Seeing IS Believing for Success

During a conference that I attended a few months back, I had the opportunity to heard a speaker present on the topic of failure in business. Granted, there were other presenters who also referenced business and start-up failure, yet this one speaker said something that struck a curiosity.

I had spent a few days listening to various theories and professional point-of-views on the subject of business failure, however, all the data and conversations paled in comparison to one single statement, “The single most important reason that ventures fail is simply because others can’t see your idea.”

Being a Visual Translator and facilitator for businesses, this idea that others must see an idea was a feather in my cap. I have always believed that mapping an idea is the best method of communicating an idea to others and keeping you on track. Hearing that not seeing only reinforced my stance on using the talents of a visual translator or graphic recorder to help solidify a concept.

But that wasn’t the end of the statement. After a few more moments of letting the thought sink in, the speaker add two more points that anchored the whole of the presentation. “If you can’t see the idea, then you and others can not truly believe in that idea. And if you can’t believe in it, your chances of you or others acting on that idea fall dramatically.”

Being from the Midwest, especially from Missouri, we have an old saying about proof and belief, “Show me.” So maybe there is more truth in this idea of seeing is believing than most give credit. So I went digging for more information on the power of seeing an idea to help promote success.

In 2015, TD Bank performed a deep dive study into visuals and business. After interviewing over 1100 people and 500 small businesses, the survey results were amazing. About 67% (335) of the small business responses agree that visually mapping of a business idea helps in the plan development. Unfortunately, only 20% (67) of those business respondents actually used visual mapping or image boards in planning. Interestingly, 76% (51) of those who utilized visuals in planning indicated by response that they were successful in achieving the goals they created in those visuals.

So 76% of visual users actually were successful in achieving their vision. Imagine if 76% of those 500 small businesses were assisted by a visual translator or facilitator. The rate of failure would drop dramatically.

In summary, for your idea or strategy to have the best chance of success you must first make it visible to you and others. Once the idea is visible, then all involved can begin to believe it. If all believe it, then they can act on it to make it a success.

Time: The New Currency

Since the late 1950s, the history of branch banking in America has been all about being in the midst of the population. No bank could survive without being accessible in a timely fashion. Convenience became one of the prime factors for locating a branch. The focus was to reduce the time it takes to get from point A to the branch. If it was by car, banks planned around the flow of traffic. If it was a pedestrian environment, banks planned the location along the path. This was all about convenience of doing business with the bank and to ensure that the customer did not have to go out of the way. If a bank was in the path, it made sense for a customer to bank there—it was about how to better save time.

Enter technology. Now, being in the path of customers meant being readily accessible in their hands. Most transactions are performed—not in person—but online and through mobile devices. Technology quickly became the ultimate time saver. This opened the question, ‘”Where do you locate now and what should the branch become?”

The best way to address this question is to change the framework of the question. Before it was about doing something for the customer they could not do on their own, now banking needs to refocus away from saving customers time to creating places where time is well spent. The only way to do this is by going beyond services that are tailored towards doing for the customer to creating things to do with the customer. Stage an engagement that is memorable and sharable that the customer does within the branch.

Here’s the idea. Take some ‘thing’ that is usually used at a bank and create some activity around that thing. This is called “Ing the Thing”, a principle in the Experience Economy. Take a normal action of a thing and create an engaging activity around it that people come to do or watch others do. Now, exaggerate the idea to make it a spectacle.

Look at the classic piggy bank. The piggy bank is a great ‘thing’ to ‘ing’. First, make it really oversized. Now, stage an activity around the oversized piggy bank that generates interest. Maybe it squeals when people put coins in it. It becomes a photo-worthy opportunity for your visitors and becomes a great fund-raiser. “The Piggy Bank That Is Saving….” Use whatever best applies. Saving—the action word—now takes on a new meaning and purpose.

 

Cracking the Safe.

Any object or thing can be a source of an experience if you take the action related to it and leverage it as the activity. Now the branch becomes a stage for an experience and a place to engage customers and make memories. Then you change from time well saved into time well spent.

 

Need help ‘Inging the Thing’ send me an email and let’s see what we can do together.

 

Experience Economy: Go With the Flow

There’s a lot conversation from the design world about the customer journey. Each design firm has its own version of how customers travel through the place, be it physical or digital. What many have in common is the attracting of customers. In the physical world, they label the outside environment of the place as Attract. They explain, “The design must draw people inside in order for them to do business with you.”

However, if your institution is looking for ways to participate in the emerging Experience Economy, you’ll want to begin staging Experiences for customers. And you should start by using a different design criteria terminology—one that better aligns with experiences. Instead of trying to attract customers, think in terms of enticing them. Enticing suggests that you’re providing the customer with a call to action—rather than merely attempting to stand out from the masses and be noticed.

In the economy of Experiences, enticing is the act of luring a customer in. It speaks to something special, unique, even other-worldly. Enticing is also the first phase of the flow of an Experience. It is the cue in the outside world to beckon the customer inside and teases what awaits inside.

Take the Build-A-Bear Workshop stores. The façade around the entrance way is their enticing zone, which allows them to begin telling the story of customized and personalized teddy bear creation. It speaks to customers, telling them that “here is where your dream bear becomes real.” It is enticing them to come and build a bear of their own.

Following along the flow of the Experience, the customer transitions through the second phase—or liminal space—called entering. It may not sound as exciting as enticing, yet it is as critical as any other phase in the flow of an experience. It is the phase—be it a distance or span of time—that guides customers into the world you’ve created. It transitions them from the outside and into your place. The entering is one of the most overlooked phases in business. It is commonly treated as merely the doorway in or out of your business and yet, to the Experience stager, it can be key to establishing the Experience. Imagine if Disneyland or Disneyworld didn’t have its deep gates and Main Street to establish its world. How believable would it be as the Magic Kingdom?

Entering is also where the stager begins changing the environment through the five senses. Sound and visual cues are strong ways to begin shifting a customer’s perception from the outer world to that of your business and the Experience. As with enticing—which establishes the promise—the entering begins to shape the promise. In this phase, it is crucial that it must reflect the brand and the Experience being staged.

Once the customer has entered, the engaging phase of an experience begins. Engaging is as it is named, the point where the customer engages with the business, brand, and staff—and where the promise established in the enticing phase begins to be fulfilled.

At this point, most services or goods providers see this as the end of the customer journey.

Yet in the Experience Economy, the engaging phase is followed by the exiting phase. Exiting—like entering—is usually an overlooked phase of the experience. Although it’s not as exciting as the engaging phase, exiting is critical to reinforcing the memories created during the engaging phase. Here the business has the opportunity to provide a token of the Experience.

In many museums, for example, this phase is represented by the gift shop or souvenir shop that’s well located for visitors as they are exiting the museum. It can even serve as a moment when they take photos with others in front of the marquee or display. It is a place that offers the opportunity to create a reminder of the engagement.

For banking, the exiting could be as simple as a handshake and a branded folder holding documents of a transaction. Or it could be the nice pen used to sign a loan. This phase is another liminal space, like that of entering. It is the transitional segment along the Experience Journey, leading from the inner world of your business back out to the outer world.

Finally, the last phase of an Experience is that of extending. It is that point where the engagement is extended beyond the place. Take Starbucks as an example. As a customer leaves the café, they typically carry the drink in a branded cup beyond the business out into the public view. Some customers even purchase Starbuck travel mugs as memorabilia of the experience. In banking, it can be a follow-up piece sent later that is personalized for the customer around the type of engagement they had—or a handwritten thank you note when adding a new product or service.

It is important to understand that the extending phase then becomes the enticing phase for the return visit. It can also become a means for customers to share their experience with others. It can be used to help transform customers into brand ambassadors and entice others to experience what is offered.

Here, a note of caution.

Working through the flow of the experience is not about a checklist of things to do along the way or build as needed. A clear strategy needs to exist—one that incorporates all five phases of an Experience harmoniously. Design and develop the complete flow of the experience before engaging customers to the Experience that will be staged.

 

Originally posted on ABA Bank Marketing, June 19,2017

Business Alignment

No matter if you’re a small business, large corporation or non-profit, there are connections in our purpose, communication and the places we connect in. I have written before on the importance of alignment and I am going to do again, but this time I want to break down the idea into steps.

I believe that the three key principles in all businesses are these; Culture, Brand and Place. The principles are not free-standing as some would treat them. No, all three of these are linked in an interlocking pattern. Adjust one and it affects the other two.

Take culture for the first example. What you and those around you believe about the same goal or outcome is your purpose and drives your brand message and the promise your communicate to others.

3 Thoughts on BPC 1

Your promise to others needs a place that reflects this promise and helps facilitate your interactions with others. Your brand frames what your place should be no matter if it is physical or digital. The real message here is that both your physical and digital places should reflect your brand and not merely be a trendy place or a copy of someone else’s place.

3 Thoughts on BPC 2

As I stated at the beginning of this post, all three are connected and each reacts and influences the others. The place where you interact must also support the belief and intention of your culture. It must stimulate those who enter to your belief and help become the stage of your people to communicate your message.

3 Thoughts on BPC 3

It is very important to always remember that these three principles apply to business, play and home. What you believe is reflected in how you speak and what you speak about. Your place becomes a manifestation of those ideas. It is very important to always remember, that all three principles either nourish the whole or jeopardize the possibility of growth and success.

Misalignment Hassles of Life and Business

Have you ever experienced a car that was out of alignment. The strangest of noises occur. Excessive wear on the tires, possibly leading to unusual balding patterns. Eventually this misalignment can cause costly repairs and replacement if allowed to go unchecked.

Misalignment is true of our personal life as well as for business. Unlike the alignment of a car, realigning ourselves can be much more complicated. Like your car, unless you are trained at detecting the conditions and causes, you can cause greater harm than good. When we attempt to repair our own problems and try to realign that which is out of alignment, we tend to allow for subtle imperfections or incomplete repairs to save time or money. Hint, there are no savings to doing correctly.

Take a look at one of my favorite diagrams for personal and business. Now, imagine that every interaction you want to create for another, be it friend or client, you want to be memorable.

BPC Alignment

Ask yourself some basic questions as they relate to staging this experience.

  1. What is the Experience you are staging for others? (The Experience)
  2. What are your beliefs and are they focused on the purpose of this experience? (Culture)
  3. What is the promise you communicate to others that will become part of the experience you want to stage? (Brand)
  4. Where will this experience happen and is it a reflection of your promise and beliefs? (Place)
  5. What language or phrases will you use that can be associated only with the experience? (Language)
  6. What elements of decor or environment pieces will support and theme the experience? (Decor)
  7. Where will the interaction of the experience be found? (Engagement Zones)
  8. Finally, are all these elements of an experience in alignment?

If you are a business or organization, this alignment model becomes quite complicated and at times almost impossible to make work, but stop there. As I have said in the past and posted about, I don’t believe in the “Impossible” only the improbable. All things are possible once you understand how. If you don’t,then find someone who can help.

Just like taking your car to a service station to get realigned, it is best to seek others outside your organization or yourself to help guide you through the process of realignment.

Until next time. Focus on the creation of memories and not the mechanics of the Experience for the experience happens when the memories are created.

Alcoholism Rises to 500%

Drink UpThis may soon be the headline we read in the not too far future.

When mapping out cause and effect of any new development or change, it maybe helpful to visually map out how that new development or change will affect other conditions.

In the example of the title headline, imagine as more and more autonomous self-driving cars or accessible to the public some responses may not be as positive as expected. With self-driving cars, occupants are no longer responsible for their condition behind the wheel. Not being responsible for driving allows people the opportunity to indulge in excess.

Yes bartender, I’ll have another, I’m not driving.

In this example, more autonomous cars could bring about a dramatic increase in public drinking and alcoholism. After all, we’re human.

Autonomous cars and drinking maybe a dramatic example that may never unfold, but then again, it does have the possibility. Look at how companies approach developmental change within an organization. What maybe a small change from the top will ripple down may have unseen consequences if not mapped out. What about dramatic change such as rebranding, environmental design, digital adaptation or even evolving staff culture?

For companies attempting to evolve and stay profitable, not seeing how change will unfold could be as dangerous as not changing at all. This is why visual thinking and graphic facilitation are such a powerful tools in Organizational Change or new product development.

See the possible outcomes and pitfalls before you implement change.

The Ants and The Apple

Ants and the Apple

This story was shared to me a long time ago so I may have changed it slightly, but I think you will get the idea.

One sunny afternoon two ants from different colonies met beneath a grand old apple tree. In customary fashion, the two ants exchanged greetings and signals about where they were from. The first ant came from the West near the old barn; the other from the East, just passed the well.

 After formal greetings the ant from the West asked the other ant what he maybe scouting for. The East ant tilted his head up towards a fresh shiny apple was up in the tree. “I’m here to get that apple.”

 With a polite nod, the East ant scurried up the tree. The ant quickly moved up and down, back and forth across each limb in search of the path that would lead him to the apple.

From the ground, the ant from the West watched with great intensity and curiosity as the other ant’s search continued. Strange, he thought, why was the ant from the East working so hard to find the apple?

Eventually the ant from the East returned back to the ground below only to discover the ant from the West carrying the prize apple away.

 “Stop” he signaled. “How did you get the apple before me? I tracked each limb and backtracked every possible path to the apple, yet here you are with the apple. How?”

 The ant from the West set down the apple and climbed on top and spoke. “You see, it’s quite simple ant from the East. As you raced up and down, back and forth across every possible limb trying to find the right path to the apple, I simply began at the apple and followed the path back down to the ground before climbing the tree to get the apple. You see, I saw the end and worked my way back to the start. This way there was only one route needed to take.

With that, the ant step down off the apple, picked it back up and headed back to the old barn and to his colony while the other ant remained looking up at the grand old apple tree with amazement and without an apple.

Like any venture, it is better to understand the outcome than it is to rush into it and needing to try various options until you discover the solution or before someone else does. Strategic planning combined with visual thinking and graphic facilitation are powerful tools in clarifying goals, directions and tactics needed to achieve those goals before venturing forward.

So, before you race up that tree searching for the apple, stop and map out your journey first and save time and energy.

Thanks for reading and journey ahead like the ant from the West.