Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A fresh perspective needs a time-out and detachment

In medium to large organizations there is a need to standardize procedures and to have habits. Here are some examples of habits: every monday morning there is a team meeting; R&D is done in-house; managers are senior men; we focus on addressing faults, mistakes and individual weaknesses.
Most leaders are not even consciously aware of these practices. They are so ingrained in the the 'way things get done here' (the 'culture'), that they are neither questioned nor improved.

While some of these habits are quite beneficial, like having regular team meetings, others do often block innovation. Let's have a look at R&D which is done only internally. This certainly will create a kind of arrogance, 'we know it better'. And also the focus is entirely on satisfying the internal customers, rather than the external stakeholders. Also it is impossible to keep up to date on all new developments in the market and therefor there is a huge risk of missing out on new customer needs. An example id Digital Equipment Corporation which missed the importance of the pc. Now you see that still many organizations are dismissing social media.
Procter & Gamble has decided that more than 50% of its R&D should be crowd-sourced. In this way they are making sure not to miss out on crucial developments.

This time between Christmas and New Year is an excellent time to detach and to assess whether some of these habits are still supporting your goals. Be courageous and dare to let go of these old habits which block your progress.

What is your new perspective?


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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Are you really being customer-centric?

Yesterday I had to accompany my mother to the doctor. The roles reverse, as she did go with me while I was young and now it is the other way around. She had to perform a lung test. The outcome was that she has to use a certain medicine for six weeks.

Why is this relevant in the context of innovation? Well, the medicine has to be inhaled via a complicated tool. So, we went to the pharmacist and ordered the product. Then he set up a meeting in a separate room with us to 'demonstrate' the product. In other words, how to use it. This is all very good, but........ he had problems showing it correctly. As a matter of fact he made some mistakes, as I did find out reading the manual. The product is not easy to use and because of that it will not be used properly.

While the medicine and the tool might be very advanced, the results still depends on whether your customer CAN use it. The product was clearly not designed in a user-centric way. It still was designed form a product-centric point of view. Many companies say that their main strategy is to move from being product-centric to being customer-centric. It is evident that they still have to learn quite a lot to putting the user first in all their work.

How are you being customer-centric in all your activities?


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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Your story is your differentiator

It is very hard to distinguish your products and services, if you only focus on the features and/or the price. Even if you have a differentiator it will not last very long, as your competitors will catch up very soon.
One way to differentiate yourself in a sustainable way is to have a compelling story about your company, your self and your product/service. Here is an example from TOMS' Blake Mycoskie:

We make great shoes and give away a pair to a child in need for every pair we sell.”

Recently I also did hear the story from method by Adam Lowry. He mentioned that while cleaning his apartment he started reading the label of the cleaning product and did find out that many ingredients were toxic. Toxic for his own health as well as for the environment. So he started method: environmental friendly cleaning products.

Both stories give a personal touch and makes them easy to remember and to share with others.
The story has to be personal, either a personal experience (like with Blake who has met a charity which donated shoes) or a personal problem (like with Adam and cleaning his apartment).
In all my services I have coaching included. Ten years ago I did feel the powerful influence of coaching myself. I had missed this coaching, both personally (when I grew up) as well as professionally (in my career). So, now I want to offer it to everyone, as it is THE tool for personal growth - in a positive way.

So, what is your story?


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