I’ve been thinking about and pounding you in this blog with the idea of not wasting people’s time (also see here). I found out two things today, one is that I’m not the only one thinking about it, and, second that recent research says that in order for people to be happy they like to spend a certain amount of time on some activities.
Here’s a comment posted by Kate Davis in response to my post Innovation: What gives from last week:
This almost makes me wonder if we want all people to be innovative? I know that being innovative is a goal and a highly valued quality, but you as you said, the copy-cat aspect of human nature is required for our continued survival. I suppose the question truly is "Should everyone in a society be innovative?" Yes, being a stick-in-the mud is probably not good if the society wants to be dynamic, a definite plus for the society’s probability for surviving.
I will have to think on this more, but as with every observation I see, I think the "why" is almost always more important than the "what."
Here’s my response and I welcome your thoughts:
Yes it’s an interesting question but I would frame it another way: Do we want everyone in society to fulfill their potential? If the answer is yes, then being innovative becomes a desirable quality because that’s ‘what’ innovation really is. If you have the desire to become better consistently all the time you stand a better chance of innovating because you’re a lot more open to new things, new experiences, new ideas and have a higher tolerance for failure.
What do you think?
Do you really know your customers? Are you sure you understand their needs, wants, desires and motivations? Most likely you don’t.
Why do I know this? Because most organizations are not designed to ‘become their customers’. For an example of what I mean read this NPR article on how: To Understand Truckers, Two Photographers Become Truckers.
About two years ago, he and his wife Tracey Mancenido, also a photographer, decided to drop their lives, attend truck driving school, and hit the road. Tribble, the son of a truck driver, wanted to know more about the elusive culture that moves America — and figured the only way to understand it was to live it.
See that last sentence in bold? The only way to understand something is to live it. Bingo!
We’re in incredibly changing times, your customers wants and desires will also change to another value structure. Instead of assuming their wants and desires will always be the same, think the opposite. Just as the photographer did to understand truckers, you must remove the distance between you and your customers, immerse yourself in their environment and make their needs, frustrations and desires your own.
To discover new opportunities for innovation, you need to get under your customers skin and become them.
In the past month I spent close to 9 hours with support representatives from a couple of companies with whom I’ve had issues with. One is Sprint and the other is Dell.
While 9 hours in a month doesn’t seem like a lot, believe me it’s a lot. When I was in high school I worked at a call center as a tech support representative for Verizon Wireless, so believe me when I say that spending a lot of time on the phone trying to resolve an issue is incredibly annoying for both the customer and the support representative. Especially when you (the customer) doesn’t get the issue resolved. As a support representative you can either make a customers day or you can become the focus of their anger.
One question I ask representatives all the time, which they have no idea how to answer, is: Why do I have to repeat myself every time I’m transferred from one representative to the other?
Wouldn’t it be easier if the first person you talk to took your information, entered it onto ‘the system’ once and it remained there for everyone to access until your matter is solved? This way the next person who gets to talk to you knows what’s going on before you even open your mouth. No seriously, we’ve got the technology to do it we just need someone to start acting differently and do it. Zappos has figured this out and does it in their own kind of way!
Believe me when I say that people take these calls for granted. As customers we know that whenever we call customer support we’re probably going to spend a good amount of time on the phone. What if you (the biz) broke this expectation and actually made it less annoying when we call? Customers are annoyed before they even call!
The issue I had with Dell also got me thinking about the element of time. I was without my laptop for 2 weeks and more is coming because another hardware issue came with the fix so I have to send it back. As I was telling my friend Arnold Beekes about it he suggested that Dell should have provided me with a temporary laptop while mine was being fixed, similar to how car dealerships do when you bring your car in for a check up.
These are the types of things that make a difference in the customer experience but some companies don’t figure it out until it’s too late. What if companies got annoyed when they felt they’ve wasted their customers time? What type of behaviors would emerge? In what ways would their business strategy change? How would their business model change?
Personally the issue of wasting people’s time does not sit well with me, so whenever I feel others (can be company or person) are wasting my time it annoys me. It also works the other way, if I feel that I’m wasting your time it bothers me.
My point is that time is such a precious resource and if you (the biz) mindlessly waste the customers time, you are ignoring a valuable opportunity to exceed their expectations because now more than ever we are more time constrained; we have more activities vying for out attention. If you can make the time customers do spend with you more valuable, you will make a small difference in their lives and that really matters
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- The Institutional Innovation Manifesto by @umairh
- See Innovation Opportunities with an Upgraded Mental Camera – HBR
- The Origins of Good Ideas – WSJ
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- The Rubbery Challenges of Innovation (designmind.frogdesign.com)
They sure are. There are all sorts of fun ways to come up with new ideas and tactics to help you see new ideas. Do a google search for ‘how to get new ideas’ and you get 381 million results, more links than you’ll ever have time to visit in your lifetime with some mostly the same information that is in those two articles I linked to! Ok so what’s a better way to generate ideas?
Insights, they’re the seeds of new groundbreaking ideas.
A more strategic way of generating ideas is to focus on building ideas on top of insights. Don’t get me wrong, thinking stuff up is fun. You let your imagination run wild, think of the impossible and think all kinds of stuff only you can imagine. It’s your own dream world! Mostly all these ideas will be way ahead of their time or not even doable. That’s why we need to combine our imagination with our intellect. Our intellect drives our capability to discover insights and our imagination helps put the pieces together in a new way.
So how do you discover new insights?
Recently I’ve written how insights can pop out of nowhere and how the most simple way of spotting them is by noticing things. To discover new insights we have to become really good at recognizing patterns and then making sense of them in this interconnected world. We must turn mud into gold if you will and this happens by making distinctions out of what we observe.
To get you started, a simple way is to observe the world, industries and people. Notice what’s changing, what’s different and ask yourself what does it mean for the world, industry your customers and you. Think about what needs and behaviors might emerge from these changes and how can you exploit them.
Ideas are cheap but insights are hard to come by.
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Spotted this tweet a few minutes ago: #Innovation is rare. Proof: millions of cookbooks sold and read all with practically the same recipes. What gives?
What gives? Human nature.
Innovation is about people and whatever beliefs, habits and attitudes people have are the limiting factors that prevent them from adopting new viewpoints or ideas. Yes, innovation can be taught but as Jose Briones says: it requires that people have an open mind and that is an incredibly scarce resource.
My amigo Jonathan Amm from @ThinkTank_ probably said it best when he described the work we do as psychology work because those of us who are innovation insurgents are really in the business of opening people’s minds, unplugging them from the resistance. As far as all the recipes in books go, I wouldn’t be surprised that 10 years from now we’re still be talking about how to help make people more innovative because human nature is one itch most don’t like to scratch. Most don’t and can’t think for themselves and resort to copycatting, which is essential to human evolution but detrimental to an organizations ability to be innovative.
Another thing to consider is that until only recently has ‘innovation’ moved to other realms other than the traditional product and service innovation. Areas like management innovation which deals with how we organize people around work is very important, this is an area where I personally think organizations can make the biggest impact.
Yes, innovation IS rare but anyone has the potential to do it.
“Rules are what artist breaks; the memorable never emerged from a formula.” - Bill Bernbach