Monthly Archives: September 2010

Custodians of the Rules

The rule makers
If you’ve ever observed kids at play, before too long they start to make up rules. It’s in our nature to control our cultural environment to make it more manageable.  When you use your adult experience to judge these ‘play’ rules they often seem arbitrary, unnecessary and limiting.  To the children they are real, important and they are often forcefully applied.  Child’s play replicates real life. What if we stood back and observed ourselves at work; how many of the rules we have created would seem arbitrary, unnecessary and limiting?
Rules evolve from the need to control.  I look at some of the rules I’m governed by and have no idea where they came from. Why is 30mph the speed limit in a built up area?  Why does the grouse-shooting season start on the 12th August not the 11th?  Why is 9:00 the TV watershed? Why can’t I walk on the grass?
Then there are the workplace rules; you can’t have the internet unless you are a senior manager, you must always sign for the meeting room key, only Directors can use this lift (a rule at a famous football club). Each rigorously enforced but to the casual observer, arbitrary, unnecessary and limiting.  When I ask people to collect examples of the written and unwritten rules from around their own environment it often prompts them to ask, why?
The rulers
Once the rules are established we get custodians of the rules; people who have a stake in maintaining the rules and identify with them.  They become emotionally attached to the prescribed way.  Their function is to continually limit what can happen.  As people start to push the boundaries, new rules are created to stop them.  We find rules prescribing ‘best practice’ which means that any other good practice is not allowed.  A patriarchal mindset prevails. We do it this way because ‘someone’ knows best. We get the official ‘rule police’ who are employed to ensure the rules are followed and the cultural champions who believe it is right for them to protect the rules.
The ruled
Interestingly if you read the above paragraph again from the perspective of your own personal rules it becomes easy to understand why people find it hard to break from the norm.  We even create our own personal set of immutable legislation to which we become emotionally attached – our mindset.
The odds are stacked against making a step change in performance.  The rules are set either formally or informally.  They are governed by others and ourselves.  They are also used as a credible excuse for inertia, so even when we can see that something is not functioning as we want we claim our hands are tied, there can be no more.
This is not a call for anarchy.  Some rules are necessary.  All I’m saying is that there are many rules which have evolved to meet a past circumstance which has long since disappeared. It is conceivable that there is the possibility that changing the rules might enable new opportunities to arise.  Be prepared to change the rules – then I might not have to carry 2 tonnes of equipment up three flights of stairs just on the off-chance a Director might want to use the lift at 7:00 in the morning!

Paavo Nurmi: The ‘Flying Finn’

If I were to ask you to name famous Finns, you might struggle.  However, there are few more accomplished performers or greater Paradigmeers than Finnish Olympian Paavo Nurmi. 
Born in Turku, Finland in 1897, Nurmi was known as one of the famous “Flying Finns.” During the 1920s, he was recognized as the greatest middle and long distance runner in the world. He set forty world records for all distances between 1500m and 20km and competed in three Olympic games from 1920 to 1928, winning nine gold and three silver medals. Today, Paavo Nurmi is considered a Finnish national hero and an idol to many.  Incredible achievements for sure, but this does not make him a Paradigmeer; it was the way he changed sport, forever, that puts him high on our list.
Any sportsperson today, whether a casual runner, footballer or gym user, will be familiar with sports science.  The use of training programmes is universally recognised as an important way of improving athletic performance. In Nurmi’s day, athletes just raced.  Turn up and run.  There was no concept of training, no understanding that the body was able to adapt and improve.  He was one of the first top athletes who had a systematic approach in training.
Walking, running and calisthenics were the main elements of his harsh training regimen. He learned to measure his pace and its effects with a stop watch. When Nurmi started using a stop watch in all his training runs, he broke the mould.  How many of us today run, cycle, swim, train with a stop watch to time our efforts? 
It obviously worked.  On 22 June 1921 in Stockholm he set his first world record: 30.40,2 in 10,000 metres. He went on to break world records in most distances from 1500 metres to 10,000 metres, meticulously executing his carefully planned time schedules without much fear of competition. Putting his guiding principle into words, he said: “When you race against time, you don’t have to sprint. Others can’t hold the pace if it is steady and hard all through to the tape.”
He also applied what we now know as sports psychology, stating that: “Mind is everything. Muscle – pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.” Martti Jukola, a Finnish sports journalist, wrote in 1935: “…he conquered the world by pure means: with a will that had supernatural power.”
His significant achievements resulted from tireless hard work and a truly dedicated individual character.  Through his achievements and his scientific approach to training and racing he transformed competitive running in the 1920s and opened people’s minds to the improvement of human potential through purposeful training.
“Success in sport as in almost anything comes from devotion. The athlete must make a devotion of his specialty.” Paavo Nurmi

Things that make you go Wow or Whoa: Part 1

Let’s forget the ‘ow!’, ‘oooh!’ ‘and ‘nooo!’ because it’s always quite obvious what is causing you to make these exclamations. They are usually a sign that whatever it was has disappointed in some way is causing you mental anguish or physical pain.  More interesting to those of us who are fascinated by how we might get to the next level of excellence is that cut off point between ‘wow!’ and ‘whoa!’
‘Wow!’ is that point where you are delighted and surprised.  You are left feeling good, as if you have been given a really nice hug.  Whereas, ‘Whoa!’ is where the intention was to leave you delighted and surprised; instead you feel like this was just too much, a step too far, like when you’re a kid and your granny has a left lipstick kiss on your cheek.  Or, the intention is not right, people are trying too hard, they are putting on an act, this is not their natural inclination but one that is forced.  On the receiving end, it just feels creepy.
The problem is that we all perceive situations differently.  I might think ‘wow!’ and my colleague who has experienced the same thinks ‘whoa!  I’m happy.  I’ll go back, perhaps even recommend these people to other friends.  My colleague on the other hand feels decidedly uncomfortable and wouldn’t go back there unless accompanied by a large dog.
We need to understand this cusp because If you want to leave people thinking ‘wow!’ and achieve ‘whoa!’ then it could be a disaster.
All of these reactions are an emotional response to the experience brought about by: 
  • Novelty:  Not seen it before
  • Gives insight:  Not thought of this before
  • Reinforces:  Your model of what brilliant should be like
  • Surprises:  Not what you expected
  • Delivers:  Gives more than you thought

The difference comes with:
  • Engages:  Makes a connection

‘Wow!’ means we’ve connected; we have rapport, whereas ‘Whoa!’ misses the mark.  You can do all these brilliant things above and yet if you fail to make a connection all that hard work has been wasted or worse.

The no.1 most important aspect of customer experience: Deliver!

When I’m talking with people about what we mean by a ‘customer experience mindset’ they get very enthused about improving touch points and forget the most important aspect of any customer experience.  Deliver.  I didn’t spend my time, effort and hard earned cash with you just to have a great experience with your sales assistant, call centre order taker or your on-line shop.  I want your product, delivered on time and giving me what I expect.  I don’t think I’m unusual in this of course!
My seven sources of disappointment are:
  1. It didn’t arrive:  When you order a walnut tree it’s not the sort of thing that is likely to go missing.  When mine didn’t arrive as expected I made a call and was told that the system said it had been delivered to my address, on time.  After searching everywhere anyone might put a tree; including asking all my neighbours, I had to conclude that I didn’t have a walnut tree.  The parcel carrier made extravagant claims about my delivery which didn’t change the fact that I had no tree.  Once this was established there was no hesitation in offering me another tree from the nursery.  Great.  But it couldn’t be delivered for 12 months! I’d missed the tree planting season.
  2. It’s not what I ordered:  My seafood pizza arrives with a great flourish. It looks brilliant, but I ordered seafood pasta.  Sending it back would mean a long wait while they change the order and my dinner companions will have finished their meal by the time it arrives.  So I accept the apology and eat pizza.
  3. It doesn’t work:  Imagine my excitement at the delivery of a new lawn mower.  Followed by the disappointment of returning it because it failed to start. Exacerbated by the backache from having to cut the grass with shears.
  4. It doesn’t do what I believed it would (or not as well as I hoped):  I’m a little embarrassed to say that the ‘Ab Master 3000’ has not delivered the six pack as modelled on the shopping channel. (Though , on reflection this may not be the fault of the product).
  5. Unexpected surprises:   ‘You didn’t mention the add-ons’.  ‘We thought everyone would know that you also need to buy the stand, otherwise, obviously sir, it will fall over.’
  6. It needs lots of work to get it going:  Never buy a Lego castle.  The toy looks amazing in the picture on the box, which also helpfully states that an adult may be needed to assist your child build it.  My small boy lost interest after five minutes; it took me nearly six hours hard toil to make the thousand bricks look something like.  It didn’t help that members of my family (including my junior helper) constantly interrupted asking ’Is it finished yet!’
  7. Not good value:   The sense that you have been ripped off doesn’t incline you towards buying again from this supplier or recommending them to your friends or family.

Once you can assure me you can avoid all the above, then give me a great experience.