Saturday, February 14, 2009

You Grip a Spear By the Handle

Social anthropologists study patterns in human behavior and trends that we create through that behavior. They keep their eyes forward; they observe the edge of the trend, the "tip of the spear".

But what about those of us who make the donuts - the people who work everyday to help change the organization and bring the rest of us closer to that future state? Sometimes I am left scratching my head, wondering how to apply their wonderful observations in meaningful ways, ways that won’t cause me to spend dollars unnecessarily or by teach a set of skills that quickly become irrelevant.

I can think of several trends that once gripped employers like a fever. Can you imagine how many millions of dollars service organizations have spent on Zero-Defects consulting or Second Life applications? I am sure some people still find these tools useful, yet many more spent hours implementing them, only to find those skills ancillary, or worse - irrelevant, to their job or career.

Over time, I have come to realize the "secret" has already been shared. The individuals and organizations creating great experiences for you and me are the ones that act daily, they value learning in the moment, adapting in order to grow. Here is their secret.

1. TOUCH: by close contact, they clearly define and deliver an experience the audience wants.

Most companies are lucky if they can define their product (bagels). Great companies define the experience in a shared vision that responds to a customer’s challenge or desire (a flavor sensation in every bite). They know who a customer will contact, and where. They also plan how that experience will feel, both inside and outside the organization.

2. FEEL: through sustained contact, they measure the experience the audience receives (not just the number of units an employee delivers!).

There’s the older (visible) way to measure: “Let’s survey people on their way out and then adjust our services.” And, there’s a newer (invisible) way to gather data: “Let’s monitor what they are saying online so we can continue the conversation.”

Either way, their goal is to measure and evaluate the user experience in order to create additional opportunities for your staff and your customers.

3. GROW: through effective team development, they inspire new thinking in employees with support for actions that solve challenges in interesting and remarkable ways.

This is where average organizations fail, and great ones excel. A great company evolves over time - they readjust their grip and throw the spear again, and again.

Emerging leaders of the experience generation–those raised under an experience economy–view sales and service experiences as an ongoing opportunity to improve learning, leadership and evolve the sales/service/operational process.

In order to succeed, emerging leaders need some essential ingredients (among others) and help "throwing the spear". They need:

· an organizational commitment to transparency

· their executive leader's commitment to accountability

· fellow employee commitment to action

· an organizational willingness to let customers collaborate on big decisions

· an environment that is open to learning and change

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