Stuck on a problem? Try ‘wrong thinking’

wrong-thinkingIn a recent HBR article, Ayse Birsel, discusses one of many tools used by designers and problem solvers to brainstorm and overcome problems – wrong thinking. Wrong thinking is essentially about coming up with the worst possible idea imaginable. The complete opposite of what appears to be the logical solution. The sorts of ideas that people would immediately say are “dumb ideas”.

This technique is another way to re-frame the situation and force you to think about the problem differently. Birsel goes onto give a few examples including how Fred Sanger, when trying to break down and sequence the human genome, instead tried to build DNA. Another describes how Argentinian chef Francois Mallmann, got out of the normal and accepted environment for a chef in order to create entirely new culinary experiences.

You can read the full article here.

The 4 Types of Innovation

4-types-innovation

In a recent HBR article, Greg Satell, articulates there are four basic types of innovation depending on the problem that needs solving. In turn there are various techniques that are best leveraged depending on the situation.

  1. Sustaining Innovation: Where most innovation occurs as we are simply trying to improve what we are already doing. The problem and the domain skill sets are fairly clear
  2. Breakthrough Innovation: Where the problem is well understood but it’s a very tricky one to solve and the skill sets required to solve it are not clear cut.
  3. Disruptive Innovation: When innovating your products or services further won’t help and you need to innovate your business model as the marketplace has changed.
  4. Basic Research: When neither the problem nor the domain skill sets required to solve it are well defined. A base level of research needs to be conducted to gather more data.

You can read Satell’s complete article here, including how a bag of clams saved a microchip manufacturer hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A Case Study In Re-branding Using Design Thinking

double-diamondEarlier this year, an Australian based company specializing in helping organisations improve their customer experience using Design Thinking, The Customer Experience Company, re-branded itself after 15 years of considerable growth. They also created and moved into an entirely new office space. And they wrote all about it.

So for an interesting read how Design Thinking professionals “eat their own dog food” and use the same practices they use with clients for designing their own brand and new office, check out their Brand Manager’s blog post here.

Change your thinking before you change your strategy

3-way-pieIn another recent HBR articleMark Bonchek and Barry Libert, argue that organisations wanting to undertake a transformation are in need of a new mental model and new measurement model just as much as a new business model.

You have to change how you think before you can change what you do, and then change what you measure to close the loop.

The authors cite examples of companies trying to copy the business model of another and failing as they had not change the way they thought or measured results. The primary example given is the Southwest Airlines business model and the attempts to copy it by Continental Lite, Ted by United, and Song by Delta which all failed. Whereas JetBlue, which has emulated all three models, has succeeded.

Southwest cofounder Herb ‘Kelleher is known for saying: “I tell my employees that we’re in the service business, and it’s incidental that we fly airplanes.” Other carriers fly airplanes that carry people. Southwest serves people using airplanes.”

“Traditional carriers were still thinking about their business as flying planes rather than thinking about serving people, still worrying about capturing share rather than growing the market, and still measuring success based on how well they utilized planes rather than how well they served passengers.”

“In contrast, companies like JetBlue decided to emulate Southwest’s entire system: mental model, business model, and measurement model. Like Southwest, JetBlue focuses on people over planes, with a mission to “bring humanity back to air travel.” Beyond the usual financial metrics, JetBlue also measures the strength of its culture and the quality of its experience.”

You can read the full article here.

 

 

Are you Customer Centric or Competitor Centric?

Cus-v-compIn a recent guest post on HBR, Tara Nicholle-Nelson, explains that companies need to obsess over their customers, not their rivals. As she explains, “The question is not who your competition is but what it is.”

Your competition is any and every obstacle your customers encounter along their journeys to solving the human, high-level problems your company exists to solve.

Nicholle-Nelson goes on to articulate that companies need to change their thinking from selling a ‘product’ in a one-time transaction to selling a ‘transformation’ from the “status quo to the new levels and possibilities“.

In turn, your customers are everybody whom has the “problem your business exists to solve”, not just somebody whom has brought something from your previously.

As Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt once said: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

You can read the full article here.

New Organisational Models

networkI recently came across an article by Josh Bersin, whom is linked to Deloitte, discussing the results of a worldwide Deloitte survey into organisational design and the changes afoot in companies worldwide.

The conclusion reached by the report “is that today’s digital world of work has shaken the foundation of organizational structure, shifting from the traditional functional hierarchy to one we call a “network of teams.” This new model of work is forcing us to change job roles and job descriptions; rethink careers and internal mobility; emphasize skills and learning as keys to performance; redesign how we set goals and reward people; and change the role of leaders.

Surprisingly, at least to me, was that only 38% of companies claim to be organised along functional lines. Many respondents believe they are already working in a “network of teams” – at least from a day-to-day perspective – but I think some of those have considered the informal networks that inevitably exist across functional domains to get things done, as evidence that they are working in a team-based model as opposed to a functional one.

Of course working in a formal network of teams where functional silos no longer exist brings with it its own challenges. As articulated by Bersin, the problem becomes “how we coordinate and align these teams, how we get them to share information and work together, and how we move people and reward people in a company that no longer promotes “upward mobility” and “power by position” in leadership.

Bersin believes there are four key ingredients to success for a ‘network of teams’ model:

  1. Shared values and culture: As people operate in geographically dispersed teams which are closer to customers, they need guidelines and value systems to help them decide what to do, how to make decisions, and what is acceptable behavior.
  2. Transparent goals and projects: People operating in teams and small groups have to work with other teams, and they can’t do this unless goals are clear, overall financial objectives are well communicated, and people know what other people are working on.
  3. Feedback and a free flow of information: As teams operate and customers interact with the company, we must share information about what’s working, what isn’t working, what’s selling, and what problems we have to address. While local management and team leadership (i.e. a plant manager or sales leader) should take immediate responsibility for errors, others need to know what problems are taking place, so they can respond to support the team. This takes place today in digital information centers, analytics dashboards, and free flowing feedback systems that have replaced annual engagement surveys and performance reviews.
  4. People are rewarded for skills and contribution, not position: Finally, the network of teams rewards people for their contribution, not their “position.”The days of “positional leadership” are going away (i.e. “I’m the boss so you do what I say.”) to be replaced by growth and career progression based on your skills, alignment with values, followership, and contribution to the company as a whole.

Organisations based on purely functional lines are being replaced. So too are those early attempts to break down those silos with “matrix organisations” that were essentially a ‘paper over’ or band-aid and not an adequate response to the problem, Bersin explains…

Many of us remember the old fashioned “matrix organizations” which were popular in the 1980s. Well today the “matrix” makes a company look more like a series of Hollywood movies, where people take their skills and functional expertise, they work on a “project” or “team” or “program” to get work done, and as they learn and the company adapts, they move into another team over time.

As Bersin articulates, its not as though executive positions disappear – although no doubt many middle management ones would – but their roles are also changing.

While there are still senior executives in the company, leadership now becomes a “team sport,” where leaders must inspire and align the team, but also be good at connecting teams together and sharing information.

You can read the full blog post here, including links to the research.

Want an example of a “network of teams” model already implemented in a corporate environment? If so, then check out this interview with two executives – one current, one former – from ING banking group in the Netherlands, on its transformation to an ‘agile’ way of working.

Design Your Employee Experience As You Would For Customers

In a previous post, HR Departments Have To Change, I highlighted an article on LinkedIn encouraging companies to follow in AirBnB’s footsteps and replace traditional HR with a capability focused on the employee experience.

Now a HBR article, Design Your Employee Experience As Thoughtfully As You Design Your Customer Experience, authored by Denise Lee Yohn, argues that companies already know how to improve their employee experience. They simply need to use the same tools and techniques they apply to customer experience and apply them to their HR processes.

I’m not sure I agree with that view as I know first hand there are still many large companies that are not customer centric – they may pay lip service but in reality they are not – and have no immediate plans to become customer centric.

But I do agree that many of the tools and techniques are transferable should they learn them and apply them. These include:

  • applying needs-based segmentation to your employee base rather than simple and, generally irrelevant, demographic factors;
  • understanding the employee journey through the use of journey mapping while recognising that employee journeys, just like customer journeys, are seldom linear;

The best customer experiences bring the company’s distinctive brand values and attributes to life, and the same is true of employee experiences.

Read the full article here.

Education on Trial

In a previous post of mine titled A New Education System, I collated a number of videos from Sugata Mitra’s TED Talk, ‘Build a School in the Cloud’, to an animated video of a talk ‘Changing Education Paradigms’, given by Sir Ken Robinson, explaining how education systems are not student centric and essentially “educate” our creative capacity out of us and another by American Author and Marketer, Seth Godin.

Well here is yet another video that puts today’s education systems “on trial”, literally.

 

Unlearning old ways

In a recent HBR article, Why the problem with learning is unlearning, Mark Bonchek contends that in this age of Digital disruption, companies have been too focused on learning new ways of doing things and have not paid enough attention to unlearning the ways of the past.

In every aspect of business, we are operating with mental models that have grown outdated or obsolete, from strategy to marketing to organization to leadership. To embrace the new logic of value creation, we have to unlearn the old one.

Boncheck clarifies that its not about forgetting what has been learnt in the past, but acquiring the ability to re-frame the situation and use a different mental model.

He gives the example of Porter’s Five forces and the essence behind the model that limits or boundaries must be set and then argues the likes of Google, Uber, Faebook and AirBnB don’t subscribe to this notion of setting limits.

They look beyond controlling the pipe that delivers a product and instead build platforms that enable others to create value. They look to create network effects through ecosystems of customers, suppliers, and partners.

Boncheck also articulates the core problem with modern marketing is the existing “one-to-many mindset” where we pretend “everything is linear and transaction”…

  • We segment into discrete buckets even though people are multidimensional.
  • We treat customers as consumers even when they want to be cocreators.
  • We target buyers and run campaigns that push messages through channels even though real engagement increasingly happens through shared experiences.
  • We move people through a pipeline that goes in one direction even though the customer journey is nonlinear.

He then asserts that “instead of using relationships to drive transactions, we could be building brand orbits and embedding transactions in relationships. Instead of customers being consumers, we could have relationships with them in a variety of roles and social facets. Beyond delivering a value proposition, we could be fulfilling a shared purpose.”

“In the area of organizational design, we are seeing an evolution from formal hierarchies to fluid networks. But this requires a substantial amount of unlearning. Our instincts are to think of an organization as an org chart. We automatically escalate decisions to the boss. I often hear executives talk about being “more networked,” but what they really mean is collaborating across the silos. To truly become a networked organization, you need decision principles that create both alignment and autonomy. But this requires unlearning in the areas of management, leadership, and governance.”

The good news, Bonchek contends, is we can practice unlearning. So get started today!

Read the full article here.

 

The red ocean or the blue?

I have recently read the “international bestseller” Blue Ocean Strategy and found it a very insightful read. A blue ocean is essentially an uncontested market space where there are no competitors allowing the company that creates it to excel. However, a blue ocean strategy is not just about delivering something customers want that hasn’t been delivered before, its also about delivering a value innovation for the company as well.

Typically main stream strategy theory suggests companies must either choose a high cost differentiation strategy or a low cost price led strategy. Companies that create blue oceans however simultaneously achieve low cost and differentiation.

Red Ocean Strategy

  • Compete in existing market space
  • Beat the competition
  • Exploit existing demand
  • Make the value-cost trade-off
  • Align the whole system of a firms activities with its strategic choice of differentiation or low cost

Blue Ocean Strategy

  • Create uncontested market space
  • Make the competition irrelevant
  • Create and capture new demand
  • Break the value-cost trade-off
  • Align the whole system of a firms activities in pursuit of differentiation and low cost

While a company competing in a red ocean fights for existing customers that that market, a company competing in a blue ocean cultivates an entirely new set of customers as it creates an entirely new market space.

For example Cirque du Soleil didn’t just enter the existing market space of traditional circuses, it created an all new market and captured customers whom were not typically customers of the circus but customers whom were looking to be entertained.

It also reduced its costs when compared to traditional circuses by removing big name star performers and animals.

When Casella Wines introduced its ‘easy to drink’, ‘to be enjoyed by everyone’ wine Yellow Tail, to the US market, it took customers from the two distinctive wine markets – the high end and ultra cheap – and combined them with customers whom would normally drink beer, alcopops or cocktails, to create an entirely new market space.

It also reduced its costs by initially creating only one red and one white and bottling them in the same type bottle. Traditionally red wine and white wine had always been sold in two different styles of wine bottle.

In my next post I’ll explore some of the tools and frame works that have been created to both help identify and execute a blue ocean strategy.

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