AI Can Help Attract, Retain and Grow Customer Relationships

AI Can Help Attract, Retain and Grow Customer Relationships

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

How do you know what your customers want if they don’t tell you? It’s more than sending surveys and interpreting data. Joe Tyrrell is the CEO of Medallia, a company that helps its customers tailor experiences through “intelligent personalization” and automation. I had a chance to interview him on Amazing Business Radio and he shared how smart companies are using AI to build and retain customer relationships. Below are some of his comments followed by my commentary:

  • The generative AI momentum is so widespread that 85% of executives say the technology will be interacting directly with customers in the next two years. AI has been around for longer than most people realize. When a customer is on a website that makes suggestions, when they interact with a chatbot or get the best answers to frequently asked questions, they are interacting with AI-infused technology, whether they know it or not.
  • While most executives want to use AI, they don’t know how they want to use it, the value it will bring and the problems it will solve. In other words, they know they want to use it, but don’t know how (yet). Tyrrell says, “Most organizations don’t know how they are going to use AI responsibly and ethically, and how they will use it in a way that doesn’t introduce unintended consequences, and even worse, unintended bias.” There needs to be quality control and oversight to ensure that AI is meeting the goals and intentions of the company or brand.
  • Generative AI is different than traditional AI. According to Tyrrell, the nature of generative AI is to, “Give me something in real time while I’m interacting with it.” In other words, it’s not just finding answers. It’s communicating with me, almost like human-to-human. When you ask it to clarify a point, it knows exactly how to respond. This is quite different from a traditional search bar on a website—or even a Google search.
  • AI’s capability to personalize the customer experience will be the focus of the next two years. Based on the comment about how AI technology currently interacts with customers, I asked Tyrrell to be more specific about how AI will be used. His answer was focused on personalization. The data we extract from multiple sources will allow for personalization like never before. According to Tyrrell, 82% of consumers say a personalized experience will influence which brand they end up purchasing from in at least half of all shopping situations. The question isn’t whether a company should personalize the customer experience. It is what happens if they don’t.
  • Personalization isn’t about being seen as a consumer, but as a person. That’s the goal of personalization. Medallia’s North Star, which guides all its decisions and investments, is its mission to personalize every customer experience. What makes this a challenge is the word every. If customers experience this one time but the next time the brand acts as if they don’t recognize them, all the work from the previous visit along with the credibility built with the customer is eroded.
  • The next frontier of AI is interpreting social feedback. Tyrrell is excited about Medallia’s future focus. “Surveys may validate information,” says Tyrrell, “but it is often what’s not said that can be just as important, if not even more so.” Tyrrell talked about Medallia’s capability to look everywhere, outside of surveys and social media comments, reviews and ratings, where customers traditionally express themselves. There is behavioral feedback, which Tyrrell refers to as social feedback, not to be confused with social media feedback. Technology can track customer behavior on a website. What pages do they spend the most time on? How do they use the mouse to navigate the page? Tyrell says, “Wherever people are expressing themselves, we capture the information, aggregate it, translate it, interpret it, correlate it and then deliver insights back to our customers.” This isn’t about communicating with customers about customer support issues. It’s mining data to understand customers and make products and experiences better.

Tyrrell’s insights emphasize the opportunities for AI to support the relationship a company or brand has with its customers. The future of customer engagement will be about an experience that creates customer connection. Even though technology is driving the experience, customers appreciate being known and recognized when they return. Tyrrell and I joked about the theme song from the TV sitcom Cheers, which debuted in 1982 and lasted 11 seasons. But it really isn’t a joke at all. It’s what customers want, and it’s so simple. As the song title suggests, customers want to go to a place Where Everybody Knows Your Name.

Image Credits: Unsplash

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Creating Effective Digital Teams

Creating Effective Digital Teams

GUEST POST from Howard Tiersky

Creating digital products is a multi-disciplinary process, blending creativity, engineering, strategy, customer support, legal regulations and more. How to structure their teams is a major challenge faced by large enterprises and global brands undergoing a digital transformation. Specifically, they need to answer the following three questions:

  1. What’s the optimal way to organize the necessary roles and responsibilities?
  2. Which part of the organization should own each capability?
  3. How do we get everyone working together?

The optimal structure for digital teams varies across different organizations. At FROM, we use a base framework that identifies fifteen key roles or competencies that are part of creating and operating most digital properties. Those roles are divided into three conceptual teams: the Digital Business Team, the Digital Technology Team, and the Extended Business Team.

The Digital Business Team

  1. Digital Business Vision Owner: The Business Vision Owner defines the key business measures and objectives for the digital property, including target market segments and their objectives. This “visioneer” makes final decisions on product direction.
  2. Product Management: Product Management owns the product on a day-to-day basis, and liaises with other areas to make sure the digital value proposition is realized. They’re responsible for commissioning and reviewing customer research to develop and maintain the product roadmap in terms of the business vision and can prioritize the backlog of changes and improvements.
  3. Program Management: Distinct from the Product Manager, the Program Manager is responsible for owning the long-term plan to achieve the product roadmap, including budgets and resource allocations, and for maintaining the release schedule.
  4. User Interface/User Experience: UI/UX is responsible for the overall look and feel of the digital product. They develop and maintain UI standards to be used as the product is developed, are involved in user testing, and QA new releases.
  5. Content Development: Content Development creates non-campaign and non-marketing or editorial content for the site, including articles, instructions, and FAQ or helps content. Their job is to create content that’s easy to understand and consistent with the brand or voice of the product or site.

The Digital Technology Team

  1. Front End Development: Front End Development selects frameworks and defines front-end coding standards for any technologies that will be used. They’re also responsible for writing code that will execute in the browser, such as HTML, HTML5, JavaScript, and mobile code (e.g., Objective-C.) Front End Development drives requirements for back-end development teams, to ensure the full user experience can be implemented.
  2. Back End Development: Back End Development manages core enterprise systems, including inventory, financial, and CRM. They’re responsible for exposing, as web services, the capabilities that are needed for front-end development. They’re responsible for developing and enforcing standards to protect the integrity of those enterprise systems, as well as reviewing requests for and implementing new capabilities.
  3. Data: Data develops and maintains enterprise and digital specific data models, managing data, and creating and maintaining plans for data management and warehousing. They monitor the health of databases, expose services for data access, and manage data architecture.
  4. Infrastructure: Infrastructure maintains the physical hardware used for applications and data. They maintain disaster and business continuity programs and monitor the scalability and reliability of the physical infrastructure. They also monitor and proactively manage the security of the infrastructure environment.
  5. Quality Assurance: Quality Assurance creates and maintains QA standards for code in production, develops automated and manual test scripts, and executes any integration, browser, or performance testing scenarios. They also monitor site metrics to identify problems proactively. (It should be noted that, though you want dedicated QA professionals on your team, QA is everyone’s responsibility!)

The Extended Business Team

  1. Marketing: Marketing is responsible for some key digital operations. They develop offers and campaigns to drive traffic. They manage email lists and execution and manage and maintain the CRM system.
  2. Product and Pricing: Product and Pricing responsibility can vary, depending on industry and type of digital property. When appropriate, they develop, license or merchandise anything sold on the site. They set pricing and drive requirements for aligning digital features with any new products based on those product’s parameters.
  3. Operations: Operations is responsible for fulfillment of the value proposition. For commerce sites, for example, this includes picking, packing and shipping orders. For something like a digital video aggregation site, responsibilities include finding, vetting and uploading new video content.
  4. Business Development: Business Development is focused on creating partnerships that increase traffic and sales, or find new streams of revenue.
  5. Customer Support: Customer support is responsible for maintaining knowledge of digital platforms, policies, and known issues and solutions. They assist customers with problems and questions and track customer interactions to report on trends and satisfaction levels.

How these teams and the roles within them fit together varies from company to company. However, it’s good practice to review this model to see, first, if you have these key roles represented in your organization. Then, make sure to create well-defined responsibilities and processes, and finally, look at how they function together, to see if they’re organized in the most effective manner. If your Digital Business, Digital Technology, and Extended Business teams are in sync, all your projects will benefit.

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

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These Forgotten Customers Are Key to Your Success

These Forgotten Customers Are Key to Your Success

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

“There is only one boss. The customer.” – Sam Walton

With all the buzz around human-centered design, customer-centric businesses, and external-facing organizations, corporate America is (finally) waking up to the importance and value of creating things that people actually want and that solve people’s problems.

Teams of innovators, ethnographers, socialists, researchers, and consultants scurry about gathering customer insights, soliciting customer feedback, and generating reports that can be funneled back to R&D, innovation, and product development teams to inform the development of the Next Big Thing.

While this is all important work, amidst all of this activity, one customer is consistently overlooked. And it is this customer that often decides the fate of the Next Big Thing

There is only one first customer. Your boss.

Let’s start with what a customer is:

“The recipient of a good, service, product, or idea obtained from a seller, vendor, or supplier via a financial transaction or exchange for money or some other valuable consideration.

Yes, you should spend a lot of time getting to know the people outside your company who will eventually be asked to exchange money for the good, product, or service you are creating.

You also need to spend time getting to know the people inside your organization who you are currently asking to exchange money (give you a budget) or some other valuable consideration (time, people, permission) for your idea and its development.

And you need convince them that “a financial transaction” is worth it because, if you don’t they can and will spend their money elsewhere.

Your boss is a tough customer

No matter what type of company you are in — from a company of 10 to a company of 10,000 — you are faced with limited resources. A dollar spent in one place means a dollar not spent in another place. A person allocated to one team means one less person on another team.

Managers have to make resources allocation trade-offs all the time but are often moving pieces between functions and teams where they know the ROI of additional investments. This situation changes dramatically when a manager must decide whether to invest resources into a new and uncertain venture or to invest in the core, and much more certain, business.

Convincing your boss to buy your idea, especially if that idea is a new venture, is tough because you’re asking your boss to buy (or invest in) something with an uncertain ROI rather than buy (or invest in) something with a more certain ROI. But you can be successful if you understand your boss.

Your boss can be understood (and their decisions anticipated)

First, get comfortable with the fact that your boss is a human being. And, just like other human beings, your boss makes lots of decisions, believes that these decisions are based on logic and reason, and actually bases most decisions more on emotion and instinct.

As frustrating as this may be when you are at the receiving end of these decisions, take comfort in the fact that you can actually use the tools you use to understand external customers to understand, and even anticipate, your boss’ decisions.

Here’s how:

  1. What is the current business situation? While this is usually an easy question to answer, it can be hard to anticipate what impact it will have on your boss’ willingness to invest. Just as most people are hesitant to invest in something new when the current business environment is poor, many people are equally hesitant to invest when business is booming. This is usually because investments in the core business are generating more than usual upside and that’s great for your boss and/or there is no urgency to do anything new because people assume the good times will go on forever (news flash: they wont’). So while you can’t anticipate what impact the answer to this question will have on your odds of securing investment, you do need to know the context within which you are asking.
  2. What is your boss being asked to deliver? How is she measured and rewarded? Is your boss expected to deliver revenue increases? She’ll be drawn to new ideas that increase revenue. Cost savings? Then pitch ways to improve efficiency. How much time does she have to deliver results? If she needs to show results quarterly, you have to generate results quickly. If she has a year to show improvement, you have a longer runway to show results.
  3. What is your boss’ reputation? Does she like it? Humans are hard-wired to be social creatures so, whether we admit it or not, we really care how other people see us. What is your boss’ reputation — is she known for being a steady hand that consistently delivers or a renegade willing to rock the boat and take risks? And how does she feel about her reputation? Does she like it or does she see herself differently? If you have a boss that likes being seen as reliable and a defender of the status quo, you’re going to have a much harder time selling your new idea than if you boss is seen (or wants to be seen) as the next Steve Jobs.

With the answers to these questions, you can figure out the likelihood that your boss will buy your idea. If you boss is managing a business that is struggling, is expected to increase revenue after years of decreases, and is happy to be known as someone who always delivers, it’s unlikely she’ll be willing to invest resources in a new and unproven idea. But if your boss is managing a struggling business, is expected to develop new revenue streams that will replace the old ones, and enjoys a reputation as a someone who challenges the status quo, odds are she’ll support a reasonably well-thought out proposal for initial investment in a new venture.

Bottom Line

Before you get the opportunity to sell a new product or service to external customers, you need to sell your idea to internal customers…your boss. Take the time to understand you boss, the things that motivate her and the issues and challenges that she faces. Then, just as you create a product or service to solve your external customers’ problems, you can create a pitch that shows your boss how your idea solves her challenges.

Approach your boss as you would a customer and you’re likely to get the support you need. Forget that your boss is your first customer and you may never get the chance to pitch to the ones you’ve spent so much time studying.

Image credit: Pexels

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What Top Innovators Do Differently

What Top Innovators Do Differently

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

I’ve never really liked the phrase “innovate or die.” Why not, “finance or die” or “sell or die” or even “manage or die?” Clearly every business function is essential and no organization can survive without building some competency in all of them. In an ultra-competitive business environment, you have to do more than just show up.

What makes great innovators different is that they succeed where most others fail. They not only come up with new ideas, they find ways to make them work and create value for the rest of us. Even more importantly, they are able to do it consistently, year after year, decade after decade.

Over the years, I’ve gotten to know many of these extraordinary people and they are all impressive in their own way, but what has struck me is not their differences, but what they have in common. It seems that there are some things that all great innovators share and, importantly, they are all things that we can do as well. So there is hope for the rest of us.

1. They Seek Out Problems, Not Ideas

Elance launched as a startup in 1999 to do for freelancers what did for full-time positions — create a marketplace to match employers with talent that had the skills they were looking for. It seemed like a great idea, but it turned out to be a total bust and the company soon shifted to developing vendor management software, where it had better success.

The company sold its software business in 2006 and decided to return to the original idea, but focused on a different problem. Instead of merely making matches, it would design algorithms to make engagements more successful. This time it began to gain traction and soon saw its business grow.

The team also began to see more problems it could solve. Freelancers needed to update their skills, so it added training and certification programs. Employers needed to track freelancers internally, so it created private talent clouds. Every new problem it identified led to a new solution and more value created. Elance merged with rival oDesk in 2014 to form Upwork, and continues to thrive to this day.

I found that every great innovator I met had a similar stories. To my surprise, most didn’t have a lot of ideas and the ones they did come up with weren’t necessarily any better than anybody elses. What they did have was a passion for solving problems. Some spent years or even decades to solve a single grand challenge. That passion, it seems, is what makes all the difference.

2. They Don’t Shout Eureka!

Another thing I began to notice with the best innovators, those who came up with ideas that truly changed the world, is that when they described their moment of discovery they didn’t recall any excitement. No high-fives. No shouting to the rooftops. No alerting of the media. Nothing like that at all.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that they felt excited, but it was other thoughts that were dominant. Did they get it right? What could they do to validate their findings? Were their other explanations that could explain the data they were seeing? How could they apply these new insights to a bigger problem?

One conversation in particular I remember is with Jim Allison, who developed cancer immunotherapy. When he described his discovery to me he said he “slowly started to put the pieces together.” He didn’t seem to feel brilliant. In fact, he seemed to feel a bit foolish for not noticing where the data was so clearly leading him.

Suffice it to say, nobody else saw it either until Jim pointed it out. In fact, for three years he had to pound the pavement to get anyone to invest in his idea (and that never makes you feel particularly good about yourself). But he saw that as just another problem to be solved and, through sheer will and perseverance, he prevailed. Untold thousands are alive today because he did.

3. They Are Active Collaborators

One of the people I enjoy talking to most is Bernie Meyerson, the Chief Innovation Officer Emeritus at IBM. Bernie is not only a brilliant scientist in his own right, his position puts him at the nexus of much of the really advanced work being done in a number of fields. If something important is going on, chances are he knows about it. Besides, Bernie is a tremendous amount of fun!

He was also kind enough to write the Foreword to my book, Mapping Innovation in which he recounts how he developed the Silicon-Germanium chips that make WiFi Internet connections possible. He explained how at each stage of the development process, they needed to widen the circle to bring in new people with the expertise to take the invention to the next level.

Innovation is never a single event, but a process of discovery, engineering and transformation and those three things almost never happen in the same place. So creating anything that’s truly new and important involves a series of hand-offs. Your ability to create and manage those hand-offs will, to a large extent, determine your ability to innovate.

The truth is that, when it comes to innovation, collaboration is a key competitive advantage. The lone genius is a myth. No one ever truly creates the future by themselves.
Everyone Can Innovate (Which Means That You Can Too)

G.H. Hardy was undoubtedly one of the great mathematicians of the 20th century, but he considered his greatest discovery not a theory, but a person — Srinivasa Ramanujan, the self-taught Indian prodigy. Ramanujan had sent his theories to three great English mathematicians, but it was Hardy — and only Hardy — who was able to see the breathtaking genius beneath the almost indecipherable scrawl.

That’s not to say that Hardy was the only one capable of recognizing Ramanujan’s genius, but he was the only one who took the time to look closely at the humble correspondence of a destitute Indian amateur mathematician. It was his passion, rather than any innate ability, that led him to greatness. In concluding his memoir, Hardy wrote:

The case for my life, then, or for that of any one else who has been a mathematician in the same sense which I have been one, is this: that I have added something to knowledge, and helped others to add more; and that these somethings have a value which differs in degree only, and not in kind, from that of the creations of the great mathematicians, or of any of the other artists, great or small, who have left some kind of memorial behind them.

The truth is that seeking out problems to solve, rigorously checking your facts and actively collaborating with others who can drive an idea forward are all things that anyone can do, but most don’t. It is those things that set great innovators apart.

What makes the difference is not brilliance or even hard work. Lots of brilliant people work hard and achieve little. It is the passion to contribute something, to add not only knowledge but to the collective well being, that sets great innovators apart.

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

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Smarter Risk Taking

Smarter Risk Taking

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

After founding ImagineNation™ in Israel, I invested a year of my time and considerable money in taking what I thought were smart risks to invent an experiential business game. This involved collaborating with one of the top game design companies to co-create a live business simulation incorporating innovative gamification elements intending to teach corporations how to be innovative.

To my shock and surprise at the time, my invention initially failed!

Despite being an adult and experiential learning specialist and having designed and facilitated hundreds of corporate learning games for some of Australia’s top 100 companies over twenty-five years. It felt really horrible, and it was a visceral, heartbreaking, shameful and ego-destroying experience that I would not want anyone, anywhere, ever to experience.

Deep Learning Experience

Yet, it became a profound learning experience, enabling me to understand how:

  • My imposter syndrome played a significant self-sabotaging role. It did not set me up for success, nor did it set me up for maximising the importance of self-efficacy and self-mastery when on an innovation roller-coaster ride.
  • I had not undertaken sufficient research studies to determine if users wanted and were ready to accept such a radical innovation. Nor had I noticed how much the corporate learning market was being disrupted by technology, causing significant time and budget constraints, that I had neglected to address.
  • I had not paused long enough to consider, anticipate, plan and mitigate the risks involved in prototyping a viable minimal product in a new market.
  • I had not considered the risks involved with collaborating with a new consulting partner and co-facilitator, as well as with a new client. Nor anticipated how to resolve the values conflict that erupted when the project failed.
  • I had not fully understood the process involved in iterating and pivoting a new invention and the time it would take to produce a commercially viable product that the market would understand, be ready for, and respond to.

Finally, it seems that I had unconsciously fallen victim to the innovative start-up entrepreneur’s curse – falling in love with my product!

This was generated by my excitement, enthusiasm and energy of the possibilities rather than balancing these courageously and compassionately with the:

  • Harsh realities to be innovative.
  • Vital role of smart risk-taking and experimentation.
  • What ‘fails fast, to learn quickly’ really means at the heart (emotional), head (cognitive) and gut (visceral) levels.

Value of Failing Fast

They say that people need to teach what they need to learn themselves.

This valuable failure enabled me to invest the next ten years in learning to make sense of innovation and what it means to be innovative, including:

  • Helped me develop self-efficacy, trust my inner knowing and judgement, and make a stand for myself in the face of opposition and criticism I often received when presenting at a global conference on the people side of innovation, especially by process engineers.
  • Investing more attention, time in iterating and pivoting, testing and validating the two-day business simulation MVP to make it more tangible, simpler and teachable. 
  • Acknowledging that technology had accelerated sufficiently to accept that the original creative idea of a simple hybrid board game was the most valuable commercial option that could make the difference I wanted to make in the world. 
  • Becoming more patient, self-compassionate, and courageous in smart risk-taking and leading, coaching, and engaging in team innovation and continuous learning through various innovation, entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial learning initiatives.

Iterating and Pivoting

I iterated, pivoted, and refined my intellectual property by presenting and bespoking the Coach for Innovators, Leaders and Teams Certified Program™ for over twelve years to global change-makers.

Most importantly, I reined in my competitive, risky and restless saboteur and focused on doing just one thing, which has finally morphed into a book, supported by a board game to teach people how to be innovative and develop an innovation mindset.

Taking Risks

In the fog of a globalised, disrupted, unpredictable and increasingly uncertain world, no innovation can progress, and no one can be innovative without smart risk-taking.

No innovation can improve without rigorous experimentation, where learning mainly happens by doing things to explore, discover, and know what not to do.  

Research has shown that most successful new business ventures abandoned their original business strategies when implementing their initial plans, learned what would and would not work in the market, and conserved sufficient resources to have a second or third stab at getting it right.

Trial and Error and Cause and Effect

Innovation is a never-ending, risky, adaptive process involving trial and error and understanding cause and effect.

Because people are fearful of making mistakes and the negative consequences of failure, innovation requires leadership to develop both foresight and prospection skills to:

  • Empower and enable them to paradoxically take both a strategic and systemic perspective and a human-centred approach. 
  • Equip them to be innovative when designing business ventures and transformation initiatives that deliver commercially viable outcomes to successfully improve the quality of people’s lives that are appreciated and cherished.

Risk-taking is a Choice

In most businesses and organizations, innovation involves taking considerable risks, especially if seeking to enter a new market with a new product. It is compounded and resisted by many people in organizations because they are too focused on personal survival, personal gain, short-term gain and shareholder return.

Unfortunately, many organizations end up, paradoxically, undermining their organization’s capacity to be innovative, adapt, innovate and grow. Mainly due to their people being disengaged, resistant to change, lacking agency and being held back by bureaucracy and hierarchy that is averse to smart risk-taking and experimentation.

The Future is Permissionless

Because most people generally do not have permission, and are not allowed to make mistakes. They are not encouraged to try new things, so they become risk-averse, avoidant, oppositional and conventional, and don’t feel safe in deviating from the accepted way of doing things.

This is commonly known as the ‘status quo’ and drives people to comply with ‘what is’ (even when it no longer matters) and not apply their human ingenuity, be innovative and create new inventions from ‘what could be’ possible and through smart risk-taking to partner with AI in delivering innovative solutions in a disruptive world of complexity and unknowns.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Are You Pursuing Efficiency at the Expense of Effectiveness?

Are You Pursuing Efficiency at the Expense of Effectiveness?

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

Efficiency is a simple measurement – output divided by resources needed to achieve it. How much did you get done and how many people did you need to do it? What was the return on the investment? How much money did you make relative to how much you had to invest? We have efficiency measurements for just about everything. We are an efficiency-based society.

It’s easy to create a metric for efficiency. Figure out the output you can measure and divide it by the resources you think you used to achieve it. While a metric like this is easy to calculate, it likely won’t provide a good answer to what we think is the only question worth asking– how do we increase efficiency?

Problem 1. The resources you think are used to produce the output aren’t the only resources you used to generate the output. There are many resources that contributed to the output that you did not measure. And not only that, you don’t know how much those resources actually cost. You can try the tricky trick of fully burdened cost, where the labor rate is loaded with an overhead percentage. But that’s, well, nothing more than an artifact of a contrived accounting system. You can do some other stuff like calculate the opportunity cost of deploying those resources on other projects. I’m not sure what that will get you, but it won’t get you the actual cost of achieving the output you think you achieved.

Problem 2. We don’t measure what’s important or meaningful. We measure what’s easy to measure. And that’s a big problem because you end up beating yourself about the head and shoulders trying to improve something that is easy to measure but not all that meaningful. The biggest problem here is local optimization. You want something easy to measure so you cull out a small fraction of a larger process and increase the output of that small part of the process. The thing is, your customer doesn’t care about the efficiency of that small piece of that process. And, improving that small piece likely doesn’t do anything for the output of the total process. If more products aren’t leaving the factory, you didn’t do anything.

Problem 3. Productivity isn’t all that important. What’s important is effectiveness. If you are highly efficient at the wrong thing, you may be efficient, but you’re also ineffective. If you launch a product in a highly efficient way and no one buys it, your efficiency numbers may be off the charts, but your effectiveness numbers are in the toilet.

We have very few metrics on effectiveness. But here are some questions a good effectiveness metric should help you answer.

  • Did we work on the right projects?
  • Did we make good decisions?
  • Did we put the right people on the projects?
  • Did we do what we said we’d do?
  • After the project, is the team excited to do a follow-on project?
  • Did our customers benefit from our work?
  • Do our partners want to work with us again?
  • Did we set ourselves up to do our work better next time?
  • Did we grow our young talent?
  • Did we have fun?
  • Do more people like to work at our company?
  • Have we developed more trust-based relationships over the last year?
  • Have we been more transparent with our workforce this year?

If I had a choice between efficiency and effectiveness, I’d choose effectiveness.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Top 10 American Innovations of All Time

A Fourth of July Celebration

Top 10 American Innovations of All Time

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

As we gather to celebrate the Fourth of July, our nation’s Independence Day, we not only rejoice in the freedoms and values that define America but also reflect on the incredible ingenuity that has propelled our country forward. From the light bulb to the Internet, American innovations have played a key role in shaping the modern world. In honor of this patriotic occasion, let’s take a moment to celebrate the Top 10 American Innovations of All Time — milestones that exemplify the pioneering spirit and relentless pursuit of progress that define our great nation.

1. The Internet

Arguably the most transformative innovation of the 20th century, the Internet was born out of American ingenuity during the late 1960s under projects like ARPANET. It has revolutionized communication, commerce, entertainment, and access to information. It is the backbone of the digital age, making our world more connected than ever before. As we celebrate our independence, it’s particularly fitting to honor the Internet, a creation that has democratized information and connectivity globally. The Internet has transformed how we communicate, learn, and do business. It’s a tool that fosters freedom of expression and connects us all, embodying the spirit of liberty we cherish.

2. The Light Bulb

When Thomas Edison perfected the incandescent light bulb in 1879, it marked a new era in human history. The ability to illuminate spaces effectively and efficiently extended the day’s productivity, paving the way for the modern lifestyle and countless subsequent innovations. Much like the fireworks that light up our skies on the Fourth of July, Edison’s innovation illuminated the path to a new era of progress and possibility.

3. The Airplane

The Wright brothers’ first successful flight in 1903 epitomizes American daring and inventiveness, with the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered aircraft. Their breakthrough not only shrank the world in terms of travel time but also laid the foundation for an entire industry that employs millions and generates trillions of dollars globally. Their achievement made the skies accessible, bringing people closer together and making global travel a reality. Just as the Fourth of July celebrates freedom of movement and the pursuit of happiness, the airplane opened new horizons for all.

4. Personal Computer

While computing concepts had been around for years, it was American pioneers like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who brought the personal computer into homes and offices worldwide. The launch of the Apple Macintosh and the widespread adoption of Microsoft Windows revolutionized how we work, create, and communicate. The Fourth of July is a reminder of our nation’s innovative spirit, and the personal computer is a testament to what we can achieve through curiosity, creativity, and determination.

5. Smartphone

Apple’s introduction of the iPhone in 2007 was a watershed moment in technology. This little device, combining a phone, a music player, a camera, and a portable computer, has since evolved to influence every aspect of modern life—changing how we interact, access information, and entertain ourselves. As we celebrate our nation’s independence, we can take pride in knowing that one of the most transformative tools for communication and freedom of information was born from American ingenuity.

6. Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP)

Developed by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn in the 1970s, TCP/IP is the fundamental framework for the Internet. This set of communication protocols enables the interconnection of diverse networks, making the global Internet possible. Without it, the complex web of networks we rely on would not function. Just as the Declaration of Independence established the principles of our nation, TCP/IP set the standards for global communication, making the World Wide Web an integral part of our daily lives.

7. The Assembly Line

Introduced by Henry Ford in 1913, the assembly line revolutionized manufacturing. By drastically cutting production times and costs, it enabled the mass production and democratization of consumer goods. This innovation not only transformed industries but also played a crucial role in shaping modern economies. As we celebrate the Fourth of July, we honor this innovation that embodies the American ideals of efficiency, ingenuity, and the drive to make life better for all.

8. The Cotton Gin

Invented by Eli Whitney in 1793, the cotton gin revolutionized the agricultural industry by efficiently separating cotton fibers from seeds. This innovation catalyzed the cotton industry, leading to significant economic growth, particularly in the American South. This Fourth of July, we recognize this pivotal innovation that showcased American problem-solving skills and led to transformative economic growth.

9. GPS Technology

Initially developed by the U.S. Department of Defense, the Global Positioning System (GPS) has since been made available for civilian use and has transformed navigation and location-based services. Whether for cars, smartphones, or even precision agriculture, GPS has become an indispensable tool in modern society. On this Independence Day, we salute this innovation that highlights our nation’s commitment to technological advancement and safety.

10. CRISPR-Cas9

This innovative gene-editing technology, developed by Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, has revolutionized genetic engineering. Although it’s a collaborative global effort, American research and institutions played a significant role in developing and refining this breakthrough. CRISPR-Cas9 holds promise for treating genetic disorders, improving crop resilience, and more. This Fourth of July, we honor this innovation that holds the promise to cure diseases, improve agriculture, and inspire future generations of American scientists.


As fireworks illuminate the sky this Fourth of July, let’s celebrate not only our nation’s independence but also the remarkable innovations that reflect the American spirit of discovery and progress. These top ten innovations, each a beacon of ingenuity and determination, continue to shape our world and the future.

May we draw inspiration from these milestones as we cherish our freedom and commit to fostering a culture of innovation that will drive our nation forward for generations to come.

Happy Fourth of July!

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It Takes Hard Work to Make It Look Easy

A Customer Experience That Will Be Appreciated

It Takes Hard Work to Make It Look Easy

GUEST POST from Shep Hyken

My friend Norman Beck recently shared a quote that inspired him: We work hard to make it look easy. Isn’t that what the best people do? Whether it’s sports, entertainment, or business, some people are so good that what they do looks easy.

I Googled the quote to find out who to attribute it to and found numerous variations:

In sports, Ken Griffey Jr., a professional baseball player, said, “Just because I made it look easy doesn’t mean that it was, and you don’t work hard and become a Hall of Famer without working day in and day out.”

In entertainment, Ben Mitchell, a fictional character from the BBC television series EastEnders, said, “It takes a lot of effort to make something look effortless.”

And in business, Steve Jobs of Apple said, “It takes a lot of hard work to make something look simple.”

There is some very practical wisdom in these motivational and inspiring quotes that we can apply to the customer service and customer experience (CX) world.

Think of the best customer experiences you have had.

Perhaps it was a person who was helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly, which, by the way, are the three experiences customers say are most likely to get them to come back, according to our 2024 CX research (sponsored by RingCentral). They made your experience enjoyable and easy. What you probably don’t know is that other than a pleasant demeanor – hopefully a natural part of the employee’s personality – there was a lot of training to get this person educated about the company’s products so they could deliver a knowledgeable and helpful experience.

Or consider the simplicity of ordering a product from Amazon. How complicated is the behind-the-scenes process that takes you from a few clicks on their website to what you ordered showing up on your front porch? It is incredibly complicated, but the Amazon experience is so easy!

When I’m invited to speak to a group of business leaders as the keynote speaker, I often share my Six Simple Steps to Building a Customer-Focused Culture. Yes, the steps are simple, but that doesn’t mean they are easy. There’s a difference!

The point is that simple is usually not easy. There’s lots of work, thinking, planning, practice, experimenting, training, and more that goes into creating an easy experience. And one thing customers really want, whether they express it or not, is an easy experience. So, consider this simple – but not so easy-to-answer – question: What do you do to give your customers an easy experience?

Image Credits: Pixabay

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Giving Your Team a Sense of Shared Purpose

Giving Your Team a Sense Of Shared Purpose

GUEST POST from David Burkus

With work and life becoming more intertwined than ever, people increasingly seek purpose through work. So, leaders are being called upon to create a sense of purpose on a team. When team members feel that their work is connected to a larger company-wide purpose, they are more motivated and perform better. This gives managers and leaders an opportunity to facilitate work environments that provide the sense of purpose people need to thrive.

In this article, we will explore five effective ways to create a sense of purpose on a team, ensuring that everyone is aligned and driven towards a common goal.

Give The “It’s A Wonderful Life” Test

The first way to create a sense of purpose on a team is to give the “It’s A Wonderful Life Test.” This test is derived from reflecting on the movie It’s a Wonderful Life and its premise. In the movie, the main character, George Bailey, is saved from committing suicide by an angel. Clarence (worst name for an angel ever) shows how different his community would be if George had never existed. This test doesn’t get as morbid as the movie, but the idea is to run a thought experiment that leads the team to examine its importance by considering the impact of its absence. By applying this test to your team, you can gain a deeper understanding of who is served by their work and the significance of their contributions. This knowledge allows them to see the value they bring to the organization and the difference they make in the lives of others.

Draft a Rallying Cry

The second way to create a sense of purpose on a team is to draft a rallying cry. A rallying cry is a powerful tool that embodies the team’s purpose and serves as a motivational phrase that everyone on the team knows. It should be simple, catchy, and inspiring. Many successful teams have used rallying cries to unite their members and keep them focused on their shared purpose. For example, the San Antonio Spurs adopted the rallying cry “pound the rock,” tapping into the imagery of a stonecutter hitting away at a rock hundreds of times before it finally cracks. They use it as a powerful reminder that the day-to-day strain of training and drilling hundreds of times is what brings victory. By creating a rallying cry that resonates with the team’s purpose, you can foster a strong sense of unity and motivation.

Create Team Symbols

The third way to create a sense of purpose on a team is to create team symbols. Symbols are visual representations that embody the team’s purpose and values. They serve as reminders of the team’s mission and can help team members stay connected to their sense of purpose. They can be visual symbols, objects, gestures, or anything else that can contains a meaning specific to the team—even better if it can tie into the rallying cry. To use the San Antonio Spurs again, their practice facility contains a powerful symbol—a boulder and sledgehammer displayed behind glass. Players walk by it before every practice. Your team may not have as elaborate a symbol. But anything that can remind the team of its rallying cry can help build a sense of purpose on a team. And as a bonus, you can reinforce a sense of shared identity on the team as well.

Collect Impact Stories

The fourth way to create a sense of purpose on a team is to collecting impact stories. Stories are one of the most powerful ways humans communicate—and hence they’re a powerful way to highlight the team’s successes and reinforce their sense of purpose. Impact stories can come from various sources, such as media coverage, customer testimonials, or thank you notes. But managers and leaders play a crucial role in collecting these stories and sharing them with the team. Ideally, every positive email or story in the media that aligns with either the team’s or the organization’s purpose gets captured so it can be shared at regular meetings. By regularly sharing impact stories, team members can see the tangible results of their work and the positive impact they have on others. This boosts their morale and motivation, reminding them of the importance of their contributions and the purpose behind their efforts.

Outsource Inspiration

The final way to create a sense of purpose on a team is to outsource inspiration. Outsourcing inspiration involves bringing in individuals who have been directly impacted by the team’s work to share their stories. It’s like collecting impact stories but amplified. Hearing firsthand accounts of how their work has made a difference can be incredibly motivating for team members. For example, medical device company Medtronic invites patients to their annual holiday party to share how the company’s technology helps them live better. When team members see the real-world impact of their efforts, it reinforces their sense of purpose and reminds them of the importance of their work. It also provides an opportunity for them to connect with the people they are serving, fostering empathy and a deeper understanding of their purpose.

Creating a sense of purpose on a team is crucial for its success. By using the “It’s a Wonderful Life” test, drafting a rallying cry, creating team symbols, collecting impact stories, and outsourcing inspiration, teams can foster a strong sense of purpose and motivation. These activities should be ongoing to maintain a sense of purpose and drive within the team, motivating them to do their best work ever.

Image credit: Unsplash

Originally published on on July 31, 2023

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Is Disruption About to Claim a New Victim?

Kodak. Blockbuster. Google?

GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton

You know the stories.  Kodak developed a digital camera in the 1970s, but its images weren’t as good as film images, so it ended the project.  Decades later, that decision ended Kodak.  Blockbuster was given the chance to buy Netflix but declined due to its paltry library of titles (and the absence of late fees).  A few years later, that decision led to Blockbuster’s decline and demise.  Now, in the age of AI, disruption may be about to claim another victim – Google.

A very brief history of Google’s AI efforts

In 2017, Google Research invented Transformer, a neural network architecture that could be trained to read sentences and paragraphs, pay attention to how the words relate to each other, and predict the words that would come next. 

In 2020, Google developed LaMDA, or Language Model for Dialogue Applications, using Transformer-based models trained on dialogue and able to chat. 

Three years later, Google began developing its own conversational AI using its LaMDA system. The only wrinkle is that OpenAI launched ChatGPT in November 2022. 

Now to The Financial Times for the current state of things

“In early 2023, months after the launch of OpenAI’s groundbreaking ChatGPT, Google was gearing up to launch its competitor to the model that underpinned the chatbot.


The search company had been testing generative AI software internally for several months by then.  But as the company rallied its resources, multiple competing models emerged from different divisions within Google, vying for internal attention.”

That last sentence is worrying.  Competition in the early days of innovation can be great because it pushes people to think differently, ask tough questions, and take risks. But, eventually, one solution should emerge as superior to the others so you can focus your scarce resources on refining, launching, and scaling it. Multiple models “vying for internal attention” so close to launch indicate that something isn’t right and about to go very wrong.

“None was considered good enough to launch as the singular competitor to OpenAI’s model, known as ChatGPT-4.  The company was forced to postpone its plans while it tried to sort through the scramble of research projects.  Meanwhile, it pushed out a chatbot, Bard, that was widely viewed to be far less sophisticated than ChatGPT.”

Nothing signals the threat of disruption more than “good enough.”  If Google, like most incumbent companies, defined “good enough” as “better than the best thing out there,” then it’s no surprise that they wouldn’t want to launch anything. 

What’s weird is that instead of launching one of the “not good enough” models, they launched Bard, an obviously inferior product. Either the other models were terrible (or non-functional), or different people were making different decisions to achieve different definitions of success.  Neither is a good sign.

When Google’s finished product, Gemini, was finally ready nearly a year later, it came with flaws in image generation that CEO Sundar Pichai called ‘completely unacceptable’ – a let-down for what was meant to be a demonstration of Google’s lead in a key new technology.”

“A let-down” is an understatement.  You don’t have to be first.  You don’t have to be the best.  But you also shouldn’t embarrass yourself.  And you definitely shouldn’t launch things that are “completely unacceptable.”

What happens next?

Disruption takes a long time and doesn’t always mean death.  Blackberry still exists, and integrated steel mills, one of Clayton Christensen’s original examples of disruption, still operate.

AI, LLMs, and LaMDAs are still in their infancy, so it’s too early to declare a winner.  Market creation and consumer behavior change take time, and Google certainly has the knowledge and resources to stage a comeback.

Except that that knowledge may be their undoing.  Companies aren’t disrupted because their executives are idiots. They’re disrupted because their executives focus on extending existing technologies and business models to better serve their best customers with higher-profit offerings.  In fact, Professor Christensen often warned that one of the first signs of disruption was a year of record profits.

In 2021, Google posted a profit of $76.033 billion. An 88.81% increase from the previous year.

2022 and 2023 profits have both been lower.

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