Posts Tagged ‘experience’

Personal road map to co-creation in six easy steps

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

I’m often asked at parties what individuals must do to engage in personal co-creation. It recently dawned on me that I only knew how to describe co-creation from the organization’s standpoint, producing quizzical looks from my relatives and friends who are not in the business world. After all, it is a lot easier for a consultant to generate fees from a large organization hiring you to make more money, than it is to sell co-creation one individual at a time. So let me pick up the gauntlet, try my best incarnation of Wayne Dyer or Steven Covey, and tell you how to get on the road to co-creation in six easy steps.

STEP 1: PEOPLE. Co-creation is about people, so start out by mapping out the people you interact with. This includes your spouse, your neighbor, your friends at work, and the kid with freckles who throws toilet paper on your lawn every Halloween. Depending on how social a creature you are, you’ll rapidly be able to define a list of at least 15 or 20 people (Ashton Kutcher has over 7 million friends on Facebook, which makes his network map a bit complex). Put yourself at the center of the map, draw three or four concentric circles to represent decreasing frequencies of interactions, and place everybody in those circles. You now have a map of your personal network.

STEP 2: INTERACTIONS. Starting with the people you deal with the most, list the main things you do with each of them. This defines the existing interactions you have with them. This will allow you to put together an integrated view of what interactions you have with everybody (typically something like 15-20 interactions typically drawn as columns, and 15-20 people you interact with, drawn as lines). This may include shopping with your daughter, attending meetings with your work colleague, discussing the existence of God with your spiritual adviser, or stealing hubcaps with that old college friend of yours every Saturday night in the city. You now have a map of the major interactions you have with members of your personal network.

STEP 3: EXPERIENCE. At the end of each interaction, describe the quality of experience you get from this interaction – good, bad, or indifferent. You may rate the experience of stealing hubcaps a 9 out of 10 (thrilling), the experience of discussing the existence of God exalting but tiring (say, a 6 out of 10), and the experience of shopping with your daughter a frustrating 2 out of 10, because you don’t really think the leopard-skin jacket and stiletto shoes she wants you to buy for her qualifies as business attire. Arraying these experiences in left-to-right fashion from low to high will yield an experience curve that describes your general dislikes and likes before embarking on the co-creation journey. Your job is now to lift this experience curve through co-creation, eliminating or reducing the negative elements, raising the positive ones, and inventing new ones altogether.

STEP 4: TRANSPARENCY. Now comes the action part. Assemble members of your network together in your living room and get them to start sharing their experience of life with each other in transparent fashion and help them imagine new interactions between them to produce a better experience for all parties involved, possibly adding new members to the network. How much visibility does member A have about the broad experience of life of member B, and how could they interact with each other in new ways? What do you wish A knew about B and vice-versa?  The more transparent everybody’s experience of life becomes, the more new connections are likely to happen, so your job is to structure, activate, and grow your network. If my spiritual adviser and I start sharing our experience of life with each other, he may be able to dispense more relevant advice after understanding that he and I are essentially in the same business of ministering to communities (OK, his ministering may be more altruistic than mine, but we’re both selling ideas we’re passionate about). This will constitute a new interaction for both of us (and the source of a new experience for both of us). I may learn a lot from hearing my wife describe the tour she gives at the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston, get to know her work colleagues, and, who knows, dispense a bit of free business advice to the management of the museum and learn how the museum’s management model may apply to business. Ultimately, my job as a co-creator is also to enable new interactions between the spiritual adviser, my wife’s friends, and my daughter’s friends at the museum, independently of me.

STEP 5: PLATFORM. Beyond the one-off opportunities to create new interactions and new experiences between members of your network (including yourself), you will eventually have to set up a more permanent engagement platform linking everybody together. It may start as ad hoc conversations or meetings in your living room or by phone, but you will eventually have to utilize or build a larger scale, more formal engagement process tool between the members of the network. This will typically require a mix of a physical place and virtual technology platform. For example, I may have to invite my spiritual adviser to come on one of my business trips with me, or the spiritual adviser may have to enlist me in preparing a sermon for his congregation, but beyond the first event, we will need a means to continue engaging with each other. The platform may consist of a personal journal, a blog, or a social network platform such as Facebook or Twitter. It’s best to start live and move to tech enablement once you’ve gotten the live network going. If you don’t, you’ll run the risk of having nobody show up. Also bear in mind that you’ll need to structure the discussion along specific interactions if you want to avoid producing an oatmeal of unfocused ideas. You don’t necessarily want the spiritual adviser to interact with your old college friend on the details of how to steal hubcaps every Saturday in the city.

STEP 6: CO-CREATION. Once you’ve established your engagement platform and people start coming to it, you may find yourself having reached the true co-creation stage where the growth of the network becomes self-sustaining. At that point, the universe of your network starts expanding naturally. Your role has now become one of orchestrator, rather than generator of energy as was the case in the early stages. You now have more and more people joining in your network. The range of experiences being discussed is perpetually expanding, with members of the network continuously generating new interactions between them. You have now become Ashton Kutcher, attracting millions of friends, but with interactions that are less self-absorbed and more meaningful to you and your friends. Your wife, your minister, and your daughter all coach your friend into no longer stealing hubcaps on Saturday night in the city, and he talks to them about God.

You are finally at home in the expanding universe of co-creation. Co-creation in six easy steps…

The technology experience finally comes of age

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

I was recently at the Technology Services World (TSW) Conference in Las Vegas, organized by the Technology Services Industry Association. For the first time, there may be help on the way for people who, like me, experience technology as a giant frustration.

Every big technology firm seemed to be at the conference, except Apple. Apple may be afraid that competitors will figure out their secrets if they show up, but it seems to me they follow a pretty simple recipe that goes something like this: Let customers choose how they establish contact with Apple people, either physically through stores, or through any other means of their choosing (Internet, community, call center). Either way, encourage them to come. If you help customers figure out how to use the stuff they’ve bought from you, they’ll become better at it. As they learn, they’ll buy new software and new hardware. They’ll upgrade their machines faster. They’ll become loyal to your brand. They’ll sell other people on the merits of your machine. And you’ll get very wealthy.

All other companies have historically been on the opposite track, following a logic that goes something like: We hope you won’t contact us because you cost us money every time you do. So we’ll set up an obstacle course that protects our people through fragmented Internet sites, semantic moats, and tech-speak land mines. If you survive this, our Customer Service will be waiting to convince you that you’re no longer under warranty and get you to agree to pay for a service you’re not yet sure you need, or cross-sell you a more advanced version of the application you don’t understand, which is why you called in the first place. Along the way, you may get to visit with Henry in Hyderabad, Martin in Manila, or Lenny in Lesotho. As the experience becomes worse, customers buy less and less, managers cut more and more cost, and the company turns into a bleaching carcass in the desert of technology.

The Apple system starts with experience – the customer’s and the Apple employee’s experience. It then allows them to develop their own interaction in the store, through the phone, or on the website. Each interaction is co-created; the customer brings her problem, and the employee figures out with the customer how to weave a unique interaction between them to solve the issue. The issue is not even characterized as training, support, warranty management, or anything else until the conversation starts. There is no typology of issue, no segmentation of customers, no preordained process or metric constraining them.

For all other companies, everything starts with the process and the operational scorecard associated with that process. The conversation is about First Call Resolution – where resolution is defined as “If you haven’t called back to complain, we must somehow have solved your problem” – Average Handle Time – how long it took for the agent to get rid of you without hurting your feelings too openly – and Customer Satisfaction – where you are deemed to be happy if you reluctantly whisper “yes” to the agent’s throwaway question at the end inquiring whether your call was better than a root canal.

But things may be changing. At the TSW conference, I saw some senior executives begin to take responsibility for the customer experience produced by technology companies. Denise Rundle, who is Microsoft’s Vice President in charge of the Consumer Service and Support experience, went as far as to say she’s come to realize that having all her indicators be green on her operational scorecard fell quite short of offering a good customer experience. (Full disclosure: I am a consultant to Microsoft through my relationship with PRTM and shared a keynote presentation with Denise at TSW.) She even challenged other members of the PC ecosystem to come and join her in jointly constructing the future PC experience as an ecosystem. For the first time, I saw a high-level technology executive talk about the issue from the perspective of her own experience: wanting to be proud of what she does. And people responded. When she came down from the stage, many people were waiting for her, wanting to sign up in her ecosystem army.

It is a bit early to figure out this will go and whether the PC experience will one day be as much fun as Apple’s. But at least someone cares enough to get going. That, in itself, is the beginning of redemption.

LeBron James co-creates

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

I always love it when someone like LeBron James creatively bends the rules of a traditional marketing-run organization like the National Basketball Association.  The place is full of league-centric rules aimed at packaging the experience of the fan around its self-defined view of “the brand,” using a ’60s view of marketing management where logos and TV ads are viewed as more important than the creation of an authentic fan experience. Those of you who want your kids to emulate the behavior of NBA stars at home, please raise your hand.

The same “I’m in charge of your experience” philosophy applies to the relationship the NBA has with its players. The player’s experience is regimented by rules such as the salary cap – a team’s payroll shall not exceed $58 million for the 2010-2011 season – and the interaction between players, agents, and teams – players shall not negotiate with soon-to-be free agents before July 1. These rules proceed from a league-first paradigm where the league defines acceptable behavior and players are passive recipients of an employment product defined by the NBA.

Fortunately, LeBron James just exploded all of that. LeBron may not have been authorized by the NBA to negotiate with any team as a free agent until July 1, but he had the right to talk with two of his fellow players, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, also free agents. Together, they decided they would co-create the terms of their future employment. They built a group package, defining the length of the contract (6 years for all three of them), how much each of them would be paid ($14 million to $14.5 million per year per player the first year, with a gradual increase every year after that). They intentionally lowered their collective salary by about $50 million over the length of the contract, to allow their new team to put a couple more players on the court (I’m a soccer guy, but I understand a basketball team has five players) and still stay within the salary cap. In the end, the Miami Heat turned out to be the winner, as many people discovered in an extravaganza show on ESPN a week ago.

The new James-Bosh-Wade collective has the two crucial ingredients of co-creation. It produces a better experience for the individuals involved, since they now stand a great chance of winning the NBA championship in the next six years. It also saves the Miami Heat a bunch since the three players have left money on the table for the chance of playing together, not to mention the fact that the American Airlines Arena in Miami should be full from here on. (In case you’re worried about LeBron going homeless on such a meager pittance, the money he makes from endorsements with Nike, Sprite, Glacéau, Bubblicious, Upper Deck, McDonald’s, and State Farm Insurance dwarfs his salary as a working stiff.)

The evolution of recruiting from a one-way, company-centric process to a two-way co-creative interaction where recruits engage with future employers on their own terms, often as part of a group, is a global phenomenon. One of the most innovative companies when it comes to recruiting is the Indian call center company 24/7 Customer, which allows young people in Bangalore to come and interview as a group. The firm even allows the groups to staff and manage themselves as a unit within the firm if they get hired. 24/7 Customer has devised this group recruiting process to find talent in the highly competitive IT industry in India.

Employers beware. From LeBron James to the call centers of Bangalore, madmen recruits are increasingly in charge of the recruiting asylum.

Co-Creation from A to Z, Continued

Sunday, November 1st, 2009


More entries in the continuing series of company-centric buzzwords and their co-creative alternatives.

Experience: Something pleasurable you design for your customers because you’re perceptive and know what they want.  As a result, customers come back and you deliver more of that experience, ideally several times a day. Make sure this great experience is delivered in exactly the same fashion every time, because the more often people get exactly the same experience, the higher they rate their experience, and then you get rich.

The co-created alternative: Customers are like children – they don’t want to simply play with your toys. The little girl wants to kiss your stuffed koala, give him a name, invent stories about him, pull his eyes out, use him to club the little boy in the sandbox who annoys her, and trade what’s left of it for a new Bratz. You’re not really designing or controlling that little girl’s koala experience, are you? Think of this toy as a platform that allows the little girl to co-create her koala experience, complete with detachable eyes, weapon transformability, and second-hand koala market.

Innovation: A CEO incantation, typically supplemented by an arm-waving process controlled by a headquarters czar who reads Harvard Business Review and has a consulting budget. The czar relies on a large network of virtual resources who commit 5% of their time to attend PowerPoint meetings, during which they respond to their bosses’ e-mails coaching them to focus on real things if they want a bonus at the end of the year.

The co-created alternative: Pick the dirtiest process in the dirtiest plant you can find, and see if you can convince actors in that process to connect to some kind of customer experience in the real world. You may have to dress up Joe the Scheduler before sending him to customers, but be prepared for a new vocation as facilitator. Let Joe talk his manufacturing buddies into doing the same when he comes back from the customer workshop. Then hire a corporate czar to document the corporate innovation process proving that Joe the Scheduler is in compliance.

Market research: The art of observing unsuspecting customers or prospects in their natural habitats, or interrogating them in a poorly lit room with a window to nowhere, for a fee and the vague promise that what they say might one day reach some executive who didn’t care enough to be there in the first place. The quantitative data is then directed to PhD statisticians who build elaborate models featured at market research conferences while the qualitative data gives otherwise unemployable English majors a chance to use obscure words they learned in their Jungian philosophy class.

The co-created alternative: Smash the one-way mirror and start poking at customers. See if you can get a few of them to poke back until a massive brawl ensues. Select the fighters who care enough to duel with you late into the night and get them to volunteer as scouts for your army from there on.

Net Promoter Score: A silly question asking customers whether they like the stuff they just bought and are willing to recommend it to their Mom. From there on, customers evaluations enter an algebraic whirlpool where some votes get added (sometimes), subtracted (more often), and ignored (most of the time), ultimately producing the blinding insight that you’re more likely to be successful if people like your stuff.

The co-created alternative: For sure, liking your stuff is a good thing. But it ain’t the same as being engaged. For example, I like Gouda cheese and would highly recommend it to my friends, but I’m not that engaged with it. Conversely, I’m quite engaged with the Arsenal Football Club because I watched them cream Tottenham today and I love to read and write about their amazing coach Arsène Wenger who’s the greatest genius that ever was and is virtually from my home town. I also want to complain about the referees who are so absurdly biased against those wonderful young players who will undoubtedly win the Champions League this year if there’s any justice. I guess I’m a net promoter for both Gouda cheese and Arsenal, but somehow Arsenal seems more important in my life than Gouda cheese…

Patent: Scientific trophy aimed at recompensing ego-driven scientists pretending that what they found will one day matter to a customer in the real world.

The co-created alternative: Remember Bell Labs, long number-one in the patent charts, and now peacefully resting in the great corporate cemetery reserved for irrelevant innovators? Your scientists will undoubtedly threaten you with fire and brimstone if you open up your innovation process to the outside, but remember that they don’t have a monopoly on cleverness. Other nerds out there in China have figured out stuff that is more customer-ready than your own developments. Also be prepared for the “we’re all about IP” speech by your lawyers. Remember they’d rather deal with the overworked guy at the Patent Office than with other lawyers who are as smart as they are at these other firms that innovate with you.

Process efficiency: The art of identifying the lowest common denominator in customer expectation, and training customers to accept the unilateral standard of mediocrity you’ve just set. The best practice in process design is called “straight-through processing,” which involves the eradication of any human involvement. If people  insist on being involved, talk about “knowledge process” and dismiss it as an exception.

The co-created alternative: Processes are to interactions what, uh, solitary pleasures are to sex. You need an excellent process to handle your half of the latter, but it tends to be quite different from your best-practice process for the former. Your experience also tends to be different, not to mention your partner’s. We highly recommend co-designing the two halves of the process in the context of the two-way interaction. It’s more fun that way.