to move big ideas into action, along with exploring several business architecture, strategy and digital transformation topics.

Without further ado, here is the transcript of that interview:

1. What is the difference between an enterprise architect and a business architect?

We can generally think of enterprise architects as professionals who facilitate the development and usage of enterprise architecture to enable effective strategy execution, decision-making, and macro-level design for their organization and the ecosystem in which it operates.
For reference, the Federation of Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations (FEAPO) characterizes enterprise architecture as “a well-defined practice for conducting enterprise analysis, design, planning, and implementation, using a holistic approach at all times, for the successful development and execution of strategy. Enterprise architecture applies architecture principles and practices to guide organizations through the business, information, process, and technology changes necessary to execute their strategies. These practices utilize the various aspects of an enterprise to identify, motivate, and achieve these changes.”

Enterprise architecture is comprised of multiple architecture domains, which we can think of as business architecture + IT architecture, where IT architecture includes application architecture, data architecture, and technical architecture. In practice, some organizations structure with architects practicing within each architecture domain specialty who collaborate with each other (with no overall enterprise architect role) while other organizations have both an overall enterprise architect role in addition to the specialized architect roles. In the latter case, while an enterprise architect focuses across all architecture domains, they often tend to be T-shaped or V-shaped where they are deeper in one specialty over another.

So, what is the difference between an enterprise architect and a business architect? The answer is somewhat dependent on the context of an organization’s structure and practice, but generally speaking, an enterprise architect practices across all architecture domains, where a business architect focuses just on the business architecture domain (and partners with other architects). Additionally, here are a few important things to keep in mind:

  • All architects should share a base set of competencies as well as those specific to their area of specialization
  • All architects should be fluent in their organization’s business architecture
  • Close partnership and integration across all architecture domains and architect roles is critical for success, this includes cohesiveness of the architecture knowledgebase as well as how architects work together (and with other roles) to deliver value to the organization
  • To maximize value, the business architect role should be business-focused and strategically positioned
  • Business architects can focus on different scopes, from the full enterprise to a set of capabilities to a specific business domain; they always consider the bigger picture though regardless of scope

2. Why do organizations need business architects?

We know that organizations are going through a time of tremendous transformation, and that change and disruption are part of our new normal. A business architecture is most useful in the context of change, which is why we have seen an increase in adoption of the discipline worldwide. Business architects help organizations to create a clear and shared macro level understanding of where the organization is today, where it is going in the future, and how it will get there.

Business architects play a unique (and often missing) role to help inform and translate strategy into the cohesive set of changes needed across people, process, and technology to make that direction real (using value streams and capabilities as a key means to organize changes). They also help to ensure alignment across an organization. This includes both ensuring that the initiatives and solutions delivered meet the original business and architectural direction as well as ensuring that investments in capabilities (implemented through people, process, and technology) are appropriately harmonized across business units, products, and geographies.

Beyond their unique role in helping to inform, translate, and align strategy to execution, business architects also help to steward their organization’s business architecture knowledgebase. A business architecture is like a blueprint that provides a shared language and mental model for an entire organization, and it is owned by the business. A business architecture can and should be used by anyone in an organization for decision-making and an important part of the business architect role is to support others in doing so.

The diagram below reflects the contemporary practice of business architecture as context for questions 1 and 2. Business architecture lives in two worlds, first as part of the enterprise architecture umbrella (right) but also as a key contributor in a strategic management context (left).

Whynde Kuehn Business Architecture Diagram

3. What does it take to be a good business architect?

There are a few characteristics that encapsulate how good business architects think and act. For example, they are value-driven and focus on business value, outcomes, and results for their organization and its customers or constituents. Business architects are business-minded with a strong command of how business works, how to evolve business models and formulate strategies to win, and how to design an organization for effectiveness and agility (this includes having a command of technology and how to leverage it strategically). They are enterprise advocates, always bringing people together across organizational silos and back to the bigger picture of the enterprise. Business architects are bridge builders, knowing that it takes an ecosystem of teams to translate strategy into action and run an organization successfully. While business architects perform unique responsibilities, they also build close partnerships with others because they realize their own success – and the success of the organization – depends on making other people successful. Business architects are also visualizers and storytellers to create clarity and common understanding and they serve as change agents for new ideas. Business architects help to simplify, visualize, and explain complex concepts and show new connections.

Beyond these characteristics, a great business architect needs a depth of knowledge and experience including building a business architecture baseline (capabilities, information concepts, and value streams) at the enterprise level architecting change initiatives, and working across the life cycle from strategy to execution.

Becoming a great business architect is a journey that takes time, but a very rewarding one along the way. A truly successful business architect majors in business architecture, but minors in other disciplines and frameworks. The most adept business architects think strategically and architecturally to facilitate strategy execution and solve complex problems, leveraging business architecture as the foundation, blended seamlessly with many other approaches and abilities. This means that great business architects continually develop and leverage a wide range of knowledge and experiences – much of it beyond the realm of business architecture.

4. What are the key components of a business architecture?

Whynde KuehnThe foundation of a business architecture is comprised of capabilities (i.e., the reusable building blocks that describe what an organization does to deliver its products and services and support its operations), value streams (i.e., the high-level flows that deliver value to an external or internal stakeholder), and a cross-mapping between them (to depict where reusable capabilities are leveraged to deliver business value). In addition, a set of information concepts underpin the capabilities and value streams – and the entire business and IT architecture – and give people a truly shared definition of key terms such as customers, partners, products, assets, and so forth.

In addition to these three fundamental business architecture domains, there are seven additional business domains that are represented through an organization’s business architecture including business units (internal business units and external partners), products (the goods and/or services an organization offers to its customers/constituents), policies (external regulations and internal polices), stakeholders, strategies, metrics, and initiatives.

In addition, business architecture connects to the domains within other disciplines as well such as to journeys from the customer experience discipline, processes from the business process management discipline, requirements from the business analysis discipline, and applications and software services in the application architecture.

A business architecture is essentially an interconnected and multidimensional set of views, stored in a reusable knowledgebase, that can be used to inform many different business scenarios.

5. Who are the key stakeholders for a business architecture?

While the overall value proposition for business architecture is to enable effective strategy execution, business architecture is a bit like a Swiss army knife in that it can be used for a broad range of business usage scenarios and decision-making.

As a result, each organization needs to define its goals for leveraging the discipline for value. For example, while many organizations leverage business architecture for informing, translating, and aligning strategies and transformations, other organizations focus on leveraging the discipline for macro level simplification and effectiveness, business and IT alignment, or even a repeatable way to approach acquisitions.

As a result, the key stakeholders for business architecture within an organization can vary based on how the discipline is being used. However, some of the most common stakeholders for business architecture include strategy and transformation leaders and their teams along with portfolio managers, strategic planners, and technology leaders from CIOs and CTOs and down. Other key stakeholders include C-level business leaders, business unit leaders, product leaders, innovation leaders, risk managers, compliance managers, program and project managers, data management leaders, human-centered designers, organization designers, organizational change managers, business process professionals, business relationship managers, business analysts, IT architects, and many more.

6. How does one “use” a business architecture?

Generally, there are three categories of usage for a business architecture: to (1) facilitate effective strategy execution as mentioned earlier, to (2) help organizations design or redesign for effectiveness and agility, and to (3) inform a wide variety of business and technology decision-making scenarios.

For organization design and redesign, consider that we can assemble capabilities in different ways to deliver new value, products, and services. We can also design our organizations with increased efficiency, for example, by reducing the number of systems needed to automate the same capability.
For decision-making, consider that a business architecture knowledgebase is the go-to place for information about an organization at a macro level. As a result, we can get holistic answers framed in a shared business context to support decision-making around strategic alignment, customer experience, product management, investments, cost, risk, compliance, outsourcing, business and IT alignment, application portfolio management, technical debt, cloud strategy and migration, sustainability, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, joint ventures, and more.

7. Why is it so challenging for organizations to move big ideas into action?

Organizations may formulate excellent strategies, but the challenge often occurs in the translation of those ideas across a large organization with many business units, products, and regions. I believe there are a few foundational challenges that contribute to this.

First, organizations do not always have a formalized, cohesive approach to strategy execution that knits together all the teams from end-to-end to develop strategies, architect changes, plan initiatives, execute solutions, and measure success. We may do this for parts of the process, but we do not necessarily look at the whole of strategy execution with the same criticality and accountability as we do with other functions such as sales, marketing, or finance.

Second, large organizations are still siloed in many ways, which shapes the behavior, thinking, and priorities of individuals. For example, when it comes to investments or problem solving, we may default to what is best for our business area versus thinking about what is best for the customer and the enterprise – especially when organizational structures, motivation mechanisms, and inertia enforce the status quo.

Finally, I believe that both of these challenges are also underpinned by a need to enhance business education to teach a more comprehensive approach from strategy to execution, and normalize the idea of business and IT architecture to supplement strategic thinking and decision making.

8. Digital transformation has become an overused phrase. What is a true digital transformation?

Strategy to RealityA true digital transformation is strategic and customer-driven, leveraging technology to establish business models and ecosystems that unlock new value for organizations to thrive in the digital economy. In other words, automation alone does not constitute a digital transformation. The Institute for Digital Transformation gives us clear guidance in the Digital Transformation Manifesto – that it should “lead to metamorphic change among an organization’s products, services, systems, operations, and culture – amplified by technology.”

I believe that collectively many organizations are now coming to terms with what digital transformation really means and are starting to move beyond the hype. I also think we are reaching the point where digital business is now just regular business – where digital is no longer something separate, but just part of how an organization delivers value, strategizes, and operates.

9. Where does a successful transformation begin?

A successful transformation starts with why. What does the business want to achieve and how will we know when we have achieved it? Clear business direction and outcomes provide the critical starting point so that people across an organization can accurately determine the change that is needed, both to people, processes, technology, assets, and locations – as well as the human side of change. Clear business direction also helps to inspire people to action on a collective vision that is greater than themselves.

10. Why do so many organizations fail to succeed at both strategy and execution?

Organizations can be challenged in formulating strategy, in ultimately executing upon a strategy, or both as suggested here. From a strategy formulation perspective, much has been written by strategy experts, but from my perspective, I see organizations challenged in a few key ways. For example, some organizations lack rigor in the definition of strategy itself, where the strategy does not reflect specific choices or specifies broad (and non-strategic) goals such as to improve operational effectiveness. I also see challenges with articulating strategy where different parts of an organization describe and decompose the strategy in different ways, making goals, objectives, and courses of action difficult to understand and reconcile from an enterprise perspective. Additionally, I see challenges with communicating strategy as it filters through the layers of an organization and becomes diffused – especially without a shared understanding of the courses of action and collective changes that help people relate to the direction and what it means for them.

From a strategy execution perspective, as shared in question #7, the challenges with execution (e.g., building solutions that do not meet business needs or are duplicative) often begin upstream without a well-defined translation through a common blueprint like an organization’s business architecture. This does not mean that improvements are not necessary to execution (and many shifts are happening worldwide today such as around agile delivery), but an organization should assess each major activity from strategy to execution both individually and together as a cohesive end-to-end process.

Achieving a strategy requires clear intent translated into organized effort and the structured methods from strategy management frameworks as well as business architecture and other design disciplines can help. Hopefully the increasing awareness of the opportunity – and necessity – for effective end-to-end strategy execution will inspire and enable organizations to take further action to prepare for an increasingly disruptive and exciting business landscape for years to come.


Thanks to you Whynde for sharing your insights with our global human-centered change and innovation community!

To learn more about Whynde’s views on making your strategy a reality, grab yourself a copy of her new book Strategy to Reality.

Image credits: Whynde Kuehn, Unsplash


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Reaching Beyond the Limits of Innovation and Transformation

Reaching Beyond the Limits of Innovation and TransformationRecently on Episode #873 of the Marketer of the Day podcast, I had the opportunity to sit down with Robert Plank, have a great conversation, and chat about a number of different topics. Here is a quick excerpt:

“When it comes to innovation, timing is a huge factor. Going in too soon or too late can both cost you lots of money. Innovation isn’t all about creativity and value-creation, it is also about the services that you provide around your new idea and helping people understand how your idea can be of value to their lives. But how can we know if our innovative ideas can really affect people’s lives?”

Click the play button to listen to the podcast right here, right now:

Here is Robert Plank in his own words describing what the Marketer of the Day podcast is all about:

The Marketer of the Day Podcast interviews entrepreneurs who have been through “the struggle.”

They’ve experienced the headaches of repeat failure, trial-and-error, scaling, delegating, course-correcting, and getting their online businesses to succeed beyond their wildest dreams… and want to help you get to where you need to go.

Or visit Robert’s site here for additional information and all of the ways to subscribe to his podcast:


Creating Innovation with Hardcore Soft Skills

Creating Innovation with Hardcore Soft Skills

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Yadira Caro on the Hardcore Soft Skills Podcast.

In the episode I define what innovation really is, how people, process and technology come together to create innovation and where people go wrong.

The conversation includes a discussion of how to craft successful innovation teams because it’s such a crucial factor for successful innovation.

I also speak about the peril of idea fragments and the importance of respecting your employees by putting funding and execution capabilities in place BEFORE you ask your employees for even a single idea.

We talk about top-down innovation…

We talk about bottom-up or middle-out innovation…

And, we also speak about many different innovation misconceptions.

So, I encourage you to check out the episode!

You can listen to the embedded podcast above or click this link to go to the podcast page.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Keeping Pace with the Latest Trends in Social Media and Online Video

David Meerman ScottThe ways we communicate continue to evolve. Keeping pace with the latest trends in social media and online video, while preventing your product or service from getting lost in the digital clutter, is a daunting task. David Meerman Scott is a master at helping you speak directly to your audience, make a strong personal connection, and generate attention for your business.

In the eighth edition of The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to Use Content Marketing, Podcasting, Social Media, AI, Live Video and Newsjacking to Reach Buyers Directly, David explores the latest approaches for highly effective public relations, marketing, and customer communications – while helping you avoid of the costs of traditional advertising!

New Rules of Marketing and PRI had the opportunity recently to interview David, a marketing strategist, entrepreneur, investor and advisor to emerging companies, and bestselling author of 12 books, including Fanocracy, about the new eighth edition of The New Rules of Marketing & PR.

Throughout his career he has been fascinated by seeing the future of how people and organizations work together, studied ‘what’s next’, and looked for patterns others don’t see.

Three times a year David (@dsmcott) is the lead marketing speaker at the legendary Tony Robbins Business Mastery events, delivering a two hour session on New Marketing Mastery.

Below is the text of the interview:

1. What is the biggest change in either PR or Marketing that today’s companies face?

I wrote this for the first edition of The New Rules of Marketing & PR back in 2007: “There used to be only three ways to get noticed: Buy expensive advertising, beg the mainstream media to tell your story for you, or hire a huge sales staff to bug people individually about your products. Now we have a better option: publishing interesting content on the web, content that your buyers want to consume.” The same is true today upon the publication of the 8th edition!

The tools of the marketing and PR trade have changed. The skills that worked offline to help you buy or beg or bug your way into opportunity are the skills of interruption and coercion. Online success comes from thinking like a journalist and publishing amazing content that will brand you as an organization or person it would be a pleasure to do business with. You are in charge of your own success.

2. Must companies re-think their approach to PR in the digital age?

Many people steeped in the tradition of product promotion naturally feel drawn to prattle on and on about their products and services. But I have news for you. Nobody cares about your products and services. Yes, you read that right.

What people do care about are themselves and how you can solve their problems. People also like to be entertained and to share in something remarkable. In order to have people talk about you and your ideas, you must resist the urge to hype your products and services. Instead, create something interesting that will be talked about online. When you get people talking on the Web, people will line up to learn more and to buy what you have to offer.

Sadly, marketers continue to hype products and services instead of understanding buyers and creating interesting content to reach them.

3. Do press releases still have value?

Yes, press releases have value but way less than most PR professionals believe. There is so much more that can be done.

Somehow along the way PR professionals have lost sight of what ‘true’ PR is and have set their focus on the media. What quick steps can PR pros take to get back to the public relations roots of creating mutually beneficial relationships with all of their publics (shareholders, stakeholders, communities, employees, etc.)?

To paraphrase the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), definition: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

Nowhere does this description mention the media!

Somewhere along the line “public relations” became the same as “media relations.” What people need to realize is that these are different activities. Media relations, or working through journalists, is fine. Hey, who doesn’t want to be quoted in an important outlet?

But there are so many other ways to hear attention.

PR is about reaching your audience. There are many more ways to do that than just via the media: YouTube videos, blog posts, eBooks, charts, graphs, photos, a Twitter feed, a presence on Instagram, TikTok and so much more.

4. What role should LinkedIn play in companies’ marketing strategies? Any difference in your answer for B2B vs. B2C companies?

There are many social networks out there and LinkedIn is one of them. Marketers should understand their buyers and be active on the social networks that are most important to them. For many B2B businesses, LinkedIn is super important, so for them yes, LinkedIn is valuable. However many people use LinkedIn as another way to send unwanted sales messages. To be effective people should use LinkedIn to publish content and to engage with other people’s content.

Continue reading the rest of our conversation on CustomerThink

SIX more questions and answers!

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Creating a Movement that Drives Transformational Change

Creating a Movement that Drives Transformational Change

A while ago I had the opportunity to interview Greg Satell, author of the new book Cascades: How to Create a Movement that Drives Transformational Change.

Greg Satell is a bestselling author, speaker and adviser, who frequently contributes here to my blog Human-Centered Change and Innovation, Harvard Business Review, Inc. and other A-list publications. His first book, MAPPING INNOVATION, was chosen as one of the best business books of 2017 by 800-CEO-READ. His latest book, CASCADES, was recently published by McGraw-Hill Education.

Today, he helps leading businesses overcome disruption through impactful programs and powerful tools he developed researching the world’s best innovators and most effective changemakers.

Without further ado, here is the transcript of that interview:

1. People love to tell the story of Netflix disrupting Blockbuster. What do they get wrong?

It’s funny. People so easily assume that Blockbuster just completely ignored the Netflix threat, when actually nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the leadership came up with an effective strategy to meet that threat, executed it well and began to surpass Netflix in adding new subscribers.

The real reason that Blockbuster failed was that the leadership failed to manage internal networks—particularly franchisees and investors—and the stock price crashed. That attracted the corporate raider Carl Icahn, who had a heavy handed style. Eventually, things came to a head and he initiated a compensation dispute with the CEO, John Antioco., who left in frustration. The new CEO came in and reversed the strategy. Three years later, Blockbuster went bankrupt.

One of the most interesting parts of the story came out when I interviewed Antioco, who was—and is—something of a retail genius. He told me that, throughout his career, anytime he wanted to do something innovative, he always met resistance. He had always succeeded by pushing through that resistance. This time though, it got the better of him.

We tend to think that if we have the right idea and execute it well, we’ll be successful. The real lesson of Blockbuster is that isn’t always true. We also need to manage stakeholder networks.

2. To be efficient at scale, businesses introduce hierarchies as they grow. What weaknesses does this introduce and how should companies manage these?

To be honest, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with hierarchies. They’ve been put in place because they are effective at executing processes efficiently. Every organization needs that. However, hierarchies tend to be rigid and slow to adapt. That can be a real problem when the marketplace changes.

So what I think leaders need to focus on is building strong informal networks to supplement the formal organization. Chris Fussell calls this a “hybrid organization.” That’s what’s really key, to have the formal organization and the informal organization working hand-in-hand.

Unfortunately, there’s been so much emphasis on “breaking down silos,” that business leaders often miss that silos can be very positive things. They are essentially “centers of capability.” So you don’t want to break them up. What you do want to do is to connect silos so that they can adapt and collaborate.

3. Some would say that hierarchies are created to cascade information. How does information cascade differently within networks? How is better?

Well, hierarchies are essentially vertical networks, so information tends to move up and down fairly well, but not so good side to side, which makes it hard for an organization to adapt laterally. The types of networks I write about in Cascades are horizontal, so are much better set up to transfer information between disparate groups.

Clearly, you need both. The problem is that we tend to ignore the informal networks, which is why organizations over time become vertically driven and rigid.

Greg Satell - Digital Tonto4. What causes some movements to grow and others to be sidelined at the periphery?

That’s a great and complicated question (in fact, I wrote a whole book about it!). The truth is that, much as Tolstoy said about families, successful movements tend to look very much alike, while unsuccessful movements fail in their own way.

However, if there is one key thing that makes the difference it is to always connect out. Research has shown that the key metric that best determines success is participation. That may seem obvious, but many movements get caught up in idealogical purity and shut out potential allies. If you want to kill a change movement quickly, that’s probably the best way to do it. It’s not the fervor of zealots that brings change about, but when you get everybody else to join in that a true revolution can take place.

A great example of this kind of failure is the Occupy Movement. At first, they gained a lot of sympathy for their “99% vs. the 1%” message. However they were so extreme, and so intent on demonizing anyone who didn’t believe 100% what they believed, that they turned many people off. At one point, the legendary civil rights leader John Lewis asked to speak at a rally and was refused. I mean, John Lewis! Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

The same is true in the business context. Think about VHS vs. Betamax. Betamax was the better technology, but VHS was more inclusive. VHS won.

Another great example is the Ignaz Semmelweis story. Semmelweis had discovered that hand washing in hospitals greatly reduced infection rates. It was a major discovery. However, rather than working to build a movement around his idea, he railed against anyone who didn’t agree with him. It would take another 20 years for antiseptic practices to gain traction and millions of people died needlessly because of it.

More recently, Jim Allison had a similar challenge with cancer immunotherapy. Pharmaceutical companies didn’t believe it would work and refused to invest in it. I still remember the sound of despair in his voice when he told me the story—and this was 20 years after it happened! But Jim kept pounding the pavement, kept working to bring others in and thousands upon thousands of people are alive today because of Jim.

So again, you have to constantly be connecting out and bringing people in. That’s why Jim Allison won the Nobel Prize last fall instead of dying in an insane asylum like Ignaz Semmelweis.

5. Why do successful movements or revolutions seem to need rules?

I think it’s better to say that movements need values. Values play two important roles: First, they provide constraints and, second, they provide rules for adaptation.

For example, during the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was accused of being an anarchist, a communist and worse. When asked about his beliefs though, he always pointed to the Freedom Charter, which was written way back in 1955. So he could point to something concrete that outlined his values and that of his movement. That commitment to values was crucial for getting support from institutions outside of South Africa and it was the support from those institutions that enabled Mandela and his movement to succeed.

When he got into power those constraints became even more important. Because one of the core values spelled out in the Freedom Charter was that all national groups should have equal rights, he couldn’t infringe upon the rights of white people, even though many urged him to do so. It is because of those self-imposed constraints that we remember Nelson Mandela as a hero and not some tin-pot dictator.

A similar dynamic played out in the “Gerstner Revolution” at IBM in the 1990s. Gerstner famously said that the last thing IBM needed at the time was a vision. But he was very clear that he wanted to shift values, to make IBM more customer focused and more collaborative. That sent important signals to customers, partners and investors and played a big part in Gerstner’s success.

Perhaps even more importantly, the focus on values helped IBM prosper long after he left the company. Irving Wladawsky-Berger, one of Gerstner’s key lieutenants, told me that if the Gerstner Revolution had merely been about strategy and technology, it wouldn’t have survived. But because it was rooted in values, IBM was able to adapt as technology and the marketplace continued to evolve.

Clearly, IBM has had its challenges since Gerstner left in 2002, but it’s still a highly profitable company that continues to be on the forefront of many cutting edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and quantum computing, just to name a few. It’s hard to see how that could have happened if the company was still stuck in a strategy developed in the 90s. That’s the role that values play.

6. How would you contrast the theory behind Cascades with W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne’s Tipping Point Leadership?

I think on the surface they are somewhat similar ideas. However, there are important differences “under the hood.”

First, while “Tipping Point Leadership” implicitly refers to the importance of networks, Cascades is deeply and explicitly rooted in network science. In fact, Duncan Watts and Steven Strogatz, who pioneered modern network theory, have both endorsed the book (although Strogatz has done so more informally). I believe that scientific approach really helps provide a stronger framework to understand how change occurs.

Another important difference is that while Kim and Mauborgne basically built their framework from scratch, Cascades is more of a synthesis of ideas that have already been proven successful in social, political and business contexts.

There has been a lot great thinking about this stuff for a long time, so I saw no reason to try and reinvent the wheel. Rather, I tried to shape already powerful ideas—some of which have been battle-tested for decades—into a coherent framework that people can put to good use. In that way, Cascades is very similar to my previous book, Mapping Innovation.

Of course I’m biased on this point, but I believe the result is a much richer, detailed and useful framework for driving change. When you are driving change in the real world, details matter.

7. What is wrong with the theory of influentials being central to successful change?

Well, first it’s wrong because it’s empirically been shown not to be true. Scientific research has clearly shown, across multiple studies, that you don’t need “influentials” to create a viral cascade or, as Gladwell puts it, a “social epidemic.” I reference many of these studies in the book, so that readers can go check for themselves.

Conceptually, the influentials hypothesis breaks down because you need large chains of influence to create a viral cascade. Somebody may be influential because they are a connector, a maven, or whatever, but unless the people they influence pass on their ideas to others who pass them on to others still, the movement will die out. As I write in the book, it is small groups, loosely connected, but united by a shared purpose that drives transformational change.

The one exception is celebrities like Oprah Winfrey. They can really move the needle if they choose to promote an idea, but not because they have any “rare social gifts.” It’s because what they say is broadcasted by mass media. So there’s nothing really mysterious about it.

Cascades by Greg Satell8. What are some of the critical raw materials for fueling a cascade?

The three most important elements are small groups, loose connections and shared purpose.

Small groups engender strong bonds and that’s super important. Creating change is hard. So it’s important to build deep trustful relationships that lead to effective collaboration. That’s at the root of any successful movement. For example, the Otpor Movement in Serbia started with just 11 founders.

However, a small group can’t do much on its own. So it’s important for small groups to connect to other small groups. It’s that continuous linking that creates the conditions upon which a cascade can arise. That’s how Otpor eventually grew to 70,000 members and took down the dictator, Slobodan Milošević. As I explain the book, organizational change movements, such as those in the US Army and at companies like Experian and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, play out in very much the same way.

Lastly, you need a sense of shared purpose. That’s what ties everything together. It’s also why effective leadership is so important. You need leaders to provide that purpose. As I write in the book, the role of leaders is no longer merely to plan and direct action, but to inspire and empower belief.

9. What’s your view on the phases of a successful change

Generally speaking, change movements have three phases: planning, mobilization and the victory phase.

In the planning phase, you need to formulate your Vision of Tomorrow and your values and also map out the specific constituencies you want to mobilize and the institutions you will need to influence. It’s important to not mobilize too soon, because every revolution inspires a counterrevolution. So by mobilizing too early you run the risk of inspiring opposition as much as you do supporters. This is a very common mistake.

Mobilization is largely about planning and executing tactics and there are a couple of important points to keep in mind. First, you are always mobilizing specific constituencies to influence particular institutions. You are always mobilizing somebody to influence something. You’re never mobilizing just for the sake of mobilizing or to “raise awareness” or anything like that. Everything you do needs to have a strategy in mind.

Another point is that you always want to be mobilizing out and bringing people in. And when you recruit new people you want to immediately train them and get them to act, even if the action is small. It is through action that people take ownership of change, so getting people to act is incredibly important. One of the cases I researched was Experian’s digital transformation. They really focused on this aspect and had enormous success.

The last phase is the victory phase and it’s often the most dangerous. For example, in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, which I took part in and inspired me to write the book, we thought we had won. As it turned out, we hadn’t and soon the country descended back into chaos, which resulted in a second revolution, the Euromaidan protests in 2013 and 2014.

We’ve seen the same thing happen more recently in Egypt, where they overthrew Mubarak and ended up with el-Sisi, who is very much the same. It’s also common in startups and in corporate transformation, an early surge and then things go awry.

So you need to plan to “survive victory” ahead of time. You do that by focusing on shared values, rather than specific personalities or objectives. You never want to make a change movement about yourself or your organization. It always needs to be about values.

There is a fourth phase and it’s one you want to avoid. It is the failure phase. Almost every movement I researched had a massive early failure. In most cases, it arose from a failure to prepare and build the movement methodically. The successful movements learned from those failures and continued to evolve. The unsuccessful ones didn’t.

10. When it comes to participation and mobilization, what should people keep in mind to accelerate both?

Again, you just want to keep building out and networking the movement. Keep building links. Eventually, you will build critical mass and the movement will accelerate by itself. That’s what a cascade is, when your movement goes viral.

However, before that happens, you want to prepare as much as possible or your movement can spin out of control, if you haven’t invested in building values, training, etc. We’ve seen that happen with Occupy, Black Lives Matter and, to some extent, the modern women’s movement. Values always need to be upfront.

Perhaps most of all, you need to keep in mind that change is always possible. If you looked at Serbia in 1999, what you would have seen was a country ruled by a ruthless dictator with no effective opposition. Occupy only had a few hundred members at the time. A year later, Occupy had grown to 70,000 members and Milošević was out of office. A few years after that, he died in his cell at The Hague.

Very few change efforts have to overcome those kinds of odds, but using the same principle—those that I write about in Cascades—you can bring real change about, whether that change is in your organization, your industry, your community or throughout society as a whole.


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