Never Stop Looking for Improvement

Never Stop Looking for Improvement

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

If it’s working fine, why mess with it?

Well, whatever “it” is may work just fine, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be better.

This idea came to me as I read an article about United Airlines changing the way passengers board the plane. Most airlines put passengers in groups and call them in order. United will continue doing this but make changes to some of the groups. First-class passengers and higher-level frequent fliers won’t notice, but there will be a change once Group 4 is called. Passengers with window seats will board first, followed by passengers in middle seats, and eventually, passengers with aisle seats. This new process will save two minutes.

Now, you might be thinking, “Two minutes. Big deal!” But, in the airline business, two minutes is a big deal. A mismanaged boarding process could delay the departure and cause disruptions throughout the day. So, while two minutes may not seem like much, the goal is to always look for ways to streamline an often chaotic process.

Improvement Cartoon of Shep Hyken

This story has at least two lessons. First, every company should tinker with what’s working by experimenting and looking for better ways to do “what they’ve always done,” even if it’s working. And second, small changes can add up to make a bigger difference when combined.

So, you have two choices:

  1. Do it the way you’ve always done it. Don’t question it. If it works, don’t try to change it. Unfortunately, many companies operate this way and miss opportunities to improve.
  2. Always look to improve everything, even when it’s working well. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing something that works, come back on a regular basis – maybe annually – and take a closer look. This is an excellent way to use a Journey Map. Look at every interaction point a customer has with your organization and ask, “Is there a way to make it better?” While there may not be a better way today, keep asking the question; you might find one over time.

Zig Ziglar, the famous motivational speaker, used to tell a story of a little girl who asked her mom, “Why do we cut the end off the roast before we put it in the oven?” Mom answered, “Because that’s how your grandmother taught me to cook it.” So, the little girl went to her grandmother and asked the same question. Grandma answered, “Because that’s how your great-grandmother taught me.” So, the little girl went to her great-grandmother and asked the same question. Great Grandma responded, “Because back then, the ovens were smaller than they are today, so we had to cut off the end to get it to fit.”

The moral of the story is if something worked yesterday, that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do today. Always look for improvement.

Image Credits: Shep Hyken, Pexels

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Ignite Innovation with These 3 Key Ingredients

Ignite Innovation with These 3 Key Ingredients

GUEST POST from Howard Tiersky

The team at FROM has worked with dozens and dozens of companies to create innovative new products, processes, and channels to connect with customers. It’s very rewarding work for many reasons, one of which is the incredible people we get to work with at our clients. In fact, we find over and over that our clients have teams with tremendous knowledge, vision, and passion to serve their customers. And yet, it can sometimes take an outside force (like us) to unleash their full creative potential or to catalyze the action need to move an idea forward along the pathway of value. Why is that?

Having observed many companies go through transformations that yielded massively innovative thinking and action from teams that were previously struggling, the difference usually boils down to something that had been missing in the company’s culture, processes, or environment. But what?

Consider this analogy. To create fire you must have three key ingredients:

  1. Some type of fuel
  2. Oxygen
  3. A spark or source of heat to start the reaction.

These ingredients are all necessary for the reaction to occur. If any is missing, nothing happens. The dormant potential is not realized.

It’s a similar pattern with sparking innovation. There are three key ingredients. When these are present, amazing things can happen. And when any is missing, there’s no reward structure or corporate mandate that can create the magic.

The human mind is an incredible problem-solving machine, and it works best when given a very clear and precise goal.

1. Focused Objective

The first ingredient is a Focused Objective. This is the SPARK of innovation. The human mind is an incredible problem-solving machine, and it works best when given a very clear and precise goal. Defining the right objective that you want your innovation team to churn on is the first step in empowering them. If you want your team to create a more innovative doorknob, that’s somewhat specific. However figuring out how to create a doorknob that looks like brass, lasts for at least 10 years with normal residential use, and can retail for no more than $19.99 is a much more specific objective. The brain is more resourceful when it really understands the target it is shooting for.

Where does such specificity come from? We use a concept in our innovation framework that we call Cascading Innovation.

  • It might have been a prior team’s innovation output to figure out that a $19.99 “faux brass” doorknob is what the market wants. Their specific objective might have been to determine what gaps exist in the doorknob market where the company could generate at least $50M in incremental sales by 2014 through existing retail channels.
  • That input might have come to them from yet another team whose focus was to figure out which market in residential hardware has the greatest potential for growth over the next 5 years, perhaps they concluded it was doorknobs.


When articulating a focused objective, it is very important to clearly define the correct constraints.

On one hand, we want to drive innovation, and so we want to be careful not to state the objective or the problem too much in the terms of the current “legacy” solution to the problem. Henry Ford said, “If I’d asked people what they want, they’d have said a faster horse.” So avoid defining the problem as “a faster horse” versus “a faster way to travel.”

At the same time, all creativity exists within some kind of framework, whether it’s the structure of a haiku poem or a painting created within a defined frame.

What’s fabulous about clear constraints is that once all the constraints are clear, then we can tell the teams with confidence that any solution which solves the problem within the constraints is fair game, even if it looks nothing like what anybody expects. That is very liberating.

Henry Ford said “If I’d asked people what they want they’d have said a faster horse.”

2. Information

The second ingredient to ignite innovation is Information. Relevant information is the FUEL of innovation. Our doorknob team is hopefully populated with some individuals who have some of their own stored information in the form of personal experience in the doorknob biz. But collecting the right additional information and making it easy for the team to organize and internalize it is key. Information might include: competitive examples of other low cost doorknobs which have or have not been successful; market research about consumer needs; materials prices for a variety of different low cost metals along with information about their durability. Figuring out the right information with which to FUEL your team will allow them to burn hotter and longer on the problem.

There are three ways to get the information to feed your team:

The people you choose for the team bring different backgrounds and experience to the table. On the projects on which we consult, significant thought goes into the right composition of the client’s innovation team to bring different backgrounds, knowledge, personalities and perspective to bear.

  1. Once assembled, each team member’s individual knowledge will be an information resource to him/herself, as a member of the team. The team’s collective knowledge will be a resource to the entire team if you structure the collaboration to foster knowledge sharing.
  2. Secondary research such as market studies, government statistics, materials analysis, etc can provide critical reference. Gathering the full gamut of available information and structuring it so that it is easily digested and referenced can be a sizable undertaking, but is critical to giving the team both information that may yield flashes of valuable insight as well as the tools they need to evaluate and prioritize ideas as they are generated.
  3. Primary research that your team participates in, such as talking to customers and building and testing physical prototypes, is another way to get the information to fuel your team. There is no substitute for personal experience.

You can also think of two key “buckets” of information that together form the ideal fuel.

1. Knowledge of the problem space

  • Who are the users for whom we are innovating? What do we understand about their needs?
  • Has this problem been solved before or have prior attempts been made? What was the approach and what were the results?
  • How can a potential solution’s effectiveness be measured? How will we know when the problem is solved?
  • Has anyone solved or attempted to solve a similar problem which may be instructive?

2. Knowledge of the resources that are available to create the solution

  • Details on the rules regarding any constraints that must be met for a successful approach (e.g. regulatory restrictions or distribution restrictions)
  • Specific characteristics of different materials or processes, that either enable or hamper their use in particular ways
  • Information on new technologies that can be leveraged in the solution

There is a wonderful scene in Apollo 13 where the team has to figure out how to keep the astronauts alive until re-entry even though the Co2 “scrubbers” in the command module have failed, causing the air to become slowly poisoned. The leader of the Mission Control team tasked with solving this problem dumps onto the table all the “stuff” they have in the command module and tells the team “we have to figure out how to make this (the large square filters they have) fit into the hole for this (the smaller round filters that have failed) using nothing but this (the pile of miscellaneous stuff on the table which mirrors the available material in the command module). Watch this one minute clip it’s a great example of a clear focused objective with clear information about the resources available to solve the problem:

3. Freedom

And so what is the OXYGEN we need to finish the recipe? Freedom is the OXYGEN of innovation. What do we mean by freedom? In daily “business as usual” there are a variety of things that hold us back — which suppress the natural release of our latent creativity just as lack of oxygen snuffs out a campfire. Here are a few of the barriers to freedom and how we overcome them.

  1. Fear. Fear of looking foolish and fear of political repercussions are the two greatest risks to innovation. These fears hold back new ideas and honest discourse regarding ideas that do come forth. These are best overcome with culture. In our innovation workshops we stress rules such as “leave rank at the door,” and highlight the value of bad ideas.
  2. Patterns. We all have certain patterns we follow. Those patterns are the grooves in the road that make it hard to find a new path and they are the shackles that keep us from thinking freely. There are many ways to break patterns. Some techniques we use in our innovation frameworks and workshops include: working in a different type of workspace, music, toys, time compression, physical activity/games and mixing teams in unexpected ways.
  3. Assumptions. People have assumptions about what can or can’t be done, what the company will or won’t allow, what the market will or won’t accept. However most successful innovations break existing assumptions. One of the reasons its important to state the problem and its constraints with great care is that in doing so we let the innovation team know those are all the assumptions they should respect, anything else should be challenged. We also conduct exercises specifically designed to remove assumptions. One great example is the “Google exercise.” It works like this. People perceive Google as innovative. So we tell people: “Google just bought your company, and they put their most innovative team on the problem. How would they solve it?” (and it can work with Apple or Facebook as well). This context puts people outside their normal assumptions about what is possible in their environment and even, strangely enough, frees them from their own limiting beliefs about their own imaginations. The team may come back and say, “Well the guys at Google would do this wild innovative thing, but that’s the sort of thing we’d never come up with here at Acme corporation.” Uh oh, tricked you! You just did.
  4. Faith. The last component of freedom is faith. A lack of faith can stifle innovation. Teams must believe that solutions to the challenge exist and that they are more than capable of arriving at them.

So those are the three ingredients to ignite innovation: a clear set of objectives to spark the FIRE, a rich set of information to FUEL it, and an atmosphere of freedom acting as OXYGEN so the flame can breathe.

This article originally appeared on the Howard Tiersky blog
Image Credits: Unsplash

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Positive Power of Negative Emotions Drive Change

Positive Power of Negative Emotions Drive Change

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

You want to make life better for others. This desire is reflected in the optimism and positivity of your language – create value, love the problem, and delight the customer.  But making life better requires change, and, as the adage goes, “People want change, but they don’t want to be changed.”

You are confident that the solution you created will make life better and that the change people need to make is quite small and painless, well worth the dramatic improvement you offer.  Yet they resist.  No amount of explaining, showing, convincing, or cajoling changes their mind.  What else can you do?

To quote Darth Vader, “Give yourself to the Dark Side.  It is the only way to save your friends.”

“If only you knew the power of the Dark Side…”

The Dark Side is populated by “negative” emotions like anger, fear, and frustration, which are incredibly powerful.

Consider that:

Unfortunately, these are also some of the first emotions experienced when confronting change.   

Change requires people to let go of what they know in exchange for the promise of something better.  This immediately triggers Loss Aversion, the cognitive bias in which the pain of losing is psychologically twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining. 

As a result, people won’t let go of what they know until the pain of holding on becomes unbearable.  When you point out the problems and pain of the current situation, you help people understand and experience the unbearableness of the current situation. 

“Anger, fear, aggression; the Dark Side of the Force are they”

Not every “negative” emotion elicits the same behavior, so carefully choose the one to tap into.

Fear motivates people to seek safety, which can be good if your solution truly offers a safer alternative.  It’s a motivator used well by companies such as Volvo, SimpliSafe, and Graco.  But lean on it too much, and people may feel overwhelmed and remain frozen to the status quo.

Anger motivates people to take risks, which can be good when the change requires bold decisions and dogged persistence.  It can be great when it bonds people together to achieve a shared goal or protect a common value.  Apple used this emotion to brilliant effect in its famous “1984” commercial announcing the launch of Macintosh.  But incite too much anger, and things can get broken and not in a helpful way like Apple’s ad.

Frustration, one of the emotions that often drives aggression, is anger’s polite little sister.  When people feel frustrated, they’re likely to act, persistently pursue solutions, and creatively approach and overcome obstacles.  But if the change is big, feels scary, and puts their sense of self at risk, frustration isn’t powerful enough to convince people to let go of the old and embrace the new.

“If you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.”

Yoda is incredibly wise, but he gets this one wrong.  Using the Dark Side to speak to people’s “negative” emotions doesn’t doom you to a life or career of fear-mongering or inciting violence.  Start here, don’t stay here.

Multiple research studies show that positive emotions, like hope and joy, are more powerful than negative ones in maintaining motivation and even enable more creative thinking and problem-solving.  By speaking to both negative and positive emotions, the Dark Side and the Light, you enable change by giving people a reason to let go of the past and a future worth reaching for.

When people stop resisting and start reaching to the future you’re offering, change happens, and you realize that Yoda was right, “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

Image credit: Pixabay

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Trust as a Competitive Advantage

Trust as a Competitive Advantage

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

One of the most rewarding things about writing my book Mapping Innovation was talking to the innovators themselves. All of them were prominent (one recently won the Nobel Prize), but I found them to be the among the kindest and most generous people you can imagine, nothing like the difficult and mercurial stereotype.

At first, this may seem counterintuitive, because any significant innovation takes ambition, drive and persistence. Yet a study at the design firm IDEO sheds some light. It found that great innovators are essentially knowledge brokers who place themselves at the center of information networks. To do that, you need to build trust.

A report from Accenture Strategy analyzing over 7,000 firms found this effect to be even more widespread than I had thought. When evaluating competitive agility, it found trust “disproportionately impacts revenue and EBITDA.” The truth is that to compete effectively you need to build deep bonds of trust throughout a complex ecosystem of stakeholders.

From Value Chain To Value Ecosystem

In Michael Porter’s landmark book, Competitive Advantage, the Harvard professor argued that the key to long-term success was to dominate the value chain by maximizing bargaining power among suppliers, customers, new market entrants and substitute goods. The goal was to create a sustainable competitive advantage your rivals couldn’t hope to match.

Many of the great enterprises of the 20th century were built along those lines. Firms like General Motors under Alfred Sloan, IBM under Thomas J. Watson (and later, his son Thomas Watson Jr.) as well as others so thoroughly dominated the value chains in their respective industries that they were able to maintain leading positions in their industries for decades.

Clearly, much has changed since Porter wrote his book nearly 40 years ago. Today, we live in a networked world and competitive advantage is no longer the sum of all efficiencies, but the sum of all connections. Strategy, therefore, must be focused on widening and deepening links to resources outside the firm.

So you can see why trust has taken on greater importance. Today, firms like General Motors and IBM need to manage a complex ecosystem of partners, suppliers, investors and customer relationships and these depend on trust. If one link is broken anywhere in the ecosystem, the others will weaken too and business will suffer.

The Cost Of A Trust Event

The study was not originally designed to measure the effect of trust specifically, but overall competitive agility. It looked at revenue growth and profitability over time and then incorporated metrics measuring Sustainability and Trust to get a larger picture of a firm’s ability to compete.

The Accenture Strategy analysis is wide ranging, incorporating over 4 million data points. It also included Arabesque’s S-Ray data from over 50,000 sources to come up with a quantitative score and rate companies on their sustainability practices, as well as a proprietary measurement of trust across customers, employees, investors, suppliers, analysts, and the media.

Yet when the analysts began to examine the data, they found that the trust metrics disproportionately affected the overall score. For example, a consumer focused company that had a sustainability-oriented publicity event backfire lost an estimated $400 million in future revenues. Another company that was named in a money laundering scandal lost $1 billion.

All too often, acting expediently is seen as being pragmatic, because cutting corners can save you money up front. Yet what the report makes clear is that companies today need to start taking trust more seriously. In today’s voraciously competitive environment, taking a major hit of any kind can hamstring operations for years and sometimes permanently.

Where Trust Hits The Hardest

When the issues of trust come up, we immediately think about consumers. With social media increasing the velocity of information, even a seemingly minor incident can go viral, causing widespread outrage. That kind of thing can send customers flocking to competitors.

Yet as I dug into the report’s data more deeply, I found that the effect varied widely by industry. For example, in manufacturing, media and insurance, the cost of a trust incident was fairly low, but in industries such as banking, retail and industrial services, the impact could be five to ten times higher.

What seems to make the difference is that industries that are most sensitive to a trust event have more complex ecosystems. For example, a retail operation needs to maintain strong relationships with hundreds and sometimes thousands of suppliers. Banking, on the other hand, is highly sensitive to the cost of capital. A drop in trust can send costs surging.

Further, in industries like high tech and industrial services, companies need to stay on the cutting edge to compete. That requires highly collaborative partnerships with other companies to share knowledge and expertise. Once trust is lost, it’s devilishly hard to earn back and competitors gain an edge.

Building Resiliency

The trust problem is amazingly widespread. Accenture found that 54% of firms in the study experienced some kind of trust event and these can come from anywhere: a careless employee, a data breach, a defective product, etc. Yet Jessica Long, one of the Accenture Strategy Managing Directors who led the study, told me that a company can improve its resiliency significantly.

“It’s not so much a matter of preventing a trust event,” she says. “The world is a messy place and things happen. The real difference is how you respond and the resiliency you’ve built up through forging strong foundations in the crucial components of competitive agility: growth, profitability, sustainability and trust.”

Think about Steve Jobs and Apple, which encountered a number of trust events during his tenure. However, because he so clearly demonstrated his commitment to “insanely great” products, customers, employees and partners were more forgiving than they would be with another company. Or, more recently, the scandal when two men were arrested at a Starbucks store. Because Howard Schultz has built a reputation for fairness and because he acted decisively, the impact was far less than it could have been.

Perhaps most crucial is to build a culture of empathy. One of the things that most surprised me about the innovators I researched for my book is that many seemed almost as interested in me and my project as I was in them. I could see how others would want to work with them and share information and insights. It was that kind of access that led them to solve problems no one else could.

What the Accenture report shows is that the same thing is true for profit seeking companies. The best strategy to build trust is to actually be trustworthy. Think about how your actions affect customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders and treat their success as you would your own.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog and previously appeared on
— Image credits: Pixabay

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Companies Are Not Families

Companies Are Not Families

GUEST POST from David Burkus

It’s unclear where the metaphor got started. In fact, it probably didn’t start as a metaphor (“we are a family”); it probably started as a simile (“we are like a family”). Some well-meaning executive somewhere described the company culture as feeling like a family. (That a high-powered CEO would feel like the paternalistic chief of anything is a dilemma for a different article).

Over time, more and more corporate leaders started using “like family” until logically one decided to take it to the next level and skip the “like” altogether boasting “we’re a family.”

But a company is not a family.

And further a company shouldn’t be a family.

When companies began to overuse the family analogy, results are rarely positive. Instead, pushing for family levels of commitment can actually do damage to the culture. And in this article, we’ll outline the ways that the “family” metaphor can lead to dysfunction. As well as the steps team leaders can take to transform their dysfunctional fake families back into the thriving work teams they were trying to build in the first place.

[Watch the Video Above or Keep Scrolling to Read]

What Happens When We’re “Family”

Misusing the “family” metaphor at work can lead to several ways employees get abused. Three in particular stand out.

1. Work/Life Boundaries Get Blurred

Many of the organizations that emphasize the family feel end up taking actions that blur the lines between work and life for most employees. This was seen much more often before the pandemic, when companies flouted free food, dry cleaning, endless parties, and all sorts of amenities designed to make life as easy as possible—as long as you never left work. But that became a problem unto itself. Employees never left work, opting to spend more and more time with their “work family” but never getting the downtime needed to be sustainably productive.

Committed Employees Get Taken Advantage Of

When companies or even team leaders overemphasize the family metaphor, the next logical step is asking for family-level committed from employees. This creates a lot of opportunities for leaders to take advantage of employees. One project after another gets taken on, without considering existing commitments and making it difficult for employees to say no. Beyond overload, over-committed employees can also be asked to commit more and more unethical actions. When the survival of the company—sorry, the family—is a stake, employees can feel pressured to use any means necessary. See Theranos or WeWork for two recent examples.

3. Departing Employees Get Labeled as Betrayers

If those employees decide the don’t like blurry boundaries (around work and life or around ethics) and choose to move on—that creates a whole new issue. In organizations that overemphasize family, it becomes easy to label to departures as a form of betrayal. It’s not uncommon for companies to cut off all communication with former employees and instruct their people to do the same. Beyond being just plain wrong, this mindset can actually limit a company—since research shows former colleagues that stay connected become potent sources new knowledge for each other and their new employers.

What’s Wrong With Team?

The intent behind labeling a company as a family might have been noble. We want a strong culture or people bonded to each other and pushing each other to new levels of performance. But if that’s what we want, what’s wrong with just calling that a team? Strong teams deliver exactly that. And whether you’re in a company that’s abusing the family metaphor or not, here’s a few actions you can take to build a stronger team.

1. Redefine Purpose

One of the reasons for choosing the family metaphor was a poorly executed attempt at bonding teams and organizations together. But just saying you’re a family doesn’t build bonds. Instead, research suggests that one of the most potent ways to bond a team is by pointing to super-ordinate goals—goals so big they require collaboration. And for organizations, the super-ordinate goal is most often the stated purpose or mission. But even here, there’s work to be done. Most organizations write lofty mission statements that are difficult for employees to connect with. It falls on team leaders to translate that lofty purpose into one that bonds and motivates. And the best way to do that is to redefine it from a big and bold “why” (why do we do what we do?) to a specific “who” (who is helped by the work that we do).

2. Encourage Boundaries

Despite what it may seem like at first, committed employees isn’t always a positive. The line between committed and over-committed people is incredibly thin. Many managers think they want people who will work until the project is done—arriving early and staying late if need be. But the truth is that in a modern economy, work is never done. So, the only way to stay sustainably productive is to make sure every employee enjoys down time as well. More and more companies are experimenting with ways to encourage boundaries such as forbidding after hours email, moving to four-day workweeks, and even paying people to take their vacation time. And results all suggest the same thing: time away from work makes work better.

3. Celebrate Departures

No matter how committed employees are some of them will move on. New opportunities present themselves. Life changes happen. And so do plenty of other reasons for an employee to look elsewhere. In the face of this inevitability, treating departures like betrayals never made sense. Instead, departures ought to be celebrated. Employees who leave on good terms ought to be seen as alumni representing the organization even in their new endeavors. In addition to information, departing employees become a powerful new source of referrals for new hires too. There is no better recruiter than a satisfied former employee now working in a new company talking with their potentially dissatisfied new colleagues. In addition, treating employees well as they’re departing has a motivating effect on the employees who stay, as they watch how positively their former colleagues were treated and trust that they’ll be treated the same one day too.

Calling your company a family, may have been a well-meaning metaphor, but it hasn’t been a very useful one. Most employees don’t want a dysfunctional family. They want a team that’s bonded through purpose and built on trust and respect. They don’t want to be seen as family one day and divorced family the next. They want to know their contribution was valuable even after they leave. They don’t want leaders who over-commit and abuse them.

They want leaders who help them do their best work ever.

Image credit: David Burkus

Originally published on LinkedIn on December 9, 2021

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The Tension Between Yes and No

The Tension Between Yes and No

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

If the project could obsolete your best work, do it. Otherwise, do something else.

But first, makes sure there’s solid execution on the turn-the-crank projects that pay the bills.

If you always say yes to projects, you never have the bandwidth to do the magical work no one is asking for.

When was the last time you used your discretion to work on a project of your choosing? How do you feel about that?

If you’re told to stop the project by the most successful business unit, stomp on the accelerator.

The best projects aren’t the ones with the best ROI. The best projects are the ones that threaten success.

If you’re certain of a project’s ROI, there is no novelty.

If the project has novelty, you can’t predict the ROI. All you can do is decide if it’s worth doing.

There’s a big difference between calculating an ROI and predicting the commercial success of a project.

If your company demands certainty, you can be certain the new projects will be just like the old ones.

If the success of a project hinges on work hasn’t been done before, you may have a winner.

Say yes to predictability and you say no to novelty.

Say no to novelty and you say no to innovation.

Say no to innovation and you say no to growth.

Say no to growth and the game is over.

Say no to good projects so you can say yes to the magical ones.

Say no to ROI so you work on projects that could reinvent the industry.

If the project doesn’t excite, just say no.

Image credit: Pexels

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24 Customer Experience Mistakes to Stop in 2024

24 Customer Experience Mistakes to Stop in 2024

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

My friend and fellow Customer Experience (CX) expert Brittany Hodak and I recently began a 52-week series for 2024 titled Shep and Brittany’s Super Amazing Show. In the second episode, rather than talk about what to do in 2024, we shared several tips on what not to do. More specifically, it’s about what we should stop doing. That inspired me and I thought it would be fun to put together a list of twenty-four (24) CX things to stop doing in 2024.

Now, this is important: Not everyone or every company is doing any or all of these. You and your organization may not be guilty of even one of these, but discussing the list can get you thinking about other things to stop doing or give you an idea of something to start doing. So, here are 24 things companies do that annoy their customers and that need to stop:

1. Stop wasting your customers’ time. If you can’t do something for them, tell them. Help them find alternatives. Don’t string your customer along.

2. Stop with long hold times. This is a major way of wasting a customer’s time. Along with this are those recorded messages that say “we are sorry and respect your time” … but we’re still too busy to answer your call. If you can’t stop long hold times, tell the customer how long it will be with an option to call back.

3. Stop using outdated technology. Your competitors will start using newer technologies, and guess what? Your customers might notice.

4. Stop using company jargon and technical language your customers might not understand. They become very frustrated.

5. Stop with the irritating “pop-ups” on websites. People hate when they land on a website and a window pops up before they can start reading the content. Then another, and sometimes another! There’s a right time and right way to do it. Keep the customer in mind when you allow “pop-up windows” on your website.

6. Stop saying, “No problem,” when your customer says, “Thank you.” Was it a problem? Of course not. For some reason, this has become a standard response, and even if it really wasn’t a problem, it is just the wrong response. Just say, “Your welcome,” or, “My pleasure.”

7. Stop with unnecessary apologies. Some people say, “I’m sorry,” again and again. I’m not suggesting you don’t apologize to customers when there is a problem or complaint. You should, but don’t over-apologize. It’s not necessary. An apology at the beginning of taking care of the conversation is appropriate. And a “thank you” and final apology at the end is always appreciated. But repeatedly saying “I’m sorry” could come across as defensive and insincere.

8. Stop focusing only on your customers when working on your CX and service initiatives. Employees must also be considered. A great customer experience starts with a great employee experience.

9. Stop spamming customers with too many unwanted messages.

10. Stop sending your customers generic messages (promotions, notes, emails, etc.). If you’re going to send a message, find a way to personalize it. And even if it is personalized, go back and re-read number nine.

11. Get out of the “one-size-fits-all” mindset. This falls under the topic of personalization, but this is not about a marketing message. We must recognize and embrace people’s differences in today’s diverse culture.

12. Stop causing friction. What part of your process could go away? Do you force your customers to take extra steps to do business with you? Find ways to eliminate anything that causes friction.

13. Stop ignoring your customers’ feedback. If the customer takes the time to share a comment, thank them, and if it is appropriate, do something with it.

14. Stop arguing with customers, even when they are wrong. I’ve written this many times before: The customer is NOT always right, but they are always the customer. So let them be wrong with dignity and respect.

15. Stop making your customers wait for you to respond. Get back to people within an appropriate time. Don’t make them wait.

16. Stop being inflexible. If you have standards and processes that customers don’t like, they will find someone else to do business with. NOTE: Some standards could fall under compliance of legal standards. It’s okay to not be flexible on those!

17. Don’t hide add-on fees from your customers. Some hotels are upsetting their guests with resort fees that can only be found in the small print.

18. Stop nickel-and-diming your customers. This is different than hidden fees. It’s about the customer accruing an extra charge every time they turn around.

19. Stop being afraid to tell your customers bad news. They may not like the news, but they will appreciate hearing about it from you directly.

20. Stop making customers come to you when you can go to them. When it comes to convenience, always put the customer first.

21. Stop ignoring your employees’ suggestions. People on the front line are more in sync with customers than anyone. Make it easy for them to let management and leadership know about opportunities to improve.

22. Stop relying solely on digital interactions. Some companies have eliminated customers’ ability to connect with a live customer support agent. Don’t become so enamored with technology that you forget that the most powerful relationship builder is the human-to-human experience.

23. Stop with the bad survey strategy. Surveys can be sent too quickly, too frequently and are often too long. A bad survey taints the customer experience.

24. Never stop trying. Never be complacent. Customer service and CX are continuing journeys that must continually be refreshed and renewed to keep up with the competition and your customers’ needs.

Hopefully you didn’t recognize yourself in any of these scenarios that frustrate customers, but if there’s something you need to work on, now is the time. Most importantly, number twenty-four applies to everyone—never stop trying! There’s always something new on the horizon to advance your customer service and customer experience (CX).

This article originally appeared on

Image Credits: Shep Hyken

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The Collective Growth Mindset

The Collective Growth Mindset

GUEST POST from Stefan Lindegaard

What makes a team great? It’s a loaded question. Let’s dive in: you’re a team player, yes? But does your team prioritize collective growth and psychological safety? If so, there’s always room for further enhancement.

Here’s my perspective, based on interacting with teams globally:

1. Collective Growth Mindset: Teams thrive with curious learners, not just know-it-alls.

2. Psychological Safety: Embrace constructive feedback, hard conversations, and risk-taking in a secure environment.

3. Clear Purpose: Ensure team objectives resonate personally, answering “what’s in it for me?”

4. Trust and Transparency: Despite potential risks, mutual trust, dependability, and transparency yield substantial rewards.

5. Execution: All the above mean nothing without effective execution. Support and mandate are crucial.

6. Have Fun: A joyful environment can enhance productivity and team spirit.

Which of these elements resonates most with you? Is something missing in this list? I’m curious on your thoughts and open for a discussion on how your team can get even better.

The Collective Growth Mindset Stefan Lindegaard

Image Credit: Pexels

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3 Innovation Lessons from The Departed

3 Innovation Lessons from The Departed

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

It’s award season, which means that, as a resident of Boston, I have the responsibility and privilege to talk about The Departed (pronounced: The Dep-ah-ted).  The film won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2007 and earned Martin Scorsese his first, and to date only, Academy Award for Best Director.  It is also chock-full of great lessons for corporate innovators.

Quick Synopsis

If you’ve seen The Departed, you can skip this part.  If you haven’t, why not and read on.

The Departed is loosely based on notorious Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger and features three main characters:

  1. Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), a vicious and slightly unhinged Irish mob boss
  2. Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a Massachusetts State Trooper in the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) formed to catch Costello, who, in his spare time, is a spy for Costello.
  3. Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), a police academy recruit who goes undercover to infiltrate Costello’s organization

But wait!  There’s more.  Alec Baldwin plays Colin’s SIU boss, George Ellerby.  Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg (who received an Oscar nomination for this role) play Billy’s Mass State Police (MSP) bosses, Captain Queenan and Staff Sergeant Dignam, respectively.  Completing the chaos is Vera Farmiga, who plays Madolyn Madden, Colin’s girlfriend and Billy’s court-ordered psychiatrist.

There’s a lot of other stuff going on, but that gives you enough context for the following quotes to hopefully make sense.

Listen to the words people use.

Colin (after Dignam refuses to hand over undercover files): I need those passwords.

Ellerby: No, you want those passwords

It’s not often that Ellerby says something useful, let alone wise, but he nails it with this one.  Colin wants the passwords to Dignam’s files on undercover agents because it will make both Colin’s official job of finding Costello’s rat in the MSP and his unofficial job of finding the MSP officer in Costello’s crew easier.  He doesn’t need the passwords, however, because, with enough time and effort, he can find the rats he’s looking for.

When we hear from customers that they want something, it’s tempting to run off and create it.  But as Ellerby points out, wants and needs are different.  Just because customers want something doesn’t mean they are willing to pay for or change their behavior to get and use it. 

Figuring out what a customer needs is difficult because it requires them to trust you enough to admit they have a problem they can’t solve.  It’s also difficult because most of us have access to solutions to our functional needs (think the bottom few layers of Maslow’s hierarchy).  As a result, the needs consumers grapple with tend to be emotional and social, and it’s far more challenging to admit those to a stranger, especially in a focus group or product-focused interview.

How you feel impacts everyone around you

Madolyn (after a counseling session): Why is the last patient of the day always the hardest?

Billy: Because you’re tired, and you don’t give a sh*t.  It’s not super-natural.

Billy and Madolyn get off to a rough start in their first counseling session, culminating in Billy asking for a prescription for Valium.  Madolyn calls him out for “drug-seeking behavior” and throws two Valiums across the desk before Billy storms out.  A few minutes later, Madolyn catches up with Billy, hands him a prescription for Valium, and asks the above question.

Being a corporate innovator can be difficult, sometimes soul-crushing work (ask the good people at Store 8).  It can also be thrilling and inspiring.  It can even be all those things in one day.  That’s what makes it tiring, even when you give a sh*t. 

Managing your energy and monitoring your behavior are leadership qualities we don’t discuss often enough.  It’s okay to be exhausted after a day of facilitating ideation sessions or intense strategic meetings.  It’s normal to be frustrated after a contentious conversation or demotivated when you get bad news.  But leaders usually find a way to not take those emotions out on their teams.  And, in the rare instance when they punish the team for someone else’s sin, they apologize and explain. 

Your job is not your identity.

Billy: Look, I just want my identity back, all right?  That’s all.

Colin: All right, I understand.  You want to be a cop again.

Billy: No, no, being a cop’s not an identity.  I want my identity back.

Towards the end of the film, Billy is tired of working undercover and reports to MSP headquarters to complete the paperwork required to expunge his criminal record and get his identity back.  That’s when Colin makes the same mistake most of us make and confuses Billy’s job with his identity.

We spend so much time at work.  We rely on our paychecks for so much.  We even introduce ourselves to new people using our job titles.  It’s easy for your job to feel like your identity, especially when your job aligns so closely with your deeply held beliefs and values.  But your job is not your identity.  You are still a Tempered Radical, even without your corporate title.   You are still an optimistic problem-solver, even when it’s been months since your last brainstorming session. 

You are an innovator, even if you don’t have a business card to prove it.

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Don’t Blame Technology When Innovation Goes Wrong

Don't Blame Technology When Innovation Goes Wrong

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

When I speak at conferences, I’ve noticed that people are increasingly asking me about the unintended consequences of technological advance. As our technology becomes almost unimaginably powerful, there is growing apprehension and fear that we will be unable to control what we create.

This, of course, isn’t anything new. When trains first appeared, many worried that human bodies would melt at the high speeds. In ancient Greece, Plato argued that the invention of writing would destroy conversation. None of these things ever came to pass, of course, but clearly technology has changed the world for good and bad.

The truth is that we can’t fully control technology any more than we can fully control nature or each other. The emergence of significant new technologies unleash forces we can’t hope to understand at the outset and struggle to deal with long after. Yet the most significant issues are most likely to be social in nature and those are the ones we desperately need to focus on.

The Frankenstein Archetype

It’s no accident that Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein was published at roughly the same time as the Luddite movement was in full swing. As cottage industries were replaced by smoke belching factories, the sense that man’s creations could turn against him was palpable and the gruesome tale, considered by many to be the first true work of science fiction, touched a nerve.

In many ways, trepidation about technology can be healthy. Concern about industrialization led to social policies that helped mitigate its worst effects. In much the same way, scientists concerned about the threat of nuclear Armageddon did much to help establish policies that would prevent it.

Yet the initial fears almost always prove to be unfounded. While the Luddites burned mills and smashed machines to prevent their economic disenfranchisement, the industrial age led to a rise in the living standards of working people. In a similar vein, more advanced weapons has coincided with a reduction of violent deaths throughout history.

On the other hand, the most challenging aspects of technological advance are often things that we do not expect. While industrialization led to rising incomes, it also led to climate change, something neither the fears of the Luddites nor the creative brilliance of Shelley could have ever conceived of.

The New Frankensteins

Today, the technologies we create will shape the world as never before. Artificially intelligent systems are automating not only physical, but cognitive labor. Gene editing techniques, such as CRISPR, are enabling us to re-engineer life itself. Digital and social media have reshaped human discourse.

So it’s not surprising that there are newfound fears about where it’s all going. A study at Oxford found that 47% of US jobs are at risk of being automated over the next 20 years. The speed and ease of gene editing raises the possibility of biohackers wreaking havoc and the rise of social media has coincided with a disturbing rise of authoritarianism around the globe.

Yet I suspect these fears are mostly misplaced. Instead of massive unemployment, we find ourselves in a labor shortage. While it is true that the biohacking is a real possibility, our increased ability to cure disease will most probably greatly exceed the threat. The increased velocity of information also allows good ideas to travel faster and farther.

On the other hand, these technologies will undoubtedly unleash new challenges that we are only beginning to understand. Artificial intelligence raises disturbing questions about what it means to be human, just as the power of genomics will force us to grapple with questions about the nature of the individual and social media forces us to define the meaning of truth.

Revealing And Building

Clearly, Shelly and the Luddites were very different. While Shelley was an aristocratic intellectual, the Luddites were working class weavers. Yet both saw the rise of technology as the end to a way of life and, in that way, both were right. Technology, if nothing else, forces us to adapt, often in ways we don’t expect.

In his 1954 essay, The Question Concerning Technology the German philosopher Martin Heidegger sheds some light on these issues. He described technology as akin to art, in that it reveals truths about the nature of the world, brings them forth and puts them to some specific use. In the process, human nature and its capacity for good and evil is also revealed.

He gives the example of a hydroelectric dam, which reveals the energy of a river and puts it to use making electricity. In much the same sense, Mark Zuckerberg did not “build” a social network at Facebook, but took natural human tendencies and channeled them in a particular way. After all, we go online not for bits or electrons, but to connect with each other.

Yet in another essay, Building Dwelling Thinking, he explains that building also plays an important role, because to build for the world, we first must understand what it means to live in it. The revealing power of technology forces us to rethink old truths and re-imagine new societal norms. That, more than anything else, is where the challenges lie.

Learning To Ask The Hard Questions

We are now nearing the end of the digital age and entering a new era of innovation which will likely be more impactful than anything we’ve seen since the rise of electricity and internal combustion a century ago. This, in turn, will initiate a new cycle of revealing and building that will be as challenging as anything humanity has ever faced.

So while it is unlikely that we will ever face a robot uprising, artificial intelligence does pose a number of troubling questions. Should safety systems in a car prioritize the life of a passenger or a pedestrian? Who is accountable for the decisions an automated system makes? We worry about who is teaching our children, but scarcely stop to think about who is training our algorithms.

These are all questions that need answers within the next decade. Beyond that, we will have further quandaries to unravel, such as what is the nature of work and how do we value it? How should we deal with the rising inequality that automation creates? Who should benefit from technological breakthroughs?

The unintentional consequences of technology have less to do with the relationship between us and our inventions than it does between us and each other. Every technological shift brings about a societal shift that reshapes values and norms. Clearly, we are not helpless, but we are responsible. These are very difficult questions and we need to start asking them. Only then can we begin the cycle of revealing truths and building a better future.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog and previously appeared on
— Image credits: Pixabay

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