Thursday, 11 January 2018

Make the pie bigger

Photo courtesy of Yesica on Flickr

Listen to the needs and experiences of your super-consumers.

How are they using your product differently? What would they love your product to do?

Use them as a way to understand how to improve sales to all your consumers. Find out who in your company is a super consumer of your products. Ask them to help you convert the unconverted. 
 
And get them to tell you what you would need to change to enable you to charge more for your products or services.

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Inspired by HBR ideacast 555 'What superconsumers can teach you'

Is that your experience?



You can find information to support any argument.

But have you actually experienced the situation you're interested in?

White papers, reports, research, blog posts all contain useful information. But they provide you with second hand information which may not be relevant to your specific context.

Your perspective is unique, and your context is different. Your experience is therefore invaluable, as it provides a way to filter all of this information for your specific situation.

Businesses now have access to more data than they know what to do with. But unless this data is contextualised with the experiences of their employees and customers, there is a danger of responding in a manner that does not reflect their specific needs.

Your experience must be taken into account.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Keep your students active



We are fortunate in art and design. The nature of teaching and learning in the creative arts lends itself to active learning, in which students have the opportunity to participate actively in the classroom. While we do give the odd lecture, this tends to be only one of a range of teaching and learning approaches at our disposal.

But As Dr. Adam Longcroft points out in this SEDA blog post, it’s all too easy to retreat to the safety of the lecture. In particular, he argues, when we are pushed for time sometimes the least challenging option is to just lecture at our students.

But by focusing on active learning strategies, rather than active teaching strategies, our students will have a better learning experience. By focusing on what and how students want to learn, rather than on what we want to teach, our role shifts from teacher to facilitator and we enable students to become active participants in their learning.

Read the full article on the SEDA blog. And you might also like the following:

Sharon Cox’s HEA guide to Active Learning

How Confucius can help us liberate organisations


Confucius dedicated his life to convincing Chinese leaders that they must act virtuously. But as modern organisations struggle to deal with the increased complexity of the network era, Confucian thinking provides a valuable reminder that we as individuals must strive to transcend the cultures of the organisations in which we find ourselves. Let me explain.

More than ever before, organisations are shaping the human condition by determining how we live and work. To improve the human condition, we therefore have to ensure that we are consciously shaping our organisations, and not simply being subservient to their cultures and values.

Culture and tradition have historically been the way in which stories are passed on, and the way in which the human species remembers. But the networked era gives us access to so much information that we are able to construct a much more personal, individual understanding of the human condition.

The networked era makes it possible for us to realise our individuality within a community. In fact, the network era demands that we do so - this is what is driving the demand for authenticity. The opportunity of the networked era is that we no longer have to hide behind organisational culture - each person can create their own culture, their own unique set of beliefs and values.

This is what it means to be enlightened: to be free of the passive conditioning of culture and to actively shape your beliefs and values. And it is this enlightenment that drives engagement.

But isn't this dangerous? What sets our moral compass if we free ourselves from the tyranny of culture? Is it the transparency and authenticity that the network era brings? If we are fully exposed, we cannot hide behind cultural practices - it is the radical transparency of the network that makes us accountable, the fact that we are fully visible to others. This is where Confucian thinking is invaluable: if we abuse this new-found power and act without virtue, we risk being publicly shamed and losing our credibility.

Organisations are sub-cultures. But while the network era demands that we realise our individuality, the hierarchical power structures of our organisations make it almost impossible for individuals to challenge the dominant culture. It is unsurprising that employees become disengaged when confronted with the colossal walls of organisational culture.

A core function of leaders then is to transform the lives of the people they lead. But in the capitalist era, leadership has become too focused on making money. The capitalist culture of shareholders has made business leaders beholden to the profit-driven demands of people external to the organisation, rather than to improving the lives of those working within the organisation. This results in many leaders breaking Confucius' Golden Rule: "Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself".

In the network era, the challenge is for every employee to create and adhere to their own set of beliefs and values. The radical transparency of the network age demands authenticity, and enables us to challenge those leaders and organisations who act without virtue. If we are to reinvent organisations for the benefit of society and humanity, we must strive us to remain autonomous in the face of the dominant organisational culture, and consciously choose to act according to our own personal set of beliefs and values.

And, as Confucius says, to conduct ourselves with virtue.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

It's time to liberate experience


Everybody's experience is valid. But all too often we are required to limit our experience to conform to the will of others.

Nowhere is this more true than in organisations. Every organisation has a shared system of beliefs and behaviours, which can be understood as its culture. Cultures emerge from the constant interaction of people with each other and their environment.

But the unpredictable, non-linear nature of these interactions is a primary reason why organisations find it so hard to change a culture. The principle of cause and effect that guided approaches to leadership in the industrial era is no longer suited to the complexity of the knowledge era.


Liberating experiences

So what can we do? Well, one powerful solution to this problem is to harness the power of experiences.

A key value of experiences is that they are neither right nor wrong, they just are. You may think you know what is happening in your organisation, but unless you are making a conscious effort to listen to the full range of customer and employee experiences your understanding will be limited.

The digital age has made it possible to liberate, access and search the constantly shifting landscape of experiences happening within and beyond an organisation. But we are only just beginning to see a corresponding shift in the willingness to use these experiences to guide decision-making.


Legitimation by experience

Every experience is legitimate. If you have an organisation of 1,000 employees, you have 1,000 pairs of ears and eyes that can help you build a picture of what is actually happening. If you widen the net to include customers' experiences, this number increases exponentially.

Using these experiences to guide the activity of employees makes an organisation significantly more responsive to its environment. But while digital tools have shown us 'how' to do this, many organisations are still struggling with the 'why'.

As we move further into the knowledge era, it is no longer effective to expect leaders and executives to have all the answers to complex problems. The answers lie in the crowd, in the employees and customers who make up the organisation and its ecosystem. Their real-world, real-time experiences are an invaluable resource of information that shows what is actually happening, and not what the 'organisation' thinks is happening.

Every organisation has an army of potentially willing helpers who want to share their experiences. Why wouldn't you want to liberate this power?

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The QoE use the Perpetual Experience methodology to help businesses become more responsive, more innovative, more authentic, and more efficient. If you're interested in harnessing customer experience to transform your business, you might also like:
Thank you to Philippe Leroyer on Flickr for the use of his excellent photo.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The fulfilment potential of professional networking




Many of us, myself included, probably spend a bit too much time on social media. Why? Because it provides a way for us to find and consume relevant knowledge recommended by professionals in our network.

But there is a more important reason why engaging in professional networking is valuable to us: it increases our potential for fulfilment. How? Because it enables us to give the most valuable things we have: our time and our attention.

Motivational guru and life coach Tony Robbins believes that we can only achieve real fulfilment if we are
  • growing, and
  • giving beyond ourselves
Sharing information with your professional network can be viewed as a way to grow. Identifying and sharing relevant information requires us to empathise with the needs of those in our network, and think critically about the information they are likely to find useful. But if we go beyond sharing and take the time to comment on other people's ideas, we become more fulfilled as we our giving our time and our energy to formulate meaningful responses to their activity.

You don't have to do it, you can just read what they wrote. But taking the time to consider their idea and formulate a useful response is a way to give beyond ourselves, and empower that person further through dialogue.

Our lives are becoming increasingly distracted. A recent Microsoft report found that the average attention span is now 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. That's less than a goldfish. As we are able to consume more information on more platforms than ever before, our attention is rapidly becoming the most valuable commodity that we possess - and everybody wants a piece of it. If attention is the new currency of the internet, then the concept of 'paying attention' is increasingly likely to assume the financial value it implies.

Learning how to pay attention in a world of distraction is becoming a critical skill. Understanding the mechanisms through which social networking can lead to growth and fulfilment is vital if we are to prevent technology from determining both our future happiness and our productivity.

Humans are social creatures, and words are one of the primary tools we use to construct our reality. The Internet, and in particular social networking, provide us with a powerful means of growing and giving beyond ourselves, helping us to become more fulfilled in the process.

All it takes is a little time and attention.

How 'community' can drive digital transformation




Two problematic areas for today's organisations are employee engagement and digital transformation.

Although organisations want employees to share knowledge, care about their work, and embrace digital ways of working, they often try to impose these desires on top of the existing culture of work. And attempts to impose culture change from above will always be met with resistance.

The problem is that we have two sets of forces pushing against each other: an outdated, hierarchical view of work based on a 20th century industrial model of organisation, and a 'socialised' view of work stemming from a desire to harness the power of online communities and networks.

These two opposing approaches to organisation are fundamentally incompatible, and this is a key reason why many organisations are struggling with digital transformation. Digital provides an entirely new way to approach work, collaboration, and organisation, but if transformation is undertaken with a 20th century industrial mindset then it will not reap the full benefits that digital offers. This is not a new problem, as Cham (2014) notes by referencing the argument made by Marshal McLuhan back in the 1960s:

"If we try to understand digital transformation with an industrial mindset we are 'walking backwards into the future'"

In the hyperconnected 21st century, we should be designing organisations around community, not work. Millenials have grown up in a hyperconnected age, they instinctively participate in a wide variety of communities, and they expect the modern workplace to function in the same way as their connected personal existence. So it is no surprise that they often become quickly disengaged when confronted with bureaucratic, hierarchical organisations using outdated technologies that bear little resemblance to the community-oriented tools to which they are accustomed.

So how can we design work around community?

If you look at start-ups, community happens automatically. Everyone knows everyone else, and has a good idea what they are working on. There are never enough people to do the work that needs to be done, so everyone has to help each other out on a daily basis. There is a strong sense of shared purpose, and an urgency that binds the team together. Each employee has to make important decisions under pressure, giving them a strong sense of connection to the vision and purpose of the start-up. Autonomy and initiative are essential.

And most of all, people talk to each other all the time. There is almost no hierarchy to quash the inherent creativity of the team. All ideas regarding how to improve the business are welcomed, discussed, adapted and implemented.

The challenge for larger organistions and businesses is how to reimagine their operational model around principles of community. If we designed our organisations around community, not just around work, things could be very different.

"Putting community at the centre of the organisation fundamentally changes the motivation to do work"

Communities develop around a clear purpose, and this purpose is what drives people to engage with the community. Establishing a clear purpose for an organisation (beyond simply making money for shareholders) is therefore a valuable way of tackling the problem of a disengaged workforce. Designing an organisation as a community turns it into a place where people are emotionally engaged, share knowledge instinctively, and collaborate on shared projects with a strong sense of purpose. And in a knowledge economy, these three factors are fundamental to an effective, engaged, and digitally literate workforce.

Digital transformation represents an attempt to harness the innate human desire to share useful information and participate in purposeful communities. But any digital transformation strategy that focuses on platforms instead of people is almost certain to fail - successful transformation is dependent on understanding what motivates people to participate in communities.

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References

2014  Cham, K.L. “"Virtually An Alternative ? The Medium, The Message and The User Experience; Collective Agency in Digital Spaces and Embodied Social Change", 5th LAEMOS Colloquium on Organization Studies Constructing Alternatives: How can we organize for alternative social, economic, and ecological balance?, Havana, Cuba http://laemos.com

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