Flow of the Experience

Many speak on the topic of experiences. This creates many interpretations of how experiences are defined. What I have come to notice is how very few speak about broader picture of experiences. The flow as you may say.

Experiences are viewed generally as an event or a moment in time. In many cases this is a true statement, however, there is a larger view of an experience that most overlook. The view of the experiential flow.

Every event or experience in one’s life rarely just happens spontaneously and then is gone. No, a well staged experience requires careful planning and structure. It is this structure that helps properly stage an experience and ensure it produces the desired effect and lasting memory.

What does this structure look like? It is a combination of time and spacial elements aligned in a unique sequence.

E Flow sm

The dominate time factors are Before, During and After an event or experience. The deeper aspects are action zones such as Enticing, Entering, Existing, Engaging, Exiting and Extending. Finally, there are the spacial aspects such as the Outer world which exist in the Before and After time factors, the Environment which has the experience and finally, the Point-Of-Experience where the target experience is staged.

All of these elements of time and space comprise the staging of an experience, not merely just the Point-Of-Experience or the Experience. To stage a successful experience, an experience must be orchestrated well before the experiential moment to create desire to enter and then afterwards to ensure the memory created is strong enough to create more wish to return.

The experiential flow should never be seen as a single instance. The Extending actions should always lead back to the Enticing to ensure repeat visits.

So, the next time you hear someone speak about an experience, be aware if they speak of the entirety or the instance, because a well staged experience is so much more the experiential moment most focus on.

If you want to hear more, please contact me via email.

 

The Edge of Change

The world we live in is a funny place. Conversations, styles and even perceived needs are cyclical. What is old is new and new, well, that’s so this morning. Every thing changes. Everything. Those things, people, businesses that don’t, well, that’s so in the past. Change is the only constant they say and I find it to be true. Change up, change back, change around, change out, change into, etc… We have so many perceptions of change that the adaptations seem endless.

Change comes in various sizes and increments. Some changes are dramatic while others are subtle. No matter what, change happens to us all each day. The real goal is to try to guide change as best we can, because change never happens as we expect. It always has hidden surprises or consequences.

But what is change? When does something or someone change? I guess that answer lies in the eye of the observer. Only those closely watching can see the change happening, but for most, we see the event after the change. But what if you could plan change in some fashion. This I have asked for some time and here is what I have created.

Based on the idea that yesterday and today are unchangeable, if you avoid any theoretical ideas of time travel, that only leaves the future for change. And, if change only happens in the future, than you can guide the outcome given you can determine all the factors affected by change. And so, here is my model for change.

Change Deltasm

This is my Delta model for change. Even if you stand at the very edge, change will occur. Time always moves forward and you must move with it. But you can decide how you want the change to happen and what you want the change to create once you understand why you want or need the change to happen.

As the model indicates, change should be an improvement and performed of a duration of time through some given process. Also, you must determine any and all pitfalls and obstacles that may hinder you crossing the gap of change.

So the steps:

  1. Why is there a need for change? “Why”
  2. How will this change occur? “How”
  3. Who can help you achieve this change? “Who”
  4. What improvement will change create? “What”
  5. How long will the change take? “When”
  6. And where do you want to be when the change is complete? “Where”

Map the change before you act. Take you intangible idea and make it a tangible plan.

Not All Customer Experiences Are True Experiences

As the old adage goes, “All ponies are horses, but not all horses are ponies.” This is the same for ‘Customer Experiences.’ Not all customer experiences are truly an experience that creates economic value. Making the distinction between an Experience and a customer experience can be confusing if you assume both are the same. Let me make it simple, they’re not. Most customer experiences are merely good or great customer service labeled with an over used buzzword. Calling customer service a customer experience does not elevate it to a true experience.

The term “Customer experience” has become the catchall phrase for anything above an expected customer relationship performance by a provider. Consumers expect good, if not, great customer service, but it’s not unique enough to be called a Customer Experience. If a retailer adds extras like a coffee station or creates a good aesthetic environment through sound and trimmings to entice customers to buy, this does not guarantee that have created, or more precisely, staged an experience. All that has been accomplished is an improvement to the environment of a service or goods provider. There is no real economic value created from the experience itself only the application of dressing to increase sales.

How can you determine if your ‘Customer Experience’ is actually a true experience or packaging for promoting sales? Look at it this way; an experience is an offering where-as the consumer is willing to pay for the time spent and not the goods or services purchased. An experience is focused on creating memories and not selling things. This is not to say that an experience does not provide goods or services as part of an offering, only that it is not the focus of the offering.

Simple rule of thumb; if the focus of your offering is simply on the selling of goods or services provided and not the time spent interacting with the customer, than you are, by definition, in the Goods or Service business creating only good or great customer service to sell stuff and not a true Experience stager helping to create memories for consumers.

There is greater value in memories than in merchandise.

To learn more about the value of Experiences read; Science Daily’s:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090207150518.htm, Fast Company’s post: http://www.fastcoexist.com/3043858/world-changing-ideas/the-science-of-why-you-should-spend-your-money-on-experiences-not-thing or, I would suggest reading B. Joseph Pine II & James H. Gilmore’s book“The Experience Economy” Update version.

Welcome to the Experience Economy

When I hear how some people talk about customer experience (CustExp) or user experience (UX) I get a bit frustrated. Why, because most are speaking about good customer service or a good interface design and not really about an experience that provides an economic value worth paying more for the experience. No what they are really saying is we offer an expected customer service like everyone else. A service that is not measured how well a customer is involved with your offering, rather how efficient you provided it on a consistent basis.

Customer experience has become a replacement buzzword for good customer service without too much sacrifice for the customer or the provider while still keep within budgeted limits. Even some of the books written by so-called customer experience experts are usually no more than satisfaction program authors or worse yet, neglect the point-of-view from the eyes of the customer, rather what they believe to be good for the customer.

Okay, so I am a bit touchy on the subject, so much so that I put the whole book thing to the test by asking myself, of all these authors which ones have had the longest run in print and in person about their unique perspective on experiences. And when I mean unique, I mean that they were the originators and not the adaptors of a given concept. After a few dozen book purchases from the half-price and used book stores I found many were alterations of each other and finding which author came first is like answering the age-old question; chicken or the egg. Only genetics can tell.

There were a few books out there that I didn’t find on the used book shelves, mostly because of limited run or out of print. One however stood out, a book written by two gentlemen with various backgrounds ranging from Logic, Physics and Economics. Both having a strong background in multiple fields of science. Science! not marketing or sales, but science. What’s most impressive is the reason its hard to find their book on the used bookshelves is because it’s still in print and has recently been updated after 10 years. No other author or authors I could find have done this. Maybe you can find a few.

B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore wrote their original book, not white-paper publication, on the subject of the Experience Economy (note: not just the customer experience) in 1999 and then translated in 18 languages that I can find. Then in 2010, it was updated to show changes and the widening growth of the Experience Economy. Through their research and writing identify the economic impact and value and not merely state customer interfaces or service programs.

I was so impressed by their books I began attending their special conferences around their books. Not your typical conferences I grant you, these were “Experiences” all to themselves. the best way to prove your findings and ideas. Good customer experience is expected by customers, staging a true experience delivers on the unexpected and creates memories. Many reports have proven that customers value memories more than goods and those companies boasting good or great customer experiences are all goods or service providers and not truly experience stagers. That is the difference.

To put an exclamation mark on my post, I attended the “Experience Economy Certification” course. A five-day deep dive into the Experience Economy as an economic era and to learn and understand the techniques that companies can use to create experiences worth paying for and not just selling goods or services.

As of this post, I am proud to be of a part of a selected few now honored to be an Experience Economy Experts and not a Customer Experience Specialist.

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Archetype versus Stereotype

I have always been interested in the progression of things. How they evolve, what conditions influence the progression of change and especially when they get diverted or diffused. Studying the progression of anything can teach you about the environment surrounding each phase of the progression for it is these external influences that guide the change. Understanding these changes is an essential component to predicting other progressions or understanding why they get diverted.

One of the best examples of the progression concept was provided by B. Joseph Pine II & James H. Gilmore’s in their book “The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage.” In their classic example of the economy, the progression demonstrates the progression from an era of commodities to that of experiences and the emerging economy of transformation. With each evolution in the economy, the external influences has been ‘Value,’ as perceived by the consumer. The other external influences is also ‘Competitive Advantage’ by the provider.

Take a look at the diagram below to see the phases of “The Progression of Economic Value.”

progression_economic_value

You can learn more about this topic here at their website: StrategicHorizons.com or by reading their second edition of “The Experience Economy.”

This was not my first introduction to the progression concept back in 2005, but it was the first time I began understanding on a deeper level how external influences can have rippling effects as well as how to identify key influencers. I also discovered how quickly others could distort an idea of progression theme either because of the lack of understanding all the elements, marketing need to look like experts with a signature program or simply sourced bad information and propagated unknowingly as fact.

One example I want to show that has become diverted from its progression path because of marketing or other misconception influences is the progression of consumer marketing research. For those who may not be familiar with the topic, it is the type of research companies use to study consumer markets. Most research programs focus on statistical data of the numbers of potential consumers in a given area. Like other progressions where the human factor influences, the progression takes on an interesting dynamic except at the point of divergence to something off track.

PoMR

As the illustration shows, focus around filtration of statistical data has been the influencers of the progression of market research. Research moved from the geographical where the focus was on the overall number of consumers in a given area or region. This was the most basic of data clusters. No particular values or buying tendencies are identified, purely raw numbers of bodies. This is known as population density modeling and only provides the most rudimentary of information.

Then data began using filters to “characterize” population numbers into small cluster groups. These groups could be age, income, gender, etc. or could be a combination of these factors. This method became known as Demographic Research. It offered a better look at compatibility, yet did not guarantee true alignment with the provider/consumer relationship. Demographic data research is still used even today by many businesses and market researchers.

An outside influence to data is the introduction of trends or psychology of “types” of buyers. This progression of research used much of the same data filters as demographic research as well as introduced similarities of buyers financially, culturally and socially. This type of research became known as Psychographic Research. Unlike its predecessors, psychographic profiling added in buyer habits and trends to develop market segments or types of consumers. This method opened a whole new door to approaching a market and how to communicate, not just to the masses, but to refine segments. This method became more customized to a type of consumer and allowed providers a better targeting process. Soon many large providers began utilizing this method to gain market share or competitive advantage over similar providers.

It is about here in the progression, when something changes research. Another, but older influence would dramatically change research. In 1919, a psychologist by the name of Carl Jung would develop a psychological profile method called Jungian archetypes and introduce the term “persona” to the world. This idea of psychological archetypes and personas would not begin to blend into market research until the mid 1990’s by Angus Jenkinson and OgilvyOne Agency.

Archetype and Persona market research shifted the focus from people to the needs of a person. Similar to Pine and Gilmore’s model of the progression of economic value where the driver is the shift from mass markets to markets of one, personas focus on the needs of individual “type” consumers. Behavior and motivation become the criteria for this market research process. In 2006, Pruitt and Adlin issued the benefits of using personas in product development via the publication; ‘The Persona Lifecycle: Keeping People in Mind Throughout Product Design.’

The shift from statistical data filters evolves from the external condition to the internal psychological need of consumers. Unfortunately, a divergence happens with this thinking. Personally I feel it may be due to the time and education required to support this type of research that an adaptation of this concept arose creating confusion within the industry and with users.

Simplicity overshadowed the progression. Researchers may have needed to express findings as more statistical data to provide information in a way typical of earlier methods by putting a face to the data or clients did not understand the complete persona process for product development, but an alteration of the process emerged in research and off tracked the meaning of “Persona” research.

The industry took a split in its thinking from the Jungian Persona concept where it was not about a person, rather a behavior and need, rather it became about identify a person as a type of user. The method is diverting from the idea of why a person does something to what a group of people did. As Simon Sinek would communicate, this is a separation between ‘Why’ and ‘What’ of the focus of information.

So to illustrate this a bit better I took the pen to paper and visualized what the progression method of Persona/Archetype research is and what marketing and research firms are driving it to become by commoditizing the data and the process.

image

As you may noticed, the difference is much about the growing development of stereotypes as opposed to archetypes and personas that Carl Jung originally developed and Angus Jenkinson and OgilvyOne Agency refined. The methods, though share some similar terminology and history, are definitely focusing on two very different sources of information. This create confusion for myself as well as many others seeking to know more about this new progression of research.

So did I write this? The purpose was that this began as a personal research that became a journey of clarity. If you are looking to better understand your consumers and wish to create better design in your offerings, then take care to understand what you are looking for and how it is being processed. The progression of market research shifts from the collective people to that of the individual need. Anything less, in my opinion, is simple a dumbing down of the potential of a process to rationalize or commoditized its offering to become a market research of stereotypes and not archetypes.

Be in the ‘Know’ of what you are engaging in and how it creates opportunities or hurdles in your progression of value to your consumer. The best gold miners rarely minded where others stood.

Good luck and thank you for taking the time to read the ramblings of an IdeaFreak. May your tomorrows be successful and filled with wonderful opportunities!

Crossing the Gap – Strategy

I realized the other day that I had not posted in a while, mostly due to the extensive amount of work I have had in these past months and because of a project that I started over 10 years ago has been reignited.

It’s this very program or process I want to post about. During the past 10 years, our economy has seen some major changes. Changes that have forced people to review how they come to market and what to offer. Unfortunately, this thinking is the same format as years gone by and is beginning to fail businesses as well as organizations. Competing on price and product mix is not winning the new business nor is it growing the current model. What needs to change is how we think about business.

Historically, a business ran on an apathetic model, the spreadsheet and numbers. The challenge was to have black ink in the revenue columns and red in the cost columns. Yet times have changed. More and more businesses are discovering it’s increasingly harder to run on only the spreadsheet alone. Something isn’t working. Why?

Is it because competition is growing, customers are getting smarter, technology is changing faster or demand is going online? Yes and no.

Over the past 20+ years, consumers have changed. They think differently, respond differently and make buying decisions differently. Okay the first two statements are true, but that last one may not be. How we make decisions hasn’t change as much as you may like or choose to use as an excuse. What has changed about decision-making is that we, as consumers, are pushing back on want and focusing more on our needs and something very unique in modern business, relationships.

Yes, relationships. Consumers want more than merely acquiring products, they want to have a relationship with providers. They want to connect with a purpose, not a buying cycle. Consumers are seeking out those who speak to them and present similar likes. The normal supply and demand process is dying as more and more consumers demand unique and personal customization. In essences, they are seeking a partner in their buying relationship who can connect with them as an individual, not as a number on a spreadsheet or a demographic type.

Spin the clock forward ten more years, a few years before the “Great Recession.” At this time, something else was changing. The progression of economic value was evolving to a whole new level. No longer was merely providing a service enough, consumers wanted to experience an offering. They wanted meaning and fulfillment emotionally. Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore called this change in the economy as “The Experience Economy.” They have authored numerous books on the subject so I will not attempt to plagiarize their research nor their views. I will say this, the Experience Economy is a dramatic shift for both consumer and provider alike. The spreadsheet model doesn’t stand up to this economic delivery model. Why? Because relationships can not be put into a column and measured by red or black ink.

It is this idea of the shift in the economic offering that put a few people to work on discovery what has changed on the business model and what works on this new environment. Months of research and development went in to discredit a traditional business plan model. Surprisingly, the business model still had its place in the business world, but not as the golden rule anymore.

Another model was needed. Not to replace the old, but to compliment the model in a way that mirrors how the economy and consumer has changed or evolved. A framework that addresses the relationship before the transaction. That model needed to see the consumer as people and not product buying numbers. The challenge is crossing that gap from traditional business model to a relationship based provider-ship.

Okay, its 2014 and after 10 plus years of testing, stumbling and finally seeing the combination, a small team unlock a unique sequence for developing a business model that works in this era of relationship based business. The acronym originally given was I.M.A.G.I.N.E. After ten years, the name resurfaced and held true. For name was a combination of the steps along the journey as well as the process needed to achieve the steps.

Here is a look at one of the canvases I use, as one of the creators, to have a discussion about this model :

Crossing the Gap 01

 

What amazes me to this day about this model is that it’s about making connections with others through Purpose and Trust. Each step across the gap challenges you to think differently about aspects around the emotional connection between two people, provider and the acquirer, the look at the environment that supports that relationship and, the mindset connecting those in the relationship.

There is considerably more to this model that address issues of identifying success as well as establishing the commitment needed to follow this unique and eye-opening model. In the end, IMAGINE is the pre-work model that allows a person, business or organization to create that purpose, that “Why’ as Simon Sineck says, that draws others to a relationship. It is the framework on a human level of empathy, not apathy.

See an example of IMAGINE during a recent conference for the banking community: LINK

Are you looking to evolve yourself, your business or the organization to meet the needs and wants of future consumers? Drop me an email and let’s talk.

 

 

Why?

If you ever had been around a small child, the word “Why” can become the most frustrating word you’ll ever encounter right after “No”. Every answer you give is quickly challenge with another “Why” until you have no more answers and you snap with the default answer of “Because!” But before you snap, remember to keep telling yourself that this is a critical process in the development of that child. Being inquisitive is how we all learn and grow intellectually.

So what happened to us later in life? Why do we stop asking? What is it that made us avoid challenging the status quo? Maybe it’s because we still hear the echo of ‘why’ or maybe we are afraid to remind ourselves of three words that would spark our quest for answers; “I Don’t Know”. The technique of asking why five times to get to the root of an issue was originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda and was used within the Toyota Motor Corporation during the evolution of its manufacturing methodologies. It is a critical component of problem-solving training, delivered as part of the induction into the Toyota Production System. The 5 Whys method, as expressed by Sakichi Toyoda, was “the basis of Toyota’s scientific approach . . . by repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.”

Problem solving may have been the original application, yet this same technique can also be adapted to an earlier stage of development of an idea or perceived innovation. Asking the 5 Whys at the beginning of a project can reveal many aspects that may be overlooked. Like a small child asking why, it is important to understand the idea’s purpose. Finding its purpose, will help determine the viability and adaptability of the idea. Below, is a graphic I use to help determine my continuation of an idea. 5 whys webStart with  “Why do it?” Walk around the circle and ask yourself each question as it relates to your idea or situation. If at any time, you do not have a strong and clear answer to any one of the 5 whys around the circle, then, as you get back to the beginning, ask yourself the first one again. There are two steps you can take from here; the first is to uncover the answers to each question or move away from the idea (for now). Record the idea and store it until all the answers can be found.

I have come to believe and trust this method when developing an idea before investing time and resources. Too many times I committed to a project that either served no greater value to the existing condition or would never be accepted as a new solution. I dedicated many hours and resources keeping a project moving simply because I was blind to the answers I would have discover had I only simply asked these five whys.

So, before you act on an idea and follow the credo of “Fail Fast” on the deliverable, ask yourself why, why, why, why, why and never just answer “Because.”

Remember this… “To Determine Success one must Measure against one’s Purpose.”

Thoughts on Innovation – The Box

Achieving innovation or new ideas requires a different path of thinking. I have written about this in an earlier post; “The Path to Innovate.” Some of the fastest and most direct methods I prefer is to influence the traditional thinking with fresh insights. These insights come from outside the box. It is very rare that innovation develops from the thinking found within the walls of the box, so getting fresh ideas needs external input.

IN Out of the Box

The first of two suggestions is to bring in fresh thinking or guidance from outside your box, a.k.a. your organization or office. As the an old saying goes “You can’t read the label from inside the jar.” Too many companies and individuals are unable to see the clues and insights due to the being to close to the situation. Obtaining new ideas requires something new or different from that of the embedded thinking. Bring in outside help.

The second method I find works well is getting out of the physical box. Climb out, see the sky and then interview people from the outside such as customers, prospects or the public. Ask questions that are open-ended and have no single answer. The more conversation you can drive, the richer the ideas can be. When you ask others who are not close to the situation, they have a different point of view. This different POV is gold to new ideas.

Finally, as a parting gift, a third method if you can’t do either of the two and you are shackled to your desk, is a method that is promoted by William Donius, author of “Though Revolution.” Use your non-dominant hand to get a second opinion or idea about your situation. Follow the link to get more information. He explains it better than I.

So, the thINKing to get new ideas is to change the direction or the source of your inspiration and to jump out of the thinking rut we all create for ourselves.

Until next time, don’t be afraid to ask someone else to help you create something new.