Making Change

Have you ever wondered what is “Change” and how to see change in your business? To answer this question we must first understand how change is defined and then see how that manifests itself in a business model.

Change, as defined by Webster’s dictionary, is to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone; to transform or convert; to substitute another or others for; exchange  for something else, usually of the same kind. To change is to alter the current state.

When brought down to the fundamental level of change, three states exist working in combination with another; maintain or extend further the current offering, add other products or services and finally, remove products and services. The outcome is clear, the effect from change produces one of three conditions to a business offering, at least from the customer stand point; you can either refine, revalue (re-engineer the value) or reinvent the offering.

Enter the Change Triad. The illustration above demonstrates the process. By selecting two of the three options available, a business owner can decide the course of change. Pick two for change. Sounds like a campaign slogan, but it is true. Take a look at the process. To make something different you must do something other than stay static, you must add or remove something from the current state.

Take your offering and extend it forward, now add something new to the mix and you effectively revalue your offering for the customer. This is usually the common path of growing businesses. Let’s repeat the same sequence, except this time, rather than add new offerings, we remove some old items. Maybe these items are outdated, unused or just didn’t match you customer’s needs. Now the business offering has been refined, eliminating unneeded content or streamlining the business. Sounds all too familiar in these economic times.

The last combination is a more dramatic and harder option to attempt. This is a complete reinvention of your business. By eliminating everything current and replacing it with a completely new offering, you , in essence, have a completely new model. At this point, you might as well change the name too, because you are no longer who you were.

That’s the Change Triad and how change is seen in a business environment.

Okay, by now you may have realized, as the person sitting behind me reading over my shoulder so proudly stated loudly, there is still one more combination. The “All In” option. Yes, opting to do it all to some degree is the fourth and last option. Keep a bit, remove some and add some. By following this option, you have enacted a change that touches all three aspects at some level; refine, reinvent and re-engineer the value. This type of change, when done correctly, is evolution and should be done with the customer in mind to ensure success.

So when you state you are going to change your business offering, decide if it is for refinement, adjusting the value proposition, reinventing the offering, or, as my new-found vocal editor states, going all in to evolve the offering. Decide first which is the best option and plan your change in every detail. Be proactive and guide your change and never let change guide you.

That’s how I see it and now I hope I’ve helped.

Visualizing Business Communications

How does one know if their communications is too cluttered or confusing and hindering business opportunities?

I was asked to view a website and share my thoughts about the effectiveness and overall design of the site. This drove my thinking to a very powerful thINKing Canvas visual analogy and then the creation of a physical activity I call “The Marble Jars” to explain what I was seeing and to help the inquirer see from a potential customers point of view.

I don’t wish to explain this visual in great detail as it is very clear already. Imagine every piece of information, subject or offering in your communications (especially websites) as a marble; colors and types for various topics. Place each marble into a glass jar. Step back and look. This is how a potential customer may interpret your communications. How easily can you find all of one color or type of marble?  Business communications should be designed as a call for action and not an encyclopedia of information.

Visual thinking and a thINKing Canvas are great tools in looking at business communications to get a clearer picture of its purpose and value. I helped one group, maybe I can help you visualize your communications.

Lessons from the Mantel

I have fond memories of my grandmother and the simple house she lived in. She wasn’t well off financially, but rich in vision and imagination. As a child, she took me on many adventures to far off lands all while sitting on the back porch. She taught me much about vision, imagination and often about people all from that little house on the edge of anywhere. Some of those same lessons continuously echo in my mind as I work with others.

One in particular lesson was re-ignited with a phone call came from a good friend and fellow thinker. It appears that blogging has gotten into her blood and she was having some fun at doing it. After she had done it for a while she realized that maybe, the direction and intent of the blog needed a bit of focus, purpose to ensure that her readers gain value from her words. So comes the email message. A simple request for assistance.

I am not going to go through the whole phone conversation for the simple sake of brevity, but I will highlight the core of message that was shared. I presented an analogy of life, as in business, that was passed to me so many years ago. I asked her to imagine a mantel with photographs perched together. Each image is of someone different. These pictures on the mantel would be the images of her on-line family of readers.

Yes, I said on-line family of readers. The reason for this type of visualization is so we  have a clear picture to whom we speak, serve or communicate. The photographs are not of anyone particular, rather a collaboration of a type of person she would write to. I also told her she should have five of these family photos that she would imagine being her readers. Of these five, three of them are her best customers, advocates or followers.

Each reader has unique characteristics, attributes and needs. Define them with clear personalities. As an example, Uncle George could be a well read man, who seeks advice, but doesn’t respond. Let’s call him the “Watcher”. This watcher type persona enjoys your reading the things you say and applies them as much as he can. The other four persona’s have their reasons for reading. Some are seeking answers to needs, answers that you provide. It is important to understand what you offer and who your customers will be that will find value in your offering.

I ended our chat by adding one last note. When you write or you are doing business with your new family, write each blog entry as if talking to only one of them at a time. I believe that each post should speak to one person at a time and to a different person for different reasons. Share the wealth, but avoid mixing the conversation. If we treat our customers as if they are family, we tend to be more authentic in our approach because we understand who they are and why they seek us out.

So remember, create unique person types of your five best types of customers, have a strong vision of what they may look like and then place your customers up on the mantel so you will see them everyday to remind you of who you serve. Once you do this, avoid wandering to greener fields because you may just lose touch or alienate with the ones you have.

Thanks grandma, for all the worlds of wonder and words of wisdom from that old wooden porch out back.

Keep thinking visually so you can see your success.

 

It All Comes Around

We’ve all heard the old saying ‘Life is like a wheel, what goes around, comes around’. What you send out eventually comes back around to you and usually to your blind side. In business this is so true to a major degree, but not always. Many times your efforts lack results or your message is not shared as you had intended. There are many reasons for this that they have been the source of many marketing books. Out of brevity,  I won’t go there.

As some who know me, I have this perception that many of life’s core solutions revolve around three’s. In this issue about business communication, it rings true. To get a clear image of how to make sure what goes around, comes around in your business, I offer this simple, but effective visual thinking map.

Enter, one of the business triads that addresses; what you say, in which way you say it and what others are say about you.

At the top of our triad stands you, the core of your brand. Next along the triad is the mechanics, the method of delivery and closely followed by your customers. Simple enough layout to understand.

So how does this help you take control of your message and what people say about you or your offering? Not much as diagrams go, until you understand the questions you should be asking yourself at the tips of the triad.

Back at the top is you, your offering or as some would say, your brand. You have a very clear idea of what you do and how you do it, but often, we give control up to marketing and advertising firms who generate some branding message that may fall short of your expectations.  The issue may be that the right message is not being not communicated. Ask yourself this question; what do I want my prospects and customers to know about me?

This is a fairly straight forward question. Your answer needs to be precise, clear and brief as possible. Such as; I offer this to my customer, I solve this problem for my customers or my customers should know this about me, it’s the most important issue. This is the “What for Who” part of your message. Hone it like a knife.

Now you have the start of a great conversation. Your side of the story. The second point along the triad is the mechanics. The “How” of the triad. Here you must find the best avenue or method to convey this message. Identify which mechanism works best to deliver your message directly to your type of customer who needs your service or product. Even though there are many avenues and channels to communicate through, marketing experts tell me start with the best and then fan out where and when needed. It’s best to always monitor this mechanism to make subtle adjustments along the way.

What do we have so far? We have a clear a precise message of who you are, what you offer and how it helps your prospect. Unclouded by flashy words, long meandering explanations and marketing hype. Just the core message. We also have determined the best avenue for that message given the conditions of your target customer. We have addressed two of the three points along the business triad. Onto the third and last point.

The last point is the customer or public. This is the “When, where and why” part of the triad. At this juncture you need to know what people are saying about you and your offering. Yes, you can’t control this, however, this important information to know so that you can adjust your message to stay relevant and on target. By knowing what customers are saying about you and your offering governs either the message, the mechanism or both. Ask your customers what they think about you. A better method is to have someone else ask your customers about you and your offering. This is mystery shopping and a great way to hear the customer’s side of the story.

There you have it, a basic business triad that addresses the core of business. As you may imagine, there are many more to explore. I hope to touch on more business triads in the near future, but for now, this is the thINKologist asking that you keep thinking visual so you can visualize your business success.

Rethink POV

Have you ever had an idea that a product or service could be improved, but no one seemed to get it? Maybe the reason is you had trouble seeing it from a different POV (point of view) or you were possibly speaking to the wrong audience. When the concept did not click, you became hesitant to invest any more time or resources into the idea. Eventually it went to the back burner only to fade from memory, but not quite…

Somewhere deep in your mind it still rolls around bumping into other thoughts. Like a haunting jingle from a television show, it just won’t fade. The reason is that it still maybe a great idea, but needs a new approach or it needs to be resolved completely.

***

Two, what seemed to be, unrelated events were drawn together in a moment of distraction. The first was the discovery of an unusual lawn decoration of a goofy bird in early spring. The second was a quote that was sent to me by a friend a few weeks ago. Spanned by months, these two items would refresh the use of classic practice.

This unusual character bend backwards and under was seeing the same thing it saw before, but only from a different point of view. Combined with Mary Engelbreit’s quote, I am reminded that even what may seem to be a bad idea from one view-point, may in fact, be a great idea when we change our POV or discover that change is not even needed at all.

So here’s my thinking tip: take an old idea and view it from three different perspectives. If it’s a new or enhanced product, look at it from three different types of customers. If you are changing a product or service, look from three different managers eyes. And finally, before you act, look at it from three different processes to decide if it really needs to be change at all.

Don’t be afraid to change your POV, but always keep an open mind, you may just be surprised of the answers you see. Not all change is needed, sometimes the original deal is still the best.

Until next time, keep thINKing Visual.

Visual Cognition

The growing adaptation of visual facilitation, graphic recording, visual scribing and visual thinking has become quite apparent in the mainstream of business development and change. If you’re not familiar or confused by these terms or processes, it probably would be wise time to research these unique practices.

As the thINKologist, even I, myself, find these terms sometimes confusing or misaligned  to the given task at hand. Practitioners in this field who utilize these dynamic skills are often adjusting the language or description depending on the application or the client’s perception. It can be quite confusing for the uneducated who may hear one term then another when the same function is being performed. There is a need for clarity and unifying terminology or categorization of these collective offerings.

As a solution to this slight dilemma, I have come to use a term I call “Visual Cognition”. The mental process to conceptualize, learn or problem-solve (cognition) through the use of visual tools. In my preference the key visual tool is the use of the thINKing Canvas. A visual media that employes the combination of text and images to increase clarity, uncover opportunities or define possibilities of a given issue.

Visual Cognition is not the creation of yet another new process or an adaptations of any given current format, but merely trying to identify the collective processes which now exist and employed for conceptualization, problem-solving, learning and strategic thinking. The fact is when we employ visual tools to assist ourselves or others in the process of thinking we are then practitioners of visual cognition. By any other term, name or moniker this is the process we are performing.

So when the next time you want to drop an intellectual bomb in a group, just inform them when asked, that you’re a facilitation specialist in the field of visual cognition allowing yourself the opportunity to take center stage to describe your skill set.

Imagine and envision your future.

The thINKologoist.

Where Do Good Ideas Come From

Have you ever wondered when someone coughs up a good or great idea, where in the heck did that come from? What were they thinking to get such an idea?

“Where in the world did you come up with that?”

Well, a wonderful visual scribing piece was created from Steven Johnson’s presentation on this very subject. If you don’t know who Steven Johnson is, he is the author of an incredible book called “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation” and his take is amazing, especially when RSA scribes it as a video seen here. Enjoy, I always do.