Heart on your sleeve

Simplicity drives loyalty for Google, Netflix, Amazon, Chipotle...

Recently recognized for their ability to delight customers with simplicity of use, Google, Netflix, IStock_000022889089XSmallAmazon and Chipotle made it to the top five of the "simple brands" identified by customer experience strategy consultant Siegel+Gage. 


Among the up-and-coming "simple brands," Dollar Shave Club says "Dollar Shave Club couldn't be simpler. Select one of our great blades, pay only for the cost of your blades, and we send ’em right to your door every month." At Seamless, they say "we make ordering food for delivery and takeout seamless!"

Harvard Business Review: Why Simple Brands Win, 2015-Nov-9 by Margaret Molloy

Customer experience is the new battleground for loyalty. Years of findings in the Global Brand Simplicity Index demonstrate that when brands build cultures of simplicity, all parties benefit. Employees have the clarity to innovate and deliver superior customer service, consumers have better brand experiences, and ultimately reward brands with their loyalty.

Growth is welcome and inevitable for any successful company—but complexity is an unavoidable side-effect of growth. Companies must be on the lookout to simplify processes and create fresh and clear brand experiences. A commitment to simplicity starts at the top. Senior management must be committed to implementing practices that encourage simplicity. Brand purpose—what a brand does and why it does it—should be articulated in a way that is easy for employees to internalize, and customers must view a brand and its services in a manner consistent with this purpose. While it is necessary to look inward to refine and simplify, ultimately the customer’s perspective matters most.

Loyalty to suppliers and supporters: Ina Garten

Otherwise known as the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten has built a sustainable empire from a food shop to media brand. Strategically, she knows exactly where she wants her business centered: writing cookbooks. She builds a broad variety of relationships, and not everyone survives, but she clearly makes it a goal to find a partner around whom she can stabilize her business and her personal life.  IStock_000021085297XSmall

Loyalty appears to be instinctive for Garten, but we can all learn from her approach: find someone who fits your values and grow together. When our partner changes, look to growing with them. When we have to change, be sure and try to bring them along. 

Eater: Ina Garten Does It Herself, 2015-Sep-30 by Choire Sicha

This endless parade of friends and visitors only highlights her strange and extreme loyalty. Barbara has been with her in the kitchen since 1999; her marriage to Jeffrey is almost half a century long. She has been with her agent Esther Newberg at ICM since ages. Ina has never changed cookbook publishers; in fourteen years, she also has not changed producers of the show....

She is ready to crush this next cookbook. "I'm actually more interested in writing cookbooks now than I was when I started," Ina said. "I think I was really nervous about it then. But I could just do this forever — and hopefully I can, until they drag me out by my feet." 

Fighting every instinct, trying to communicate vision for a group

Part of being a leader is making sure the vision is communicated. As an innovator, I find that extremely difficult because I don't like repeating myself. I want to find a NEW thing to say.  

I work hard at being a good leader, but I may be missing the very first step. 

So onto my check list goes: Did you repeat yourself today??? IStock_000023187335XSmall

First Round Review: 42 Rules to Lead by from the Man Who Defined Google's Product Strategy, 2010-Apr-2 by Jonathan Rosenberg

#1 Be a broken record.

“When you think you’ve communicated something too much, you’re probably just beginning to get through,” says Rosenberg, stressing the importance of all-hands meetings, regular emails, office hours and team off-sites. Even if you’re truly surrounded by the smartest people you’ve ever met, assume all of them are busy with a hundred other things on their mind. “There is no such thing as too much communication.”

Why building a solid culture is tricky--what you say you believe doesn't matter.

As I build my understanding of leadership and customer experience, I'm frequently struck by leaders who struggle with the idea of culture. They want to extract the necessary culture to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, culture is so deeply rooted in the behavior of the leaders, that trying to manage it is challenging. Leaders have to manage themselves, model the behavior they want to see, and recognize it when performed by employees.  IStock_000022531940XSmall

Many people think good recruitment is the key to culture: 'just hire people with the right values.' Unfortunately, smart employees know how to express the values the company has already declared. In the hiring process, you have to look at how people are behaving, not what they say they believe. 

Culture is more about behavior than stated values. And a big company has thousands of behaviors every second. Culture is defined by the predominant behavior. 

Harvard Business Review: Why "Company Culture" Is a Misleading Term 2015-Apr-21 by John Traphagan

Today, the idea that organizations have cultures is rarely questioned by the media, by corporate executives, or by the consultants who make a living helping organizations improve their “cultures.” ... 

Within any group characterized as having a culture, there are numerous contested opinions, beliefs, and behaviors. People may align themselves to behave in a way that seems as though they buy into expressed corporate values and “culture,” but this is just as likely to be a product of self-preservation as it is of actually believing in those values or identifying with some sloganized organizational culture.

I worked for DEC, liked DEC, and did my best, but I don’t think I can honestly say I was ever committed to the values espoused by the organization. I was interested in a paycheck and in order to get that paycheck, I had to align my identity with the patterns of behavior and thought expected by those who had power over me.

How to live without being defined by edges

I spend way too much time reading. But occasionally I stumble across something that blows open my mind, making it possible for me to reach the next level of achievement, or something... a higher state of existence. If you want to go there youself, stop reading this and instead read The Web's Grain by Frank Chimero. You'll enjoy it more if you have a big screen and you may want to turn your sound low if people are nearby.  

I have a habit of drawing circles that represent a day in my life and then to divide it up and try to proportion my interests to the amount of time I have. The worst part is when I actually label the time of the day on the slices. I'm defining my life by its edges. In real life, I'm always running over those slice edges as things take longer than I anticipated. 

If the edge of a slice is the time when we have to leave to pick up a child from school, then we need to put an alarm bell on it. Otherwise we need to understand that these edges limit us. 

I want to live a life filled with passion. When we're immersed in what we're doing, then we go into "flow," and lose our sense of time. We wake up and realize we've gone over the slice edge. 

We cannot live with passion and define our life by slices. Instead we have to assemble the pieces of our lives in a way that they can hold together. It happens all the time in real life. Things just cohere or stick together. The parts grow unevenly and the shape is unexpected. 

David Hockney: Billy Wilder Lighting His Cigar, 1982


FrankChimero.com: The Web's Grain, 2015-Feb-20 by Frank Chimero

Simply put, the edgelessness of the web tears down the constructed edges in the company. Everything is so interconnected that nobody has a clear domain of work any longer—the walls are gone, so we’re left to learn how to collaborate in the spaces where things connect....

The size of what we’re making is unknown until we know what we’re putting there. So, it’s better to come up with an arrangement of elements and assign them to a size, rather than the other way around. We need to start drawing, then put the box around it. ...the perfect example of not drawing the box until you know what goes in it. [Emphasis mine.]

...we’re creating assemblages of elements, then associating them with the appropriate space.... 

You could say that our current technological arrangement has spread out too far, and it is starting to look and feel wrong. Fortunately, we can treat this over-expansion just like everything else I’ve mentioned. We can draw a line, and create a point of reassembly for what we’ve made. We can think about how to shift, move, and resize the pieces so that they fall back in line with our intentions.

Why you can't motivate other people

Thanks to Ann Iverson for linking up this classic McKinsey article about customer experience. We are reminded that you can manage your company culture and incentives, but you cannot actually motivate people--they decide to act based on their motivation. All you can do is set the stage for them. 

When your organizing your team, you have to anticipate a range of good and bad motivations, plan your own reactions, make some announcements, and consider the messages your own actions are sending. Incentives should allow you to elevate some people as role models without generating too much negative competition. It's one of the hardest jobs we have to do as leaders. 

McKinsey.com: The Moment of Truth in Customer Service, 2006-Feb by Marc Beaujean, Jonathan Davidson and Stacey Madge

As everyone knows, a range of motives drives human beings: from the purely selfish (fear and greed) to the more creative, altruistic, and personally fulfilling (problem solving, artistic excellence, service to others). Great customer service companies are invariably good at allowing people to discover their motivations themselves. After all, these companies know that most frontline employees actually want to help customers and to gain their goodwill. The trick is to allow these employees to express this urge while simultaneously restraining their selfish motives, which experience suggests are incompatible with good behavior at moments of truth.

"People will work hard when they are given the freedom to do the job the way they think it should be done, when they treat customers the way they like to be treated," observed Jim Nordstrom, the former copresident of Nordstrom. "When you take away their incentive and start giving them rules, boom, you've killed their creativity."

Is Friendship Being Changed by Social Media?

My assumptions about friends on social media were up-ended by this story in The Atlantic. A well-connected artist decided to get to know her 600+ Facebook "friends" better. Much to her and my surprise, many casual connections were excited to extend their friendship off-line. She visited and photographed them, usually in their homes.  Tq131020td

My hunch is that social media give us a chance to extend our social life to people we would have liked if we had met them in real life. Also, we can maintain permanent online profiles that help people reinforce their memory and understanding of us. We may really be raising our number of personal relationships in a revolutionary way. 

The Atlantic: How Real Are Facebook Friendships?, 2015-Feb-4 by Jacoba Urist

“Can you really know somebody if you’ve never seen their home?” Hollander asked. “To me, when I started, a friend was someone whose house you knew, someone you had eaten dinner with, but now I’ve realized that might not be as important to the definition of friendship.”  She felt an immediate sense of connection to the Facebook friends she visited, even those she had never met physically—as did they, she believes, evidenced by the high participation rate.