As the holiday season approaches, companies (and especially your sales team) start thinking of ways to thank, or give back, to your best customers. You can send them cards. If their corporate responsibility code allows it (and yours does), you can send them tokens of your appreciation. Some companies send sales incentives, wrapped as "gifts" and tied with a bow. (We're looking at you, Black Friday).
Here's are a couple of gifts you can give to customers and prospects, all year long: active listening and empathetic engagement. How can you do that?
Visit them at their workplace, and ask them what problems they're trying to solve, and how they're trying to solve them now. Not what problems they're trying to solve with the tool you have on offer, but simply an opportunity for you to walk a mile in their shoes. Save the solutions for later.
Ask them questions in a way that's easy for them - let them answer in a way that's comfortable, conversational, and that allows them to say, "that isn't even the right question!"
Make it easy for them to contact you - however they want. Let them call, write, email, engage through social media, or even send a carrier pigeon (ok, maybe not that). When they do, respond, even if you don't like what you're hearing, or if your answer must be, "we're sorry, but that's not a problem we're able to solve". (Bonus points if you can point them to someone who can).
If your team needs help asking hard questions, needs training on how to choose the best research approach to solve their problem, or wants a facilitator to help bring it all together, we do those things. But for today, we'll just wait patiently and ask, what's up with you, and what problems are you trying to solve these days?
What does a spider have to do with understanding your customers? No, it's not a metaphor for entangling them in a sticky web and holding them captive while you make a meal of them. But there is a metaphor involved. Let me explain!
We like to use metaphor-based serious games like Innovation Games® to help teams become more customer-centric. It's a fun way to reinforce this important perspective, when your team may have had a nice relaxing summer, and now, in a panic to get sales back on track, they're focusing too much on features, and not enough on the people the features are for. Or, they may be thinking too much about the competition, and not enough about those same customers. We're experts at the Innovation Game Spider Web, and we love using it as a tool to get teams back in touch with the thing that should be at the centre of their world. (Hint: it's not your product). With the customer at the centre of the web, we guide your team in an in-depth exploration of
If you'd like to connect with us about a custom workshop for your team, we'd love to hear from you. To hear more about the ways we're helping our customers to see everything and make better decisions, why not sign up for our newsletter?
We've been reading a great book from our friend Dr. Rick Nason of Dalhousie University, called It's Not Complicated: The Art and Science of Complexity for Business Success. It's definitely on our "read and recommended list for all our clients. When Megann met with Rick recently, they were discussing analogies for complex versus complicated things, such as: "Complex is like mayonnaise - once you make it, it can't be separated back into eggs, oil, and lemon juice". She shared her favourite description of companies who expect to be able to use complicated thinking for complex problems, like the way customers make decisions:
"It's as though they think customers can be handled like the cakes in an Easy Bake (TM) oven. If they just apply all the same tactics the same way, all the consumer behaviours will pop out the same way at the other end of the machine."
Hopefully you haven't been managing your customers like inputs in an Easy Bake oven, but if you have, and you'd like to work on building your team's complexity thinking, we can help. Why don't you give us a call, and we can get started with an introductory conversation about how to use the right thinking tools at the right time.
Crowdsourcing is a fantastic way to get ideas, feedback, information, and synergistic thinking. As long as you're hanging with the right crowd.
Thinking carefully about who needs to be in the room for your sprint, who should be invited to respond to your survey, or whose opinion will really make a difference when you are interviewing experts for a report, has never been more important.
If you need help deciding who to ask, poll, invite, or share your concept with, just ask. We do that.
Worse yet, what if we can?
It's a funny thing, idea generation. Once the first idea comes, it can sometimes feel like a floodgate has been opened - and it leads to another, and another. Before you know it, you've generated more ideas than you know what to do with. How will you ever rein them all in?
Next time, you might want to start by putting some constraints on your ideation process. Take time to frame the session with any limits that are non-negotiable:
1. We only have a thousand dollars to spend
2. There is a one-week timeline to complete the prototype
3. We have to be sure that students can complete the projects without parents' help
Each constraint allows for a bit of sorting along the way and, surprisingly, often result in even more imaginative solutions.
That's not the problem at hand, though, so how can you prioritize? This is where frameworks come in handy. Using something like Conteneo's Product Tree will let you use metaphors to narrow down that overwhelming pile of ideas. As an example, the trunk of the tree can represent the job to be done. Branches can stand for approaches, and leaves for ways of implementing that approach. Where the tree really becomes useful, is when you start looking at the roots - they're the resources, effort, or infrastructure required to actually bring the ideas to fruition. We've found that getting people back down to ground level, looking at the roots, is one of the most effective ways we can think of to eliminate ideas that are not possible (or not possible for now).
Every great idea has limits - so the next time you're planning for creativity, you may want to make life a little easier, by using a framework to establish some constraints.
We had a strategy, we assembled a great team of folks who had been successful in their prior jobs, we met on a regular basis, we used a bunch of co-working tools to foster collaboration...but we still couldn't seem to make great, impactful decisions! Sound familiar?
We've been conditioned to think that make decisions is easy; after all, we make hundreds of decisions each day. But what we forget is that most of those are subconscious, requiring little or no functional brain power.
Making a real decision, one which affect money, people and other large-scale problems, is hard.
So, what can you do to make it easier? The first thing we recommend is to use a framework. Frameworks are simply a standardized method to guide you through the process of making the decision. There are numerous advantages that flow from frameworks, but the best, we think, is that it eliminates the bickering about how you and the group are going to go about the task of decision making. Everyone will assume that you have put hours of research into designing the process. Well done, you!
We've developed a simple framework, in the form of a checklist, to help you. Essentially you need to address five areas to make great decisions:
Please contact us for a free introductory conversation. It may be the best decision you'll make all day.
Change is hard, especially in organizations, and many people don't want it, or at least they don't want the discomfort that often seems to accompany it. If you're brought in to be an agent for change, there are typically two paths that will get you there - evolution (which feels cumbersome and slow) or revolution (which is frequently accompanied by destruction, creative or otherwise, pain, and even some suffering).
If you are in a hurry to make things happen, one cause of pain is having the right intention, but taking action in a way that makes that action seem more sinister than necessary. How do you remove a Band-Aid? Ripping it off can be hurtful and unsettling, but taking time to prepare the team ("this might sting a little, but it's going to heal better once we put a fresh dressing on there") lets them in on your thinking a little, and allows them to focus on the outcome, not just the action. On the other hand, telling them everything will be painless and then making the change with a "rrrrrip!" creates distrust, confusion, and fear. Fear and confusion breed questions like:
As a changemaker, your instincts may tell you to get things done quickly so your initiatives don't stall; that's valid. Taking a little extra time to set the stage and "p-reinforce" the benefits, though, will help you fix the situation without leaving any scars.
Have you ever been in a meeting, where one person takes over the agenda, commandeers the conversation, and virtually sucks the energy and oxygen out of the room? Sometimes you can be so taken aback, that you don't even know how to fight. Here are some tips that may come in handy:
Get in touch by emailing us, and be sure to follow us on Twitter to find more ways to see everything, understand, collaborate, and grow.
If you're one of our loyal followers from The View From Here, welcome! We've recently done some freshening up and housecleaning of our site. If you're new to PANOPTIKA's blog, welcome to you, also! We hope you'll share your thoughts and visit us here for ideas on how to explore, collaborate, and grow.
Megann and Steve, Partners in PANOPTIKA, are working for our clients every day to help they need to know to make better decisions in their complex business environment.
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