Designing Happiness

Much has been said about the Experience Economy over the past 20 years. Some professionals talk about it as the next economic era and the logical progression of value. I agree with this thinking and have come to believe this is greatly due to the shift in consumer demand and the rapid change of goods. The race to have the latest is quickening. No longer is it about keeping up with the Joneses, it’s about try to keep up with ever-changing goods in order to achieve happiness. Somewhere along the line in history, consumers have been directed to buy more and newer goods in the promise that consumers can buy happiness.

Take a look at any advertisement on television, digital screen or a photo in a magazine or on a billboard. Its filled with smiling happy people holding the latest and greatest version of a thing. They all look happy that they have the newest thing. Manufacturers are changing models, product mixes and even design faster than the normal consumer can keep up. Why?

There seems to be this condition called Hedonic treadmill. The feeling of happiness after buying something. Unfortunately, that happiness fades quickly, especially when the manufacturers are producing newer versions of goods at a faster rate. This speed of change only shortens the Hedonic adaptation cycle and shortening that sense of being happy.

So what are consumers to do to overcome this treadmill? It begins by understanding the Hedonic treadmill and what actually helps create happiness in a consumer. It means looking at why buying things is not the answer to achieving happiness and looking to what does. In a recent article by Dr. Brooks on this subject, he states that experiences offer more value over things. Happiness can be achieved through experiences.

So, as designers who developing experiences for as economic offerings, it is key to focus on how the experience creates happiness in the consumer. In other words, design with happiness in mind. To achieve this, designers will need to keep in mind that experiences are personal and unique to each individual and that customization is at the heart of every experience, because each person experiences events differently and for different reasons. Also, positive experiences create lasting memories, memories people share.

Change Through an Idea Prism

There has been a lot of talk online and at various conferences these past years about change with management and culture. Most of these conversations have been around a single change or a single possible outcome. In my idea of change it is never a single event or single target, because change is more fluid and variable than most target.

Over the years of working with teams on change, be it for teams, management, brands or even physical representation, I have observed when groups focus on one single outcome or definition, they overlook so many more possibilities. The range of ideas become broader than their vision.

To help explain, the graphic below shows the idea of planning change in three key phases.

change-ideation-sm

At the start lies the current state. Unchanging and ever decaying for stagnation is decay. So many people have this idea that if they just do what they have always done that time will resolve any issues. The reality is that they are correct, unfortunately, the solution will probable be something they don’t want. When you do choose your course, one will be chosen for you and that choice is rarely in your favor.

Begin by determining ‘Why’ you need to change. What happens if you don’t change and everything around is? Create a clear explanation why staying the course and letting outside forces dictate your change. My guess is you will soon realize the old adage ‘Change or Die’ begins to ring in your ears.

Okay, you finally have a reason to change. Great! Now move that through a process of creative ideation. Look at various ways of how change can happen and determine what are positive and negative advantages to these changes. If you look at the change delta as a prism, the idea is to disperse all the possible variables to create a range of possibilities. It is these possibilities that can help create the possible change you can accept or are capable of performing.

These variations become the ‘What’ states of change. Like light through a prism, each variation of color does not have a distinct separation from its neighboring colors. There is a blurring between each band. This is true of ideas and change. There is no clear defined path or hard outcome. Change creates variations of complexity and it is your ability and capacity to determine how complex of a change your can create.

So, when you hear someone talk of change management or culture change, find out if they are talking variations or single outcomes or changes. If it is a single possibility then use the prism of ideas process, commonly called ideation, to create multiple options and find which solution works best for you or your business.

Avoid the static and the stagnate states of daily life, always plan by seeing your goals and mapping the journey to them.

Keep the Book “Look” a Secret

One of my mentors, James Gilmore, just completed and sent for printing his latest book called “Look” on observation skills. I think this will be a great tool for designers and planners. Can’t wait to get my first copy.

Look Gilmore sm

So keep it a secret. It becomes available on Amazon in August 2016. Here’s where to get it. 

What is the Experience

“We have a great customer experience.”

Okay, I know we all have heard this response from a lot of companies expressing what makes them different than the competition. Maybe we even caught ourselves say it. The phrase ‘A Great Customer Experience’ has become the hot buzzword response statement of the year. Yet, each time I hear this I find myself wondering and wanting to ask this question…

“What is the experience you’re staging for your customer that is so great?”

Let me be clear about one thing, a true experience is not an enhancement of services to support an offering, rather, the experience is the offering which is supported by goods and services. If the experience is the offering, than what type of customer experience are you staging?

Pine and Gilmore identified two dimensions of an experience. The first dimension is that of customer or guest participation. At one of the spectrum lies passive participation and at the other, active participation.

The second dimension of an experience is the type of connection or environmental relationship that connects the customer to the event or performance. At one end of this spectrum lies absorption, viewing from a distance. At the other lies immersion, becoming physically part of the experience itself.

Combining these two aspects helps to define the four primary types of experiences customers can partake of. In the upper left lies the passive absorption of Entertainment such as listening to music, watching a performance or even reading for pleasure. In the upper right lies the active absorption of Educational Experiences. To the lower right lies the active immersion of Escapist Experiences where customers are actively involved. In the final quadrant to the lower left lies the experience of the Esthetic such as viewing artwork in a gallery or museum.

Combinations of any two of these experience realms can create six additional blended experiences. The real differentiator for a great customer experience is the ability of hitting the sweet spot between all four realms into one blended experience like Walt Disney has achieved with the theme parks.

So, the next time you hear someone say they have a great customer experience, ask them what kind of experience(s) are they staging for their customers, because Disney never said he had a ‘Great Customer Experience’ only great experiences.

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.

When Is Innovation

What I have learned from observations.

Over the years I have graphic-recorded and facilitated many meetings and strategic ideation session where the topic of innovation arises. Recently, possibly due to the popularity of the idea, innovation constantly emerges as an answer to a problem.

‘In order for us to achieve (X Y Z) we must innovate, be innovative, or become innovative thinkers.’ 

The real challenge is not achieving innovation but what leads up to the innovation for, in my view, an innovation is not ever-present. I believe it does not happen throughout, but at as end moment proof of an endeavor. Innovation is the tangible outcome, not the intangible process.

A colleague far across the big pond, discussed this idea with me on many occasions. We both agree that innovation is originated from discontinuous thinking. It is an outgrowth of difference and not of continued progress. We do slightly divert from the definition however as I feel strongly that part of the misconception in public is the word use outside of its true definition and he sees that it is a bit more about being word semantics. In either case that you may lean-to, it still is an over-used term for everything new or different.

So much distortion has been created that “Innovation” has become a catch-all buzzword and has diluted its value and tense of the action. As I stated, innovation is a past tense word and here is why I think this. Please indulge my thinking for a moment. I will arrive at the importance of this statement shortly. Take a look below at a diagram (The Path To Innovation) I created for an online chat about innovation over a year ago.

Path of innovation

Notice the Path of Innovation flows along the process, but is not truly part of the process. It flows in the background. Above the Path of Innovation is the Path of Thinking. This path runs parallel yet changes slightly once through each node only diverted by an outside resource. The path is not continuous, yet the direction is. Only until both paths pass through “Measure” do we know if the idea is an innovation or that your idea has been proven innovative.

It is not until you measure and prove that the “Idea” is a valued concept can you initiate it into action. This action then has created an innovation or innovative method that changes an old process or product indicating the point of application or implementation is after the innovation has been proven valuable and is adopted. Innovation is then a historic action making an innovation a past tense thing.

Okay, so why all the nonsense of past and present tense of innovation? Simple, for the reason of clarity. Innovation is a thing proven not of an idea conceived. If no proof in action or value is present, something, be object, process or thinking can not be deemed an innovation. If proof dictates innovation, then innovative thinking is then merely creative thinking improperly categorized or misquoted. In essence, creative thinking is an intangible concept, and innovation, which is a proven (past tense), is the tangible product.

So, let’s use the proper words around innovation for the proper application, Creative Thinking, Systems Thinking and/or Happenstance can all lead to Innovation, but are not innovative or innovation of themselves, only something that is proven valuable can be stated as innovative or an innovation.

 

 

 

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.