Learning to Innovate

Learning to Innovate

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

One of my coaching clients shared with me recently how she was feeling insecure in her job role and lacking motivation. The company she works for is acknowledged as an entrepreneurial industry leader. Because it is currently being challenged by poor sales performance, it has hunkered down and frozen any change initiatives, learning programs or new projects until mid-2025. My client is in a substantial Research and Development function, crucial to innovation, so we aimed to explore new ways of helping the company use their existing equipment (capital investments) and resources (people and expertise) to design and deliver low-cost and sustainable innovations to the market. To create a focused, meaningful, purposeful role and a values-based motivating opportunity for my client to be proactive, that impacts the company by adding value to the bottom line by improving productivity and cost efficiency because anyone can learn to innovate.

Learning to innovate

As a result of our short time together, my client felt confident and empowered, motivated and energized, to invest time in learning how to apply her current skills and strengths, focus and attention to connect with key people and resources, explore options globally for identifying new business development opportunities, and in developing her technical skillset.

My client enrolled in an online innovation learning program to learn to innovate by acquiring the fundamentals of mindset and behavior changes to shift their thinking and act differently.  

The innovation imperative has shifted

  • Productivity growth needs to accelerate

According to McKinsey and Co, in the article “Investing in Productivity Growth” it’s not only time to raise investment and catch the next productivity wave; the world needs to and can accelerate productivity growth.

“Productivity growth means getting more from our work and our investments. It is especially needed now as the world faces the many challenges of a new geo-economic era. Productivity growth is the best antidote to the asset price inflation of the past two decades, which has created about $160 trillion in “paper wealth” and even larger amounts of new debt”.

  • Adapting to the new net zero reality

The world is currently not on track to meet net-zero targets, yet many opportunities are available to accelerate efforts and help meet de-carbonization goals. Whilst some progress has been made to reduce global carbon emissions, under the current trajectory, the world won’t achieve net-zero emissions even during this century. Again, according to McKinsey and Co., in an article “Adapting to the new net-zero reality”, mitigation efforts alone are no longer sufficient – the world will need to adapt as well by going green, ramping up technologies and increasing investments.

  • Improving cost efficiencies

According to new BCG research, corporate leaders are making better cost management a priority as a hedge against ongoing economic, financial, and political uncertainties, stating that:

“Wholesale cuts are one way to manage costs. However, drastic measures such as sudden workforce reductions may lead to unintended consequences because they fail to address the root causes of inefficiencies. Nor do they position an organization for future success”.

  • Generative Ai is a critical enabler of innovation

Whether the organization focuses on developing new products, services, processes, or business models, Generative AI (GenAI) can enhance and challenge the work of leaders and teams across all phases of the innovation cycle and process.

By learning to innovate through knowing how to generatively question and listen, reveal and challenge operating beliefs and test assumptions to enable them to emerge, diverge, converge and prioritize high-quality creative ideas for change.

According to BCG in a recent article, “To Drive Innovation with GenAI, Start by Questioning Your Assumptions.”

“GenAI’s most prominent contribution is in idea generation and validation—innovation’s divergence and convergence phases. Yet, it can play an even more critical role in helping leaders confront and update the strategic assumptions at the foundation of their business and innovation strategies: the doubt phase of the cycle. Organizations that regularly question their beliefs are more resilient because they are more likely to see and position themselves to benefit from the shifts on which competitive advantage turns”.

The innovation imperative is paradoxical.

Suppose we combine the contradictory features or qualities of developing productivity growth while adapting to the new net zero reality and improving cost efficiencies. In that case, many organizations have reverted to their conventional, business-as-usual focus, relying on Generative Ai to solve their problems.

This demonstrates a typically faddish response to a revolutionary, transformative new invention whilst being avoidant and resisting the urgent need to change by building the fundamental foundations in learning to innovate.

  • Thinking and acting differently

Anyone can learn to innovate, and it starts with allowing, accepting and acknowledging that a business-as-usual focus, avoiding risk, making the tough decisions and resisting change are no longer effective, profitable, or sustainable because:

  • We all know that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.
  • We can no longer afford to keep producing the same results that no one wants.
  • We can’t solve the problem with the same thinking that created it; we have to learn how to be, think and act differently to deliver the sustainable and innovative solution we want to have.

Learning to innovate requires a radical strategic shift

  • Harnessing collective intelligence

Anyone can learn to innovate; it’s simply a matter of knowing, combining, leveraging and scaling people’s multiple and collective intelligence – heads/cognition, hearts/emotions and hands/actions.

  • Revealing and closing knowing-doing gaps

Then, we should align these to close the significant knowing-doing gap or disconnect between what people know and what people do.

Everyone knows that innovation is the most impactful lever to use to scale and leverage change, yet are primarily unwilling to pause, stop and take time to retreat from their short-term focus, pay attention and reflect on how to equip people with the innovation fundamentals by getting people’s:

  1. Heads to make sense of innovation and what innovation means by defining and framing it in their organization’s unique context, setting a strategic focus, determining the level of risk involved in achieving it, and mitigating the roadblocks that may arise.
  2. Hearts aligned to embody and enact what innovation means by setting and sharing a passionately purposeful reason for innovation, building change receptivity and readiness for designing and delivering a range of bespoke deep learning processes and equipping people to activate it.
  3. Hands dirty by creating a safe environment where people are encouraged to emerge and share creative ideas and permission and be allowed to experiment by making small bets and mistakes and learning by doing to know what not to do.

Innovation requires a strategic and systemic focus

Innovation is subjective and contextual, so it must be defined and framed in an organization’s unique context.  It requires a strategic and systemic focus, so an organization needs to agree on whether they will choose an incremental, sustainable or disruptive strategy and the level of risk.

The 21st century requires us to unlearn, learn, and relearn a different set of mindsets, behaviors, and skills, and anyone can learn to innovate.

Commitment and conviction to learn to innovate

It’s only through being committed and having the conviction that my coaching client now has – to explore new ways of helping their organizations use their existing capital investments, collective intelligence, people resources, and expertise, supported by Generative AI and deep learning processes, to design and deliver low-cost and sustainable innovations to the market.

Image Credit: Pexels

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Intuitive Skill, Center of Emphasis, and Mutual Trust

Intuitive Skill, Center of Emphasis, and Mutual Trust

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

Mutual Trust. Who do you trust implicitly? And of that shortlist, who trusts you implicitly? You know how they’ll respond. You know what decision they’ll make. And you don’t have to keep tabs on them and you don’t have to manage them. You do your thing and they do theirs and, without coordinating, everything meshes.

When you have mutual trust, you can move at lightning speed. No second-guessing. No hesitation. No debates. Just rapid progress in a favorable direction. Your eyes are their eyes. Their ears are your ears. One person in two bodies.

If I could choose one thing to have, I’d choose mutual trust.

Mutual trust requires shared values. So, choose team members with values that you value. And mutual trust is developed slowly over time as you work together to solve the toughest problems with the fewest resources and the tightest timelines. Without shared values, you can’t have mutual trust. And without joint work on enigmatic problems, you can’t have mutual trust.

Mutual trust is a result. And when your trust-based relationships are more powerful than the formal reporting structure, you’ve arrived.

Intuitive Skill. In today’s world, decisions must be made quickly. And to make good decisions under unreasonable time constraints and far too little data requires implicit knowledge and intuitive skill. Have you read the literature? Have you studied the history? Have you drilled, and drilled, and drilled again? Did you get the best training? Have you honed your philosophy by doing the hard work? Have you done things badly, learned the hard lessons, and embossed those learnings on your soul? Have you done it so many times you know how it will go? Have you done it so many different ways your body knows how it should respond in unfamiliar situations?

If you have to think about it, you don’t yet have intuitive skill. If you can explain why you know what to do, you don’t have intuitive skill. Make no mistake. Intuitive skill does not come solely from experience. It comes from study, from research, from good teachers, and from soul searching.

When your body starts doing the right thing before your brain realizes you’re doing it, you have intuitive skill. And when you have intuitive skill, you can move at light speed. When it takes more time to explain your decision than it does to make it, you have intuitive skill.

Center of Mass, Center of Emphasis. Do you focus on one thing for a week at a time? And do you wake up dreaming about it? And do you find yourself telling people that we’ll think about something else when this thing is done? Do you like doing one thing in a row? Do you delay starting until you finish finishing? Do you give yourself (and others) the flexibility to get it done any way they see fit, as long as it gets done? If the answer is yes to all these, you may be skilled in center-of-emphasis thinking.

The trick here is to know what you want to get done, but have the discipline to be flexible on how it gets done.

Here’s a rule. If you’re the one who decides what to do, you shouldn’t be the one who decides the best way to do it.

Yes, be singularly focused on the objective, but let the boots-on-the-ground circumstances and the context of the moment define the approach. And let the people closest to the problem figure out the best way to solve it because the context is always changing, the territory is always changing, and the local weather is always changing. And the right approach is defined by the specific conditions of the moment.

Build trust and earn it. And repeat. Practice, study, do, and learn. Hone and refine. And repeat. And choose the most important center of emphasis and let the people closest to the problem choose how to solve it. And then build trust and earn it.

This post was inspired by Taylor Pearson and John Boyd, the creator of the OODA loop.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Balancing Artificial Intelligence with the Human Touch

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

As AI and ChatGPT-type technologies grow in capability and ease of use and become more cost-effective, more and more companies are making their way to the digital experience. Still, the best companies know better than to switch to 100% digital.

I had a chance to interview Nicole Kyle, managing director and co-founder of CMP Research (Customer Management Practice), for Amazing Business Radio. Kyle’s team provides research and advisory services for the contact center industry and conducts some of the most critical research on the topic of self-service and digital customer service. I first met Kyle at CCW, the largest contact center conference in the industry. I’ve summarized seven of her key observations below, followed by my commentary:

  1. The Amazon Effect has trained customers to expect a level of service that’s not always in line with what companies and brands can provide. This is exactly what’s happening with customer expectations. They no longer compare you just to your direct competitors but to the best experience they’ve had from any company. Amazon and other rockstar brands focused on CX (customer experience) have set the bar higher for all companies in all industries.
  2. People’s acceptance and eventual normalization of digital experiences accelerated during the pandemic, and they have become a way of life for many customers. The pandemic forced customers to accept self-service. For example, many customers never went online to buy groceries, vehicles or other items that were traditionally shopped for in person. Once customers got used to it, as the pandemic became history, many never returned to the “old way” of doing business. At a minimum, many customers expect a choice between the two.
  3. Customers have new priorities and are placing a premium on their time. Seventy-two percent of customers say they want to spend less time interacting with customer service. They want to be self-sufficient in managing typical customer service issues. In other words, they want self-service options that will get them answers to their questions efficiently and in a timely manner. Our CX research differs and is less than half of that 72% number. When I asked Kyle about the discrepancy, she responded, “Customers who have a poor self-service experience are less likely to return to self-service. While there is an increase in preference, you’re not seeing the adoption because some companies aren’t offering the type of self-service experience the customer wants.”
  4. The digital dexterity of society is improving! That phrase is a great way to describe self-service adoption, specifically how customers view chatbots or other ChatGPT-type technologies. Kyle explained, “Digital experiences became normalized during the pandemic, and digital tools, such as generative AI, are now starting to help people in their daily lives, making them more digitally capable.” That translates into customers’ higher acceptance and desire for digital support and CX.
  5. Many customers can tell the difference between talking to an AI chatbot and a live chat with a human agent due to their ability to access technology and the quality of the chatbot. However, customers are still willing to use the tools if the results are good. When it comes to AI interacting with customers via text or voice, don’t get hung up on how lifelike (or not) the experience is as long as it gets your customers what they want quickly and efficiently.
  6. The No. 1 driver of satisfaction (according to 78% of customers surveyed) in a self-service experience is personalization. Personalization is more important than ever in customer service and CX. So, how do you personalize digital support? The “machine” must not only be capable of delivering the correct answers and solutions, but it must also recognize the existing customer, remember issues the customer had in the past, make suggestions that are specific to the customer and provide other customized, personalized approaches to the experience.
  7. With increased investments in self-service and generative AI, 60% of executives say they will reduce the number of frontline customer-facing jobs. But, the good news is that jobs will be created for employees to monitor performance, track data and more. I’m holding firm in my predictions over the past two years that while there may be some job disruption, the frontline customer support agent job will not be eliminated. To Kyle’s point, there will be job opportunities related to the contact center, even if they are not on the front line.

Self-service and automation are a balancing act. The companies that have gone “all in” and eliminated human-to-human customer support have had pushback from customers. Companies that have not adopted newer technologies are frustrating many customers who want and expect self-service solutions. While it may differ from one company to the next, the balance is critical, but smart leaders will find the balance and continue to adapt to the ever-changing expectations of their customers.

Image Credits: Unsplash
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com

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Designing Organizational Change and Transformation

Designing Organizational Change and Transformation

GUEST POST from Stefan Lindegaard

Over 40% of organizations report that change fatigue is their biggest barrier to organizational change. To combat this, we need to approach change processes from another perspective: a human-centered perspective.

It’s not just about adapting to what’s normal and settling into a routine; it’s about constant change. Companies that recognize constant change and embrace it thrive and remain resilient.

Changing the organizational mindset gives the people in your organization a chance to explore change and its opportunities while fostering a culture that embraces the unexpected.

This is the approach of Manyone where I in particular like that they believe change should be desirable, understandable and tangible.

A short breakdown of this:

Desirable change (show a bright future)

An opportunistic yet realistic approach is alpha omega when doing large-scale organizational change. We use design to facilitate the communication of your organization’s future state and vision and make it desirable for people to get onboard – opportunity over optimization.

Understandable change (extend the organizational mind)

Design-driven organizational change strives to create a collective intuition across the organization and highlight the challenges and forces that shape it. This gives the people a platform to understand the why, the how and the what of change. At the same time, preparing and inspiring them to overcome hidden biases and contribute with new ideas and initiatives.

Tangible change (make it concrete)

The approach encourages rapid design of the desired future through new processes, products and structures. Prototypes are created and used in different formats to explore and validate futures in the market and across the organization.

Stefan Lindegaard Manyone Illustration

Having recently joined Manyone, I really enjoy great approaches and great people in the context of transformation and change. Get in touch if you are curious for more.

Image Credit: Pixabay, Stefan Lindegaard

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Nike Should Stop Blaming Working from Home for Their Innovation Struggles

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“But even more importantly, our employees were working from home for two and a half years.  And in hindsight, it turns out, it’s really hard to do bold, disruptive innovation, to develop a boldly disruptive shoe on Zoom.” – John Donahoe, Nike CEO

I am so glad CNBC’s interview with Nike’s CEO didn’t hit my feed until Friday afternoon. It sent me into a rage spiral that I am just barely emerging from. Seriously, I think my neighbors heard the string of expletives I unleashed after reading that quote, and it wasn’t because it was a lovely day and the windows were open.

Blaming remote work for lack of innovation is cowardly. And factually wrong.

I’m not the only one giving Mr. Donahoe some side-eye for this comment.  “There were a whole bunch of brands who really thrived during and post-pandemic even though they were working remotely,” Matt Powell, advisor for Spurwink River and a senior advisor at BCE Consulting, told Footwear News.  “So I’m not sure that we that we can blame remote work here on Nike’s issues.”

There’s data to back that up.

In 2023, Mark (Shuai) Ma, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and Yuye Ding, a PhD student at the university’s Katz Graduate School of Business, set out to empirically determine the causes and effects of a firm’s decision to mandate a return to work (RTO).  They collected RTO mandate data from over 100 firms in the S&P 500, worked backward to identify what drove the decision, and monitored and measured the firm’s results after employees returned to work.

Their findings are stark: no significant changes in financial performance for firm value after RTO mandates and significant declines in employee job satisfaction.  As Ma told Fortune, “Overall, our results do not support these mandates to increase firm values.  Instead, these findings are consistent with managers using RTO mandates to reassert control over employees and blame employees as a scapegoat for firm bad performance.”

Or to justify spending more than $1B to double the size of its Beaverton, OR campus.

When you start blaming employees, you stop being a leader.

CEOs make and approve big, impactful, complex, high-stakes decisions.  That’s why they get paid the big bucks.  It’s also why, as Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here.” 

Let’s examine some of the decisions Mr. Donahue made or supported that maybe (definitely) had a more significant impact on innovation than working from home two days a week.

Ignoring customers, consumers, and the market: Nike has a swagger that occasionally strays into arrogance.  They set trends, steer culture, and dictate the rules of the game. They also think that gives them the right to stop listening to athletes, retailers, and consumers, as evidenced by the recently revealed Team USA Track & Field uniforms, the decision to stop selling through major retailers like Macy’s and Olympia Sports, and invest more in “hype, limited releases, and old school retro drops” than the technology and community that has consumers flocking to smaller brands like Hoka and Brooks.

Laying off 2% of its workforce: Anyone who has ever been through a layoff senses it’s coming months before the announcement and the verdicts are rendered.  Psychological safety, feeling safe in your environment, is a required element for risk-taking and innovation.  It’s hard to feel safe when saying goodbye to 1500 colleagues (and wondering if/when you’ll join them).

Investing too much in the core: Speaking of safety, in uncertain times, it’s tempting to pour every resource into the core business because the ROI is “known.” Nike gave in to that temptation, and consumers and analysts noticed.  Despite recent new product announcements like the Air Max DN, Pegasus Premium, and Pegasus 41, “analysts point out these ‘new’ innovations rely too much on existing franchises.”

Innovation is a leadership problem that only leaders can solve

Being a CEO or any other senior executive is hard. The past four years have been anything but ordinary, and running a business while navigating a global pandemic, multiple societal upheavals, two wars, and an uncertain economy is almost impossible.

Bosses blame.  Leaders inspire. 

Mr. Donohue just showed us which one he is.  Which one are you?

One MORE thing

This is a losing battle, but STOP USING “DISRUPTIVE” INCORRECTLY!!!!  “Disruptive Innovation,” as defined by Clayton Christensen, who literally coined the phrase, is an innovation that appeals to non-consumers and is cheaper and often lower quality than existing competitors.

Nike is a premium brand that makes premium shoes for premium athletes.  Employees could spend 24/7/365 in the office, and Nike would never develop and launch a “boldly disruptive shoe.”

Image credit: Pixabay

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Innovation the Amazon Way

Innovation the Amazon Way

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In 2014, Stephenie Landry was finishing up her one-year stint as Technical Advisor to Jeff Wilke, who oversees Amazon’s worldwide consumer business, which is a mentor program that allows high potential executives to shadow a senior leader and learn first-hand. Her next assignment would define her career.

At most companies, an up-and-comer like Stephenie might be given a division to run or work on a big acquisition deal. Amazon, however, is a different kind of place. Landry wrote a memo outlining plans for a new service she’d been thinking about, Prime Now, which today offers one-hour delivery to customers in over 50 cities across 9 countries.

It’s no secret that Amazon is one of the world’s most innovative companies. Starting out as a niche service selling books online, it’s now not only a dominant retailer, but has pioneered new categories such as cloud computing and smart speakers. The key to its success is not any one process, but how it integrates a customer obsession deep within its culture and practice.

Starting With The Customer And Working Back

At the heart of how Amazon innovates is its six-page memo, which is required at the start of every new initiative. What makes it effective isn’t so much the structure of the document itself, but how it is used to embed a fanatical focus on the customer from the day one. It’s something that Amazon employees have impressed upon them early in their careers.

So the first step in developing Prime Now was to write a press release. Landry’s document was not only a description of the service, but how hypothetical customers would react to it. How did the service affect them? What surprised them about it? What concerns did they want addressed? The exercise forced her to internalize how Amazon customers would think and feel about Prime Now from the very start.

Next she wrote a series of FAQ’s anticipating concerns for both customers and for various stakeholders within the firm, like the CFO, operations people and the leadership of the Prime program. So Landry had to imagine what questions each would have, how any issues would be resolved and then explain things in clear, concise language.

All of this happens before the first meeting is held, a single line of code is written or an early prototype is built, because the company strongly believes that until you internalize the customer’s perspective, nothing else really matters. That’s key to how the company operates.

A Deeply Embedded Writing Culture

It’s no accident that the first step to develop a new product at Amazon is a memo rather than, say, a PowerPoint deck or a kickoff meeting. As Fareed Zakaria once put it, “Thinking and writing are inextricably intertwined. When I begin to write, I realize that my ‘thoughts’ are usually a jumble of half-baked, incoherent impulses strung together with gaping logical holes between them”.

So the company focuses on building writing skills early in an executive’s career. “Writing is a key part of our culture,” Landry told me. “I started writing press releases for smaller features and projects. One of my first was actually about packaging for diamond rings. Over years of practice and coaching, I got better at it.” Being able to write a good memo is also a key factor in advancement at Amazon. If you want to rise, you need to write and write well.

She also stressed to me the importance of brevity. “Keeping things concise and to the point forces you to think things through in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise. You can’t hide behind complexity, you actually have to work through it,” Landry said. Or, as another Amazon leader put it, “Perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to remove.”

Moreover, writing a memo isn’t a solo effort, but a collaborative process. Typically, executives spend a week or more and sharing the document with colleagues, getting feedback, honing and tweaking it until every conceivable facet is deeply thought through.

Reinventing The Office Meeting

Another unique facet of Amazon’s culture is how meetings are run. In recent years, a common complaint throughout the corporate world is how the number of meetings has become so oppressive that it’s hard to get any work done. Research from MIT shows that executives spend an average of nearly 23 hours a week in meetings, up from less than 10 hours in 1960

At Amazon, however, the six-page memo cuts down on the number of meetings that are called. If you have to spend a week writing a memo, you don’t just start sending out invites whenever the fancy strikes you. Similarly, the company’s practice of limiting attendance to roughly the number of people that can share two pizzas also promotes restraint.

Each meeting starts out with a 30-60 minute reading period in which everybody digests the memo. From there, all attendees are asked to share gut reactions — senior leaders typically speak last — and then delve into what might be missing, ask probing questions and drill down into any potential issues that may arise.

Subsequent meetings follow the same pattern to review the financials, hone the concept and review mockups as the team further refines ideas and assumptions. “It’s usually not one big piece of feedback that you get,” Landry stressed. “It is really all about the smaller questions, they help you get to a level of detail that really brings the idea to life.”

All of this may seem terribly cumbersome to fast moving executives accustomed to zinging in and out of meetings all day, but you often need to go slow to move fast. In the case of Prime Now, the service took just 111 days to go from an idea on a piece of paper to a product launch in one zip code in Manhattan and expanded quickly from there.

Co-evolving Culture And Practice

Every company innovates differently. Apple has a fanatical focus on design. IBM’s commitment to deep scientific research has enabled it to stay on the cutting edge and compete long after most of its competitors have fallen by the wayside. Google integrates a number of innovation strategies into a seamless whole

What works for one company would likely not work for another, a fact that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos highlighted in a recent letter to shareholders. “We never claim that our approach is the right one – just that it’s ours – and over the last two decades, we’ve collected a large group of like-minded people. Folks who find our approach energizing and meaningful,” he wrote.

The truth is that there is no one “true” path to innovation because innovation, at its core, is about solving problems and every enterprise chooses different problems to solve. While IBM might be happy to have its scientists work for decades on some arcane technology and Google gladly allows its employees to pursue pet projects, those things probably wouldn’t fly at Amazon.

However, the one thing that all great innovators have in common is that culture and practice are deeply intertwined. That’s what makes them so hard to copy. Anybody can write a six-page memo or start meetings with a reading period. It’s not those specific practices, but the commitment to the values they reflect, that has driven Amazon’s incredible success.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog and previously appeared on Inc.com
— Image credits: Unsplash

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Why Greedflation Must End and How Consumers Can Make It So

Why Greedflation Must End and How Consumers Can Make It So

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

Greedflation — an insidious blend of greed and inflation — has silently been eroding the purchasing power of consumers, escalating economic inequalities, and tarnishing the trust we place in markets and institutions. This practice, where companies exploit inflationary trends to excessively hike prices, detaches from economic principles and delves into unethical opportunism. While inflation in itself, when moderate, plays a functional role in the economy, greedflation skews the balance, enriching the few at the expense of many. Here’s why this must end and how consumers can play a pivotal role in its demise.

Why Greedflation Must End

  1. Economic Inequity: Greedflation exacerbates economic disparities, widening the gap between the rich and the poor. While executives and shareholders prosper, average citizens struggle more to afford basic commodities. This vicious cycle traps lower-income families in a relentless financial squeeze, robbing them of opportunities for upward mobility.
  2. Erosion of Trust: Trust is the bedrock of a functional economy. When consumers perceive that companies are exploiting inflationary pressures to rake in excess profits, trust in those companies and the broader market erodes. This lack of trust can lead to decreased consumer spending, hampering economic growth and stability.
  3. Reduced Consumer Purchasing Power: As prices soar disproportionately, the real purchasing power of consumers dwindles. Households find themselves paying more for the same goods and services, which can lead to indebtedness and reduced quality of life. This reduction in purchasing power compounds the already significant challenges faced by middle and lower-income families.
  4. Market Distortion: Greedflation distorts market dynamics by creating artificial price structures that don’t accurately reflect demand and supply. This conflation of legitimate inflationary factors with opportunistic price hikes undermines true market efficiency and the ability to allocate resources effectively.
  5. Social Unrest: When people feel unfairly squeezed by relentless price hikes, social tension can build. Such unrest not only affects social harmony but can also lead to broader economic and political consequences. It’s a recipe for instability that we can ill afford in a complex global environment.

Identifying specific companies definitively engaging in “greedflation” can be complex, as it often involves nuanced economic analyses and data that may not always be readily available or clear-cut. However, certain sectors and companies have faced accusations and scrutiny over seemingly disproportionate price hikes, especially during periods of broader economic instability. Here are five examples based on public scrutiny and anecdotal evidence:

  1. Amazon: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon faced criticism for significant price increases on essential items such as hand sanitizers, masks, and other health-related products. While some of these price hikes were attributed to third-party sellers on the platform, the company was scrutinized for not doing enough to regulate prices during a global crisis.
  2. Pharmaceutical Companies (e.g., Martin Shkreli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals): One of the most notorious cases of alleged greedflation in the pharmaceutical industry involved Turing Pharmaceuticals, where the price of Daraprim, a life-saving medication, was increased by over 5,000% overnight under the leadership of Martin Shkreli. This incident highlighted how companies could exploit patent protections and market monopolies to drastically inflate prices unethically.
  3. Oil Companies (e.g., ExxonMobil, Chevron): Oil giants like ExxonMobil and Chevron have been accused of leveraging geopolitical tensions and supply chain disruptions to raise gas prices disproportionately, thereby generating record profits during periods when consumers are already struggling with inflationary pressures.
  4. Grocery Retailers (e.g., Kroger, Albertsons): Major grocery chains like Kroger and Albertsons have faced allegations of increasing food prices beyond what could be justified by supply chain issues and general inflation. With essential goods being a critical part of everyday life, such actions appear particularly exploitative.
  5. Telecom Companies (e.g., Comcast, AT&T): Telecom giants such as Comcast and AT&T have been criticized for raising prices on internet and cable services, despite relatively stable or reduced operational costs due to advancements in technology. Consumers often feel trapped because of limited competition in many areas.

While these examples showcase sectors and companies that have faced scrutiny, it’s important to note that conclusive evidence of greedflation can be difficult to establish due to the complexity of market forces and individual company strategies. This underscores the need for informed consumer activism to hold companies accountable.

How Consumers Can Help End Greedflation

  1. Shop Smarter: Consumers wield significant power through their purchasing decisions. By being more discerning and opting for alternatives when prices seem unjustifiably high, we can signal to corporations that unethical pricing won’t be rewarded. Supporting smaller, local businesses and cooperatives can also help counterbalance big players who may indulge in greedflation.
  2. Promote Transparency: Demand greater transparency from companies about their pricing strategies. When transparency becomes a social norm, it’s harder for businesses to hide behind inflated prices. Use social media and other platforms to press for clarity and accountability.
  3. Support Policies for Market Oversight: Advocate for stronger regulatory frameworks and more stringent oversight bodies that can analyze and address unethical pricing practices. By supporting politicians and policies that prioritize consumer protection and market fairness, individuals can influence systemic change.
  4. Educate and Mobilize: Consumer education is crucial. Share knowledge and resources about how to spot and combat greedflation. Community groups, educational institutions, and social networks can serve as platforms for educating others about prudent consumer practices.
  5. Leverage Collective Bargaining Power: Form or join consumer advocacy groups that can collectively negotiate for fair prices and better market practices. Unified consumer voices can be a powerful force for change, pushing corporations to rethink their pricing strategies.

Conclusion

The end of greedflation is not just an economic imperative but a moral one. It’s about creating a fairer society where prosperity is shared more equitably, trust is maintained, and economic stability is preserved. Consumers hold immense power as the primary drivers of market forces. By making informed, conscious choices and demanding greater accountability, we can collectively put an end to greedflation and forge a more just economic future.

As an independent thinker and human-centered innovation and transformation thought leader, I firmly believe in the power of consumers to act as agents of change. Together, let’s take that necessary step to ensure markets function with integrity, fairness, and a sense of shared prosperity.

#EndGreedflation #ConsumerPower #EconomicJustice

Image credit: Unsplash

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Think Outside Which Box?

Think Outside Which Box?

GUEST POST from Howard Tiersky

We’ve all said it. We need to think “outside the box.”

But what is this box-like barrier that would otherwise constrain our thinking, and how do we move beyond it?

At FROM, we use our custom-built workshop space, Innovation Loft, to help teams from some of the largest brands in the world move beyond that metaphorical box to create new products, processes or entire businesses. We’ve spent a lot of time studying the barriers that limit individual or team thinking, and testing methods to break free of those barriers.

Through our work, we’ve discovered there isn’t just a single box. Instead, there are four nested barriers that can limit thinking.

  1. HABIT
  2. BELIEF
  3. IDENTITY
  4. IMAGINATION

You can use a variety of different techniques that you can apply to help get past each box, but they differ, depending on which box you’re focused on.

BOX ONE: HABIT

People constrained by habit are best described by the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” This box exists because it’s our comfort zone – where we know what works. But the uncharted territory is where much of the treasure lies!

Overcoming the Limits of Habit

How do you move teams beyond habit? One way is to explore ‘stretch-goals,’ or goals well beyond what’s possible with your current method of doing business. For example, if your manufacturing process takes 90 minutes to produce a carton of ice cream, conduct an exercise to brainstorm how you could produce that same carton in only 5 minutes. This type of exercise requires completely different thinking about the entire manufacturing process. It might not actually be practical or cost-effective to make the cartons in 5 minutes, but the process of thinking about how it could be done is one way to explore what lies beyond the box of habit.

BOX TWO: BELIEF

Even when we’re ready to move past habit and try something new, there’s another box that constrains what we believe will work or are capable of accomplishing. In corporate environments, the box of belief is epitomized by statements like, “We tried that before and it didn’t work,” or “We can’t compete in that space.”
Whether these beliefs are true or not, they’re often over-generalized or stated in absolute terms. Take, “We can’t compete in that space.” It may not be wise to compete in that space, but is it really impossible? By staying in the box of belief, you could be dismissing possible opportunities.

Overcoming the Limits of Belief

To tackle the barrier of belief, use an exercise that sorts beliefs from facts. Underlying facts are helpful, but the beliefs associated with them can be limiting. If you chose to pursue a certain goal, how would you move past the facts? If it’s not that you can’t compete, but that there are barriers to doing so, what are they and how might you get past them? Ultimately, you want ideas for clearing each obstacle, so you can evaluate if it makes sense to proceed.

BOX THREE: IDENTITY

Even when we’re willing to change and believe certain things are possible, we can remain stuck inside of a box of our own identity. This box is best characterized by statements like, ‘We don’t do that at this company,” or “That wouldn’t be consistent with our brand.”

Overcoming the Limits of Identity

First things first: It’s valuable to have an identity, and to have a brand that customers know stands for something. However, getting past a belief barrier doesn’t necessarily mean acting outside the box, but just to think outside the box. Identities need to grow and change over time, and can’t do that if you never consider possibilities beyond your current identity. (e.g., Apple used to be called ‘Apple Computer,’ but now they make more money from phones and are known as simply ‘Apple.’)

To temporarily think outside your current identity, play the ‘What Would Company X Do?” game. Give separate teams one company or entity, and have them look at the problem at hand in the way that organization might. Apple, the Marines, Starbucks, and Disney are good companies to use as models, as they’re all successful entities with very different identities and ways of solving problems. Viewing your company’s problems or opportunities through the lens of another company can yield interesting, new ideas. If some of the ideas aren’t a good fit, that’s ok! In ideation, we’re mining for gold, so a large quantity of sand and pebbles in the pan is not an indicator of failure – it’s the number of gold nuggets that indicate success.

BOX FOUR: IMAGINATION

Ideas beyond the box of imagination aren’t even a blip on the radar, or even in the realm of our thinking. We don’t consider them outside our beliefs, or inconsistent with our identity because we don’t consider them at all.

Overcoming the Limits of Imagination

What we can imagine comes from a combination of our experiences, plus an ability to take those experiences and combine them in novel ways. To stimulate imagination, it’s important to define a clear goal for your team, and encourage them to share and explore past experiences that may be relevant to that goal. If you want to increase customer loyalty, have your team review experiences that have affected their loyalty to other products and services. Then, expose them to new ideas and knowledge – things like competitive case studies, trends or technologies that might be part of a solution to the problem. When teams have a greater range of experiences to draw from, they can start to imagine possibilities that they didn’t previously have the “raw materials” to form.

It’s fantastic to have an identity, beliefs, and habits. All these aspects of our personality serve us in various situations. But it’s also valuable to be able to temporarily turn these psychological limits off in the context of exploratory ideation. You never know what’s out there, and you can enrich your value proposition, your brand and even yourself by embracing the freedom to explore what lies beyond. Then, you can decide for yourself whether or not to expand the box!

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

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Playing Both Sides of the Equation

Playing Both Sides of the Equation

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

If you want new behavior, you must embrace conflict.

If you can’t tolerate the conflict, you’ll do what you did last time.

If your point of view angers half and empowers everyone else, you made a difference.

If your point of view meets with 100% agreement, you wasted everyone’s time.

If your role is to create something from nothing, you’ve got to let others do the standard work.

If your role is to do standard work, you’ve got to let others create things from scratch.

If you want to get more done in the long term, you’ve got to make time to grow people.

If you want to get more done in the short term, you can’t spend time growing people.

If you do novel work, you can’t know when you’ll be done.

If you are asked for a completion date, I hope you’re not expected to do novel work.

If you’re in business, you’re in the people business.

If you’re not in the people business, you’ll soon be out of business.

If you call someone on their behavior and they thank you, you were thanked by a pro.

If you call someone on their behavior and they call you out for doing it, you were gaslit.

If you can’t justify doing the right project, reduce the scope, and do it under the radar.

If you can’t prevent the start of an unjust project, find a way to work on something else.

If you are given a fixed timeline and fixed resources, flex the schedule.

If you are given a fixed timeline, resources, and schedule, you’ll be late.

If you get into trouble, ask your Trust Network for help.

If you have no Trust Network, you’re in trouble.

If you have a problem, tell the truth and call it a problem.

If you can’t tell the truth, you have a big problem.

If you are called on your behavior, own it.

If you own your behavior, no one can call you on it.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Happy Employees Make Happy Customers

Happy Employees Make Happy Customers

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

Often, the best companies to do business with are the best companies to work for. When you look at the Google ratings for Round Room Holdings’ TCC and Wireless Zone, two Verizon Wireless retailers with approximately 1,200 retail stores throughout the U.S., you’ll find they are “hitting it out of the park” in both customer reviews and employee satisfaction. I had a chance to interview Chad Jensen, president of TCC and Wireless Zone since 2019, and he shed light on their incredible success, how they do it, and how any company can have similar results.

We can break down the company’s success into three areas: employees, customers, and community.

1. Employees: It all starts with the employees. Jensen’s company has a 90% employee satisfaction rating and 70% employee retention in a retail industry with annual employee turnover rates that are well over 100%. Why? Because Jensen made it abundantly clear that the company puts employees first. The best example of this came not even a year after he took over as president when he and the rest of the world faced the pandemic. His leadership style was immediately put to the test. He was adamant about taking care of the employees. First and foremost was safety, as well as a concern for mental health. And he was determined to keep people employed, saying, “Even if it meant we took a hit on our financials, we were okay with that.” He understood early on that the decisions they made would define how they came out of the pandemic. Employees knew the company had their backs. In exchange, they were confident, fulfilled, and engaged with their customers, ensuring they had an experience that would bring them back. Employee satisfaction is at 90%. As I’ve mentioned many times in my past articles, what’s happening inside an organization is felt by customers on the outside. Jensen’s strategy shows this concept can be tremendously successful.

2. Customers: A focus on the employee experience turns into a positive customer experience. The goal is to provide “the best customer service.” Being the best is a lofty goal. While it’s not a contest, the comment speaks to the commitment the retailer has to its customers. The numbers tell the story. The company’s Google score ranges from 4.7 to 4.9 out of five. Jensen beams with pride over the customer satisfaction numbers, as companies he admires, such as Disney and Chick-fil-A, don’t have numbers quite as high. Jensen said, “We checked, and Disneyland’s Google rating was a 4.5. We’re literally (making customers) happier than the ‘Happiest Place on Earth.’” While a high Google rating is validating, Jensen emphasizes it’s really about the experience that gets customers to come back.

3. Community: Jensen’s efforts to give back to the community create positive results on several levels. He explained, “The more we give back to our communities, the more presence we get, and the better employees we get.” Many companies have a purpose beyond profit. It’s typically a recognizable cause, such as sustainability, poverty, medical research, or other popular causes. Companies like Ace Hardware have raised more than $140 million for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Patagonia gives 1% of its sales to the preservation and restoration of the environment. TCC and Wireless Zone take a more grassroots approach and give back to the communities their stores serve. They sponsor community events, local pet shelters, food banks, school events, and more. They have given more than 1.3 million backpacks filled with school supplies to kids in their communities. While the corporate HQ is behind this “give back” program, it’s the employees who get the most joy out of being a part of it, once again creating a great employee experience.

By prioritizing the TCC and Wireless Zone employee experience, combined with efforts to create an amazing customer experience as well as support for the communities they serve, the result is a company with some of the lowest turnover in the retail industry, higher Google ratings than “The Happiest Place on Earth” and loyal customers who keep coming back. That’s what happens when you create a company that has what Jensen refers to as “a culture of good.”

Image Credits: Pixabay
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com

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