<![CDATA[PANOPTIKA - Blog]]>Thu, 10 Oct 2019 11:01:53 -0400Weebly<![CDATA[It's All (Not) Going According to Plan]]>Thu, 10 Oct 2019 13:04:31 GMThttp://panoptika.ca/blog/its-all-not-going-according-to-plan
Image thanks to Pexels from Pixabay
"Plans don't work out."
"No business plan survives first contact with the customer."
"If you want to hear God laugh, tell her your plans."

Have you heard these? We know we have. Usually from people who don't want to invest the time in putting their plans to paper. Here's what we also know: committing to a direction in writing, clarifies and solidifies your thinking. It lets you get clarity on:

1. Where you want your business or product to go
2. What actions you believe it will take to get there
3. How you want your customers or stakeholders to react
4. A set of benchmarks you can use to measure, adapt, and adjust as you implement

That last part is usually the part that gets forgotten. The plan isn't a stone tablet. Just like the blueprint for a new house is only the beginning of what that place will need to become a home, the plan is a starting place. When you have a bias for action (as I do), it can feel slow, cumbersome, and frustrating sometimes. But it can also provide great clarity as you work through it. Used right, it lets you document your learning as you go. It becomes a body of evidence of your experiments, hypotheses, and assumptions, and it can help build critical thinking and the ability to "see around corners" - keeping you in business for a long time.

I'm Megann Willson and I'm one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with clients to help them see everything they need to do to make better decisions for their business, so they can find, understand, and keep their best customers. Since 2001 we've helped hundreds of companies with thousands of business challenges, and we can help you, too. What are we seeing? Follow us on Twitter, on LinkedIn, or set an appointment for a no-obligation conversation about what you're trying to solve in your business.  

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<![CDATA[Let's Ask This, Just Because We Can...]]>Fri, 04 Oct 2019 14:03:07 GMThttp://panoptika.ca/blog/lets-ask-this-just-because-we-can
This week I was reading The Magic of Thinking Big, by David J. Schwartz. It's not a new book; in fact it was written in 1959. And although the tone may seem a bit old-timey, much of the advice is as valid today, as when it was new. Schwartz is a big believer in goal-setting, and in the importance of setting out with a plan. He also alluded to a problem we see in the research and consulting business, which is the gathering of data for data's sake, and an over-emphasis on keeping vast repositories of information in our heads or at our fingertips, as a way to "add value" to ourselves. But machines can do that. Here's what Dr. Schwartz said: "More and more we rely on books, files, and machines to warehouse information. If we can only do what a machine can do, we're in a real fix."

It's not the data (however big) that helps us make better sense of the world, understand our customers better, find new markets, sell more, or grow our businesses. It's the synthesis of the data - what we do with it, how we shape it, where we find connections - and our "knowledge goals", that make a difference. Knowing what we want to do with the answers, how we want to use them, and why they're important to us, will help us have a richer understanding of the people we're investigating in our research. Before adding yet another question to an overly-long survey, or jumping in like Columbo with a "just one more thing" query, ask yourself these things:

  1. What will I do with this answer if I get it? 
  2. What decision will I be able to make? 
  3. What action will I be able to take?  
  4. Will it harm the relationship with the respondent in any way (abusing their time, being irrelevant, or being invasive for a purpose which we haven't been transparent about)? 

If you have good answers for those, and you're still comfortable asking, by all means, go for it. Then use what you've learned wisely and do something excellent for the person responding. That is why you're asking, isn't it?

I'm Megann Willson, and with my partner, Steve Willson, we've been helping PANOPTIKA's customers see everything they need to know to make better decisions for richer customer relationships, for over 18 years. You can also follow us on Twitter or connect on Facebook or LinkedIn. And if you'd like to join our community to have the conversation come right to your inbox, there's a button below that will do the trick. 

<![CDATA[Price Your Product So that What They Pay is What It's Worth]]>Fri, 27 Sep 2019 13:37:36 GMThttp://panoptika.ca/blog/price-your-product-so-that-what-they-pay-is-what-its-worth
What you believe your product is worth, isn't always what the customer wants to pay, and especially if they're a multinational corporation, and you're...not. 

It's often tempting for service businesses to think of their pricing as simple units of money by time, for example, and that's what the purchasing people would like to believe. It makes it easy for them. And to be sure, someone will always price their services that way. But in a knowledge-based business, clients are also paying for your experience - your ability to understand the situation from a specific perspective, or as Steve Pulver, the speaker at last night's #Medventions session at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre described it, your ability to "see around corners". That's why you need to build a value story that they can understand. You need to avoid the price spiral. It's the same thing if you are building a complex new technology, or a medication. "Cost plus" is not the right model for either of those things.

So how do you decide how to set your price? There are a few simple rules of thumb. You do still need to start with costs. What does it cost to produce the product or service (raw materials, manufacturing, time researching, meeting, writing reports)? What are your overheads or fixed costs (rent, salaries, keeping the lights on)? Beyond that, you will need to look at competitors. Their pricing will give you a good idea of what the market will bear, unless your aim is to be much cheaper (because you've found a way to do that) or faster (there should be a premium for that) or higher quality (maybe, just maybe the customer will pay for that). Those are all good places to start, if there's a known benchmark. What if there's not? What if you're doing (or you've invented or discovered) something completely new? 

Then you need to start with the costs, above, and begin to think more abstractly about your value proposition, what the product is worth, and what levers you can work with. If you have a medical device, for example, start by thinking about other similar medical problems that are addressed in terms of the incidence and prevalence of the issue, the number of patients impacted, the cost of not treating (the "opportunity cost"). You'll need to use some triangulation if there isn't readily available data. Then the real work begins.
Consider these questions when you're setting your price, and thinking about what customers will pay...
How serious is the pain? Is it more like an annoying itch, or is it a raging migraine? Thinking about how serious the pain is, will allow you to think about how much the customer will pay to solve it. 

What is the consequence of not solving the problem? (How big is the risk to the customer? If it's a medical problem, can it be fatal, or permanently disabling?)

How far in the future will the consequence occur? (It's really hard to get someone young to understand why they might want to pay for life insurance)

And lastly, how often do they have the pain? If it's episodic, occurring at regular intervals, but never really going away, they may not pay as much (in between, they can live with it). If it's chronic and severe at the same time, they'll keep paying and paying for relief (in which case, maybe a subscription model is a good idea). And if it might only occur once - but the risks of not solving it are extreme, you need to make all your money at once, and they just may be willing to pay a premium. 

It's not always dollars by time. Pricing is a much more complex story than that. But it's worth spending time to figure out. In fact, your business depends on it. 

I'm Megann Willson and I'm one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We help our customers in complex businesses to see everything they need to know to make better decisions, so they can build and grow. You can also find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Or you can sign up for regular news you can use, with the handy button below. 

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<![CDATA[Kindness is a gift that gives back]]>Fri, 20 Sep 2019 21:14:18 GMThttp://panoptika.ca/blog/kindness-is-a-gift-that-gives-back
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
A very short post today as it's been a long week with simultaneous projects, deadlines, meetings and family.  The stress of all these converging commitments can have a negative impact on you, so it's nice to get a little reminder of the important things.

We've been attending the Medventions program run by the Sunnybrook Research Institute.  It's a multi-session program for those interested in creating MedTech start-ups, particularly medical devices.  As we support those people and companies, we like to go and learn along side and help focus the discussions on the importance of finding a real problem to solve and developing customer understanding.

The topic of the evening was Medtech Entrepreneurship & Clinical Needs Finding, and it featured two speakers sharing their experience, Chris O’Connor from Think Research and Kieran Murphy, a UHN physician and serial inventor.

There were great stories and insightful questions but it was the wrap-up that hit me.  When asked what was the most valuable lesson he has learned during his many years as an inventor and entrepreneur, Dr Murphy's reply was: kindness.  No-one saw that coming in the cut-throat world of medical invention!

His experience in both giving and receiving kindness has made up for all the failures, long nights, lost capital and all the risks inherent in making change happen.

So just remember, it doesn't take any additional effort to treat those around you with respect and kindness.  But it does pay dividends in how you and others will evaluate your legacy.

I'm Steve Willson, and I'm one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with clients to help them use customer-centricity to focus their efforts and their strategy where they can make the most difference. You can also find us on Twitter and on Facebook, and for ongoing news about topics like this one, click the button below.
<![CDATA[Put your problems into perspective]]>Fri, 13 Sep 2019 20:04:35 GMThttp://panoptika.ca/blog/put-your-problems-into-perspective
​Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay
 Everywhere we turned this week we encountered problems.  That’s not a bad thing, because if there weren’t problems the world wouldn’t need problem solvers like us.

There are, however, a couple of problems with problems; the first is that we often feel compelled to try and solve problems which aren’t ours to solve. The second is that we offer solutions before we really understand what the true nature of the problem.

Two people we respect deeply talked about problems, among other things, this week.

Steve Johnson, a highly experienced Product Management expert, started his article by wondering whether Product Managers should be called Problem Managers in an interview he did with Revulytics. I suggest you read it.

His belief, which we share, is that Product Managers need to focus on the customer problem and not the problems faced by others in the organization.  He also states that you should allow others to develop the solutions. There are many other big brains in the building who can offer solutions that you couldn’t even dream of, but they need you to define the problem to be solved and the outcome the customer is expecting.  Once you do that, step back and go find more problems that your customers need you to address.

“Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.” Robert Schuller

The second article that reinforced this was from Ash Maurya, one of the sparks for the Lean Startup movement.  First he reminded us that it’s been 10 years since he and Eric Ries started blogging about a better way to look at start-ups. You can read it on Medium

The point which struck me is his focus on developing the right mindset to successfully navigate the Lean Startup process.  Unless you and your team are ready to jump in with both feet, you’ll wind up with some other outcome.  One of those key articles of faith is to Love the Problem and spend quality time with your potential customers to develop a deep understanding of their problems, from their perspective.

Like Steve Johnson, Ash Maurya reminds us that it is vital for us to become Problem Managers in order to develop products and services which customers will adopt.

When you are ready to take the leap and become a Problem Manager, Panoptika is there to lend a hand.

I'm Steve Willson, and I'm one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with clients to help them use customer-centricity to focus their efforts and their strategy where they can make the most difference. You can also find us on Twitter and on Facebook, and for ongoing news about topics like this one, click the button below.
<![CDATA[4 Ways to Find Your Focus]]>Fri, 06 Sep 2019 13:55:20 GMThttp://panoptika.ca/blog/4-ways-to-find-your-focus
Picture courtesy of Giovanna Orlando via Pixabay
Entrepreneurs and salespeople love opportunities. (Us included). We love hitting targets, self-imposed or otherwise. We're always looking around, discovering new ways to do things, meeting people, and creating solutions. 

What's wrong with that? It's that it can make us unfocused. If you want to hit a target, you need to take aim. But where, when there are so many choices? Also, what if you've got a whole gallery of people giving you advice or direction? The customer wants one thing. Your boss wants another. Your colleagues have (in their mind, at least) a better idea. Your quota says you want something different. So if you've got a whole line of targets in front of you, how do you focus? Shouldn't you seize every opportunity? When it comes to choosing which product to work on, or which new customer, focus is where the magic happens. Otherwise, when you let loose that arrow (your effort), there's a chance it won't hit any of the targets, and will just sail on by. Or that your effort won't be sufficiently powerful to even get you to the targets in the first place.

Here are five time-tested methods for improving your focus, whether it's on a finishing one of your projects, getting a new customer, or choosing which idea to develop. Start by making a list of all the things you could focus on to achieve your goal. Then do any one of these (all five are useful, but if you've read this far and you want to improve your focus, you might as well start practicing). 

  1. Play "optometrist". Take that  all the things you could focus on, and then, two at a time, ask yourself which would be better to drop, until only one remains. 
  2. Go for early wins. Assign a probability score and work on the one that you are most likely to "hit" first. 
  3. Use the grab-bag approach. Put each individual target on a piece of paper, and draw one out of a bag. Commit to working on that one until you have a result. Your odds are as good this way, as trying to do them all, badly.
  4. Go big or go home. Identify the target that has the biggest upside, and put all your focus there. 

Now that you've found your focus, I'll share a little secret. No one can focus 100% on anything. But follow the Pareto Principle, and you can get there. Find those 20% of your targets that will give you 80% of what you want, and give them 80% of your effort. Then you can feel free to give the other 20% of your time and resources to the remainder, in good conscience. 

I'm Megann Willson, and I'm one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with clients to help them use customer-centricity to focus their efforts and their strategy where they can make the most difference. You can also find us on Twitter and on Facebook, and for ongoing news about topics like this one, click the button below. 

find my focus!
<![CDATA[Why Can't We All Just Get Along?]]>Fri, 30 Aug 2019 16:53:42 GMThttp://panoptika.ca/blog/why-cant-we-all-just-get-along
Image by Birgl from Pixabay
It's the Friday before a long weekend. A deadline is looming. You only have today to make a decision about your big launch. And goodness only knows no one wants to be working on Labour Day. Fortunately, the usual naysayers didn't make the meeting - they've already headed to the cottage. Everyone at the table has been carefully selected because they're committed to getting the work done. You've set the end time for 3pm so you can submit the recommendations and all be on your way. What could possibly go wrong? Here are some last-minute checks to make sure you get finished on time.

First, congratulations on the time constraint, maybe. Time constraints do signal that this is not the time for endless discussion. But they can also mean that people who need a lot of time to express themselves, may simply shut down or acquiesce, instead of giving valuable feedback. 

Does everyone know the purpose of the meeting? If you haven't set a clear agenda stating that this is a decision-making meeting (as opposed to an information/status update meeting or an idea-generating meeting, even the best people can arrive with the wrong idea, dragging out the conversation because they feel like they weren't heard at the last meeting. 

Do you have as much information as possible, readily at hand? Save time by running around looking for data or feedback you've already gathered in advance. Make sure it is already assembled in one place, and that a copy has been forwarded to the attendees in advance of the meeting, in case they need more time to process.

Did you gather that information collaboratively? In the video on Mind the Product's blog, Tricia Wang points out that you are not the voice of the customer. None of you. And while we try not to use never, always, all, none, and everyone in a collaborative environment, we're with her on this one. 

Did you appoint a decider? The thing about urgent decisions, is that they must be made. Sometimes, even in the face of indecision. There may also be someone who can ultimately overrule whatever you decide. They need to be in the room. If they can't (sound of screeching brakes), you may just have to push out the deadline. 

If you've done all this, and someone is still arguing, filibustering, or sulking in the corner because they're not being heard, it's time to step back and start over. And if the team can't agree that this is a decision-making meeting, that decision may just have to wait for Tuesday, because you've got bigger problems to solve. 

I'm Megann Willson and I'm a Partner and CEO here at PANOPTIKA. I'm also a researcher, strategist and facilitator who works with clients to help them hear the voice of their customer, figure out how to use what they've learned, and make better decisions. You can also find me, and my partner Steve Willson, on Twitter or LinkedIn. Want more News You Can Use delivered right to your inbox? Click the handy button, below. 
<![CDATA[Never Compromise When You Can Collaborate.]]>Thu, 22 Aug 2019 14:30:00 GMThttp://panoptika.ca/blog/never-compromise-when-you-can-collaborate
Image by rawpixel via Pixabay
If you've ever tried to create something or solve a problem as part of a high-functioning team, you know that conflict is practically unavoidable. Add a looming deadline, a commitment to an important client, or a boss who just won't take no for an answer, and there's a lot of pressure to come up with a solution. 

There are a lot of different ways to solve conflict - the Thomas-Killman Conflict Mode breaks it down into five key methods.  Their model includes a matrix where one axis is assertiveness, and the other is cooperativeness. The four quadrants break down as follows:
  1. Competing - that's where each of the parties wants to "win". Usually that's a no-win for everyone.
  2. Avoiding - is where the risk to one or more parties of being hurt by the process is high, so they "turtle". Does that sound like a satisfactory outcome?
  3. Accommodating - people want to "keep the peace", right? Sounds like a good idea. Except when the result is that a few bullies learn that they can continue to run the show, while the simmering resentment begins to build, and build, in the others.
  4. The fourth is Collaborating - and we'll get back to that in a moment. 
What about compromising? Isn't that the best approach? Maybe not. And here's why.
Compromising sounds okay, for sure. It's fair, right? Well, it's fair - in both the good, and the bad sense of the word. It's a little like the difference between equity and equality. Compromise may seem like an acceptable solution, but often it is the solution that gives everyone exactly the same amount of sway, but ultimately provides a weak solution that leaves everyone disappointed. 

So how do you Collaborate? Very carefully. It takes time. (Remember that point at the top about maybe there's a looming deadline?) Earlier models for conflict resolution also talked about the axes being people-driven, or time-driven. And while there's no right answer, suspending the time deadline does increase the likelihood of collaboration. Collaboration is arriving at a co-created solution, where everyone feels heard, their ideas are validated, and then, if they must back off their position, they feel that it was at least given careful consideration by the other members of the team.

If time really is of the essence, then the solution may not be to leave it up to consensus decision-making. You may have to rely on a decider, and then return to the collaboration table to discuss less time-sensitive issues. (This is why design sprints usually appoint a decider - someone who has the final say, if push comes to shove). 

So the next time you have a group decision to make, if you know there will be lots of strong wills in the room, leave enough time for collaboration. If there isn't enough time, appoint someone to decide, and move on. In situations of critical importance, sometimes every kid doesn't get a valentine.

I'm Megann Willson and I'm one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to make better decisions - including facilitating collaborative decision-making by teams, leading sprints, and helping them decide which framework best suits the kind of decisions they need to make. If you and your team need help doing that, send us an email, and let's set up a free call. Follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedInand for more news you can use to help you or your team to ask more questions in ways that will let them make better decisions, click the handy button, below.
I'm ready to make better decisions with customers!
<![CDATA[Forget storytelling. Try storyshowing.]]>Tue, 13 Aug 2019 18:13:44 GMThttp://panoptika.ca/blog/forget-storytelling-try-storyshowing
Photo by klimkin via Pixabay
There's a lot of attention being paid to storytelling these days, as a way to gain customers' attention and sell more product. That's not what I'm going to talk about today, though. Today I want to talk about how you can use stories to build empathy and gain a greater understanding of customer problems and motivators. 

In today's business environment, there are two things that are in short supply: money, and time. The consequence of this, is that in the rush to meet deadlines, get answers, make decisions, and ship our products and services, soft skills may go out the window. Regularly surveying customers can get us an abundance of data, and data's what we need to get answers. To make decisions. To validate that the solution we want to give the customer is right, so we can win, or fail, fast. 

What's wrong with this picture? Well, first of all, in the hurry to find out why customers are doing the things they do, or what their problem is, or how we can fix it, I'm seeing all too much blunt-force questioning. Clients ask me to ask their customers or prospects why they buy. Or they want to ask the customer to tell us how they can solve the problem that same customer is having. Trust me, if they knew, they'd be solving it, or at least trying. Or, clients want to ask questions like the example in this post.

Sometimes, when product or marketing teams or UX people want to get really creative, they ask the customer to tell them a story. They've been told not to ask why, and someone has sold them on the idea that storytelling is a great tool to capture customer experience, or the customer journey. If you want to know why asking why doesn't work, even on ourselves, watch this great video about introspection and self-awareness from Tasha Eurich. 

So what can you do? If asking the customer to tell you a story isn't always effective, and you can't ask why, and you can't ask them how you're supposed to solve their problem, what is the solution? Look at the picture above. The one kid didn't say to the other, "tell me a story about that". She asked, "show me."

Instead of seeking storytelling, try using storyshowing. Ask them to show you where they're running into the problem. Sit with them while they demonstrate what's going on. Share screens, or better yet, go to them one-on-one and observe. Listen carefully. Interrupt with questions that involve "what happens when that happens" or "tell me more", but sparingly. Seek clarity, not certainty. Take good notes, make sketches, record if the situation allows. Here's an Innovation Game© called Me and My Shadow that explains a bit about how this works.

We like to add another step. Ask if you can tell them the story of what you saw, in your words. Ask them to be your editor. When they change things, ask them to explain the reason for the change. Then, and only then, let them know that you'd like to share that with your team, so you can come back to them with some fresh ideas. Resist the urge to solve the problem today.

If all of this seems like it is fiddly, and time-consuming, it is. You're not gathering big data; you're gathering rich data. And in our experience, rich data will yield a richer result. 

I'm Megann Willson and I'm one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to make better decisions - including better ways to ask the questions that will gain them a richer understanding of their customers, users, and stakeholders. If you need help doing that, we do that, too. Follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedInand for more news you can use to help you or your team to ask more questions in ways that will let them make better decisions, click the handy button, below.
Oh, I definitely have questions about better questions!
<![CDATA[Drum Roll, Please. Here are the Best New Ways to Get Customers.]]>Fri, 09 Aug 2019 15:21:18 GMThttp://panoptika.ca/blog/drum-roll-please-here-are-the-best-new-ways-to-get-customers
Image courtesy of Pixabay
Modern marketers need modern methods.

Am I right? You might think this article is going to spend lots of time talking about building pipelines and creating conversion funnels, using social media to generate leads and attract prospects with content, mining data to unearth new insights, and more. Do read on, and see if you're right.

Do you remember last week's post, about how something may resonate with you, and then suddenly you're seeing it everywhere? Sure enough, that happened to me. (I checked my bias, though, and validated - these things do work).

First, I was speaking with consultant and coach Debbie Adams of PeopleCan about how, despite the many tools we have at our disposal, some of the best and easiest sales come because we've already impressed the customer, and we aren't listening carefully enough to realize it's time to stop selling. I also overheard a conversation between two business women and one was asking the other about getting new customers, when privacy regulations seemed to be making it harder and harder to use email. "It's easy, said one. I phone them." Cold-calling is sometimes most effective because it's simple and unexpected. And it makes you take time to think about the person on the other end of the line, before you begin - at least if you do it well. (For more info on how to do that, check out The Phone Lady - she works with entrepreneurs and enterprises to help them get better at using the phone). Lastly, to use Steve Willson's favourite F1 quote: "Get in there, Lewis!" In other words, go to where potential customers are. Have conversations. Engage. Show them you're a real person. You'll be pleasantly surprised on one-on-one outreach will help build momentum in your business. So, in short, three tools that are underused and can freshen up your sales numbers? 

  1. Listen carefully for clues that people you know are already ready to buy.
  2. Pick up the phone and call. 
  3. Go out and meet prospects in person at an event that interests them. 

Oh, and one more tip about the customers you've already found? In this post by Devin Haman, he says that you can come up with more things to sell your existing customers, by proactively fixing problems today's proactive customers may not even have discovered yet. 

I'm Megann Willson and I'm one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to make better decisions - using better data, a better approach, or better metrics. If you need help deciding which metrics will work best for you and your team, so that you can find, serve, and keep more customers, we can help. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.  For more news you can use to help you or your team to make better decisions, click the handy button, below.

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