Thursday, January 29, 2009

Delighting Customers

Would you rather be satisfied or delighted? Which do you think your customers would prefer? Chances are that you answered "Delighted" in both cases. The reason for this lies deep in the meanings of the two words. To be satisfied means to have desires and expectations filled. It literally means to have an end put to a desire, want, or need. Who really wants an end put to their desires? The word “satisfy” comes from the same root as sad and sated, which is what you become if you have all your desires satisfied.

To be delighted is to take joy or pleasure in something. The word has an element of surprise in it. To be delighted is to be provided with something that you may want or need, but not consciously perceive or expect. Delighted comes from the same root as delicious and delectable, words we associate with food. Wouldn't most of us rather have a delicious meal than one that merely satisfies our body's needs?

Delight comes from the same root as lasso which is what you will do if you delight your customers. You will be able to hold your current customers, gain a few more from the herd, and even capture a few strays from the range. And the customers that you delight will be enlightened by the product or service that you have given them. By surprising them and meeting their unrecognized needs, you will open their eyes to a range of possibilities hitherto unperceived by them.

To meet the unrecognized needs of your customers, you must be truly market driven. You must understand your customers, the environment in which they operate, what delights your customers' customers, the technological capabilities for solutions, and what your competitors are doing and likely to do in the future. You can delight your customers by helping them delight their customers more than your competitors do. To delight your customers requires innovation-market-driven innovation, not innovation driven by personal prejudices or desires, internal organizational needs, or technological capability.

The challenge is to understand the forces for change in the environment, and anticipate what innovations will appeal to customers even before the customers have articulated those needs. Genuine delight stems from giving a customer something wonderful that they didn't even know they wanted until they saw it. Then the company must create competitive production methods to develop-and hold on to-the dominant market share.

What delighted customers yesterday becomes today's floor, or basis for mere satisfaction. (If you want to see this demonstrated in a comedy routine, click here).This is the real continuous improvement process which must be rigorously followed, for it results in improved effectiveness, whereas what today passes as "continuous improvement" only addresses improved efficiencies and never questions effectiveness.

Not only is delight a process, it is also a continuum; what delights one set of customers may not even be accepted by others, and may be actively rejected by still others. Which customer type you focus on to delight depends on your business strategy. Whether you are trying to hold on to market share, increase market share, or create new markets determines the focus of the organization's innovation activities, and consequently which customers get delighted.

Customer needs are explicit, tacit and emergent. Explicit needs can be articulated by customers, codified and easily transmitted to others. Tacit needs can’t be articulated by customers because even though they are known by customers, customers don’t know that they know them. Emergent needs result from the complex system of multiple interactions among people, enterprises and technology in a cultural milieu.

Requirements for a product or service are derived from customer needs, usually explicit needs. Product or service requirements are often not fulfilled completely in a product or service implementation. The degree to which the product or service fulfills customer needs controls the customer’s level of satisfaction. The unfulfilled gap becomes a want. Degrees of customer satisfaction only make sense in reference to the customer’s willingness to accept less than all needs being fulfilled.

Delight is not super form of satisfaction. Rather it results from the recognition and fulfillment of tacit and/or emergent needs.

Once tacit and emergent needs have been embodied in a product or service, they become explicit needs and relative satisfaction increases. However, the development of tacit and emergent needs is a continuous process. Relative satisfaction for your product or service will drop when someone else apprehends the new tacit and emergent needs and creates a new product or service.

These concepts have some similarity to the concepts of implicate and explicate order. The tacit and emergent needs are implicate. The manifestation of those needs in a product or service is explicate. In other words the tacit and emergent needs are enfolded and unfolded upon their manifestation.

The characteristics of delight are not universal, nor are they static. But in today’s environment the major characteristics are:

Esthetic arrest – We are very busy and submerged in a sea of noise. The first characteristic of something that might delight customers is that it has to get their attention. Esthetic arrest results when something causes the mind to pause. For a moment the mind ceases to judge and opens up to absorb more information. Attention is diverted to the object of potential delight and it emerges from the noise. Something that potentially delights does not push or pull the customer to itself but rather holds them in an esthetic arrest of the moment, a meaningful pause. It is thought that Broca’s area of the brain acts as a gatekeeper to information into the minds. If it passes both tests of novelty and relevance, it is allowed into the mind for further processing and an esthetic arrest has occurred. In this case relevance is determined by intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual needs, consciously held or intuitively apprehended. A delightful object will surprise.

Engagement – To hold attention created by the esthetic arrest, a delightful product or service must engage the customer. In other words, it must be cool. The more that meaning is derived from a spectrum of sources (especially non-linear) - a sensory buffet if you will - the cooler the product or service. A wide spectrum of focus on dynamic forms involves less filtering and greater all-round sensory engagement. If it’s cool, it requires more participation from the customer to extract meaning.

Resonance – The values embedded in the product or service must match at least some of the customer’s values.

Positive disruption – A delightful product or service crystallizes complexity into simplicity. It is perceived as a bridge to the future not a descent into the valley. It simplifies what was once complex. And, paradoxically, it allows the customer to encounter more complex problems. This is created by a pattern of incremental, distinctive and breakthrough product, process and procedural innovations.

Low barrier – A delightful product or service has a low barrier to use, perceived or real.

Developmental – A delightful product or service develops the intellectual, physical, emotional and/or spiritual capabilities of the customer (individual or organization). Or, at the vey least enables the customers to meet goals within the customer’s present level of development. Typical developmental models such as Maslov, Erickson, Hall or others can be useful tools.

Attentiveness – The product or service makes the customer feel as though the creator of the product or service was paying close attention to them. It implies that the creator of the product or service concentrated all of their five senses in its development; that the highest quality of thought was used.

Authentic - There is congruence between the values embedded or implied in the product or service and those of the individual or enterprise that developed and produced it. The individual or enterprise is therefore worthy or trust.

Delight is a concept, with profound strategic and tactical implications for organizations. There are four essential elements:

1. Anticipate needs: To anticipate customer needs an organization must understand the market. The market is composed of the driving forces for change, all customer sets, all types of competition, and all types of technology. The organization strives to understand both the present and future needs of all types of customers as they are affected by the driving forces. Next, it is important to comprehend the power of technology to meet the developing needs or create new needs. Last, the competitive forces and how they are likely to act in the developing environment must be understood. For example, identified potential customers cannot be delighted without understanding future competitive capabilities and actions, since the organization's identified potential customers are currently its competitors' customers.

Internally, for organizations, developing the ability to anticipate customer needs requires that the organization literally have a "view" of the future. The importance of strategic thinking cannot be overemphasized. Strategists must be able to look as far out into the future as it will take for the organization to develop or otherwise obtain the products, processes and procedures needed to delight customers.

2. Meet the “window of opportunity”: To be timely in the market is to understand the window of opportunity, and to be there with the innovation. If the innovation is introduced too early, it will not gain acceptance. If the innovation is introduced too late, either your competitors will already have captured a significant share of the market, or the needs will have changed and your innovation will no longer fit. The common metaphor used here, "the window of opportunity," is very appropriate. In delighting the customer, timing is everything. But the ability to be timely in the marketplace seems elusive to many organizations, and to many others timeliness of an innovation is due to mere happenstance.

In order for an organization to be consistently timely, it must be efficient in translating its collective knowledge about the market into specific actions that are meaningful to customers. This means that all internal systems are synchronous and yet are able to be flexible enough to dynamically respond to the changing needs of the market and to internal problems. Timeliness implies being able to translate the strategy into implementation plans, having a sufficient number of significant measurements, and having the management capability to manage to the plan.

3. Deliver at the appropriate quality level: To fulfill customer needs, an organization must innovate to take advantage of the changes that are developing in the market. Innovation that takes advantage of change, rather than trying to cause change, not only meets developing customer requirements, it gains much faster acceptance. In a changing market many opportunities and threats will arise. The organization will be forced to choose which path to follow to take advantage of the opportunities and minimize or avoid the threats. The organization has at its disposal a continuum of strategies to create the path. The continuum of strategies is composed of a mix of the nine different types of innovations.

The organization must also be able to assess its own capabilities and develop additional capability, if needed, to effectively and efficiently implement the strategy it has chosen. Quality is one of the key components in fulfilling customer needs; however, quality must be defined by the customer, not by some internal or otherwise imposed quality program or standard.

To fulfill anticipated customer needs, the organization must have the capability of translating those needs into product specifications and manufacturing requirements. And in order to actually delight the customers, the members of the organization themselves must be delighted.

4. Continuously change: Critics of a customer delight strategy think that this continuous innovation process is impossible to sustain. What they fail to consider is that in today’s worldwide market, it is the only strategy for sustainability. Just because it’s difficult for a market leader to change in order to stay a market leader is no excuse. If the market leader doesn’t continue to delight their customers, someone some place in the world will. If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.

Today's customers are no longer satisfied with just being satisfied. They have learned to take quality workmanship, timely delivery, and declining costs for granted. Successful organizations will not be those that are content with developing merely satisfied customers; they will be the ones that commit to developing customers who are truly delighted!

This article has been adapted and improved from Chapter 11: Delighting Your Customers, Innovate!, Paul Schumann and Donna Prestwood, McGraw-Hill, 1994

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Set aside childish things

I thought that Obama's inaugural speech was extremely powerful. Several parts of the speech really resonated with me. I hope to have time in the near future to comment on these. Today, I've chosen this phrase, "We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things." I couldn't agree more.

In a simplified form, individuals, enterprises and nations go through four stages of development that be summarized in these four phrases:

Stage One - The world is a mystery and I'm afraid.
Stage Two - The world is a project that I must control.
Stage Three - The world is a project that I must join.
Stage Four - The world is a mystery that I must care for.

Although these are not correlated with age, generally progress in development is tied with time, a progression from one towards four. Not every person, institution or nation reaches stage four. Often development is stopped at some level.

In the past, I thought that we as a nation were in stage two and three reaching for stage four. Our actions in recent history moved back to stage one reaching for stage two.

The Obama reference was to the following passage from the writings of Paul:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it will profit me nothing. Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Charity never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abides faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Merriam Webster uses these words to define charity: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity, generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering, aid given to those in need, and lenient judgment of others. This is clearly stage four behavior.

I believe it's time to get back to the development of our nation and civilization.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why Crowdsourcing Might Be Better than Secret Service

Matt.Bachman, College Mogul

Microsoft put its Photosynth technology to work yesterday at the Presidential Inauguration and the results are impressive. In a nutshell, the application builds a navigable, 3-D model of a landscape by compiling, sorting, and repositioning a collection of photos. Here’s the kicker: the app is crowdsource-capable. (What is crowdsourcing? ) Working with CNN photographers located among the masses, Microsoft successfully mapped the scene around the Capitol building. By allocating each photo to a specific point cloud, or notable point of focus within the photo, the application calculates patterns and variations in the photo cloud, locates the vantage point of each photo, and finally positions it accordingly within the model.

See Photosynthesis

The decision to showcase technology calculating vantage points and mapping a seemingly infinite area at an event where the President is exposed to a massive crowd underscores the security potential of Photosynth. It is not hard to imagine Presidential security using this software to track a sniper hidden within a sea of people. More astounding is that the application’s performance improves with increasing scale, as more photos create a more detailed model.

Photosynth is just one of several surveillance technologies that rely on a human network to provide near-real time information and become increasingly effective as they scale. Back in October, CM profiled Purdue University’s Distributed Nuclear Detection by Ubiquitous Cell Phone project, where a chip embedded in a network mobile devices can detect radiation from a dirty bomb and triangulate its location. More recently, the surveillance capability of mobile phones allowed users to almost instantly upload photos of flight 1549 from passing ferries and midtown offices to Twitter —before mainstream media or authorities reached the scene its crash in the Hudson.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Quest for Beauty

In 1995, Donna Prestwood, Barbara Benjamin and I, created, produced and hosted 8 two-hour live satellite TV broadcasts for the National Technological University (NTU) on leadership, which we entitled "Leadership in the Interactive Age."

In the session called, Personal Ingenuity and Emerging Technologies, we described three characteristics of inevitable opportunities in technology:

1. The space between
2. Synergy
3. Beauty

My point was, as I presented these three criteria, that if a technology operated on the space between people (things, ideas, concepts), enhanced synergy, and was beautiful (elegant), it probably had a good chance of being a success. I would probably add time shifting now, and still think it's a pretty good list.

I want to focus on beauty right now, because I think it is imperative that we keep our eye on this criteria as we move to more collaborative, emergent behavior types of human systems.

Rollo May was an existential psychologist and a philosopher. I read several books of his in the 1980s.

In My Quest for Beauty, May wrote, "Poincare, the great contemporary mathematician, sounds like Plato when he asks the question of how new mathematical discoveries are made. Then he answers,

'The useful combinations are precisely the most beautiful, I mean those best able to charm this special sensibility that all mathematicians know...But only certain ones are harmonious, consequently, at once useful and beautiful.'

Writing about Shiller, May comments, "...we best let him speak for himself.

'Beauty alone confers happiness on all, and under its influence every being forgets that he is limited.'

Shiller hastens to add that this forgetting is temporary, however, for the sense of limitations is crucial to our creating beauty. We actually create beauty out of the endeavor to come to terms with the paradox on the one hand of freedom and on the other of destiny. Our limits come from both nature and spirit, finite and infinite, objective and subjective."

May agrees with Shiller that beauty is born in play. "Play is the one activity where the fusion of inner vision and objective facts is achieved. Out of this comes the living form which is beauty. This living form is vital, alive, dynamic; and at the same time it gives serenity and repose..."

May remarks, "Artists wrestle with fate in the endeavor to make objective their inner subjective vision." And, in order to do that people must be psychologically healthy. Beauty is a result of creativity that is driven by the engine of paradox, the duality of opposites (finite/infinite, life/death, yin/yang, right/left brain). "Death is the mother of beauty", wrote Wallace Stevens.

"Thus creativity brings together what Freud summed up as the two purposes of life: to love and to work. (Otto) Rank was only going further than Freud by pointing out that both of these, love and work, are aspects of creativity."

May later writes, "Let us explore the human mind as it engages in the creative act. The capacity to create - which we all have, although to varying degrees - is essentially the ability to find form in chaos, to create form where there is only formlessness. This is what leads to beauty, for beauty is that form.

Beauty reveals a form in the universe - the harmony of the spheres, as Kepler called it. It is a form which is present in the circling of the planets. It is a form which is felt in the curves and balance of our own bodies. And it is present especially in the way we see the world, for we form and reform the world in the very act of perceiving it. The imagination to do this is one of the elements that make us human beings."

But what is form? "Form is a pattern, an image and an order given to what would otherwise simply be chaos. Form is the nonmaterial structure of our lives, on the basis of which we live and on which we base our own particular character." Henry Miller wrote of creative people that they want "to make of the chaos about them an order that is their own."

In another seeming paradox, May points out that "the form dictates the content." We select a form "because the content can best be formed out of the chaos" and put into "whatever form seems to fit." "Form", he continues, "is nonmaterial, and has its existence only as things are related to other things." Writing about Pythagoras, he explains, "he held that the fundamental element (of the universe) was no substance at all, but was really the form in which everything in nature is related to everything else."

At a personal level, our own quest for beauty through our creativity gives us grace. May writes, "Creativity gives us grace in the sense that it is balm for our anxiety and a relief from our alienation. It is grace by virtue of its power to reconcile us to our deepest selves, to lead us to our own depths where primary and secondary functions are unified. Here the right brain and the left brain work together is seeing the wholeness of the world."

Chaos is essential for creativity and thus beauty. Too much order will stifle creativity. The role of the artist changes depending upon the environment. If too much chaos exists, the artist creates new order. If too much order exists, the role of the artist is to create chaos.

If you have any doubt about beauty being a serious objective of any undertaking, listen to what Rollo May has to say. "Beauty is the expereince that gives us a sense of joy and a sense of peace simultaneously. Other happenings give us joy and afterwards a peace, but in beauty these are the same experience. Beauty is serene and at the same time exhilarating; it increases one's sense of being alive. Beauty gives us not only a feeling of wonder; it imparts to us at the same moment timelessness, a repose - which why we speak of beauty as being eternal.

Beauty is the mystery which enchants us. Like all higher experiences of being human, beauty is dynamic; its sense of repose, paradoxically, is never dead, and if it seems to be dead, it is no longer beauty."

Innovation commons, as well as other open, collaborative systems, are by their very nature chaotic systems. The goal is to find the order in the chaos through the individual and collective creativity of its members. This will happen if their is a shared vision, will and significance in the group. The balance of order and chaos is extremely important, as well as the timing of that balance, which should change from more chaotic to more ordered over time, or else the effort will not be productive. The group has to collectively and individually be on a quest for beauty, in addition to functionality, in order to avoid building a termite mound.

My Quest for Beauty
Rollo May
Saybrook, 1985


Tom Atlee, founder of the non-profit Co-Intelligence Institute, has written and spoken for twenty years on politics, democracy and cultural transformation. His two resource packed websites – and – capture his innovative thinking and provide a treasure-trove of resources about collective process and participatory democracy. His recent book, The Tao of Democracy,, describes his concept of co-intelligence and offers an amazing compilation of initiatives that highlight how citizen dialogue and deliberation are powerful ways to help us solve our common problems

Healthy communities, institutions and societies -- perhaps even our collective survival -- depend on our ability to organize our collective affairs more wisely, in tune with each other and nature.

This ability to wisely organize our lives together -- all of us being wiser together than any of us could be alone -- we call co-intelligence.

Co-intelligence is a capacity that goes far beyond individual IQ-based intelligence. Co-intelligence is intelligence that's grounded in wholeness, interconnectedness and co-creativity.It is collective, collaborative, synergistic, wise, resonant, heartful, and connected to greater sources of intelligence.

Co-intelligence is emerging through new developments in democracy, organizational development, collaborative processes, the Internet and systems sciences like ecology and complexity. Today millions of people are involved in co-creating co-intelligence. Our diverse efforts grow more effective as we discover we are part of a larger transformational enterprise, and as we learn together and from each other.

The Co-Intelligence Institute works to further the understanding and development of co-intelligence. It focuses on catalyzing co-intelligence in the realms of politics, governance and cultural evolution. We research, network, advocate, and help organize leading-edge experiments and conversations in order to weave what is possible into new, wiser forms of civilization.

Conditions for the Bailout

The "bail out", which I know is pejorative, or if you prefer, the peoples' assistance to corporations and financial institutions in trouble, has not been handled well. That I guess is an understatement. But, let me tell you what I think. We the people have not been given enough information to determine whether saving GM is less objectionable that allowing it to fail. I don't know if anyone has knowledge of which is the lesser of the two evils. Either option costs the people money. But, which is less, and what are the other implications? Does anyone know this?

I'm willing to support the judgment of more knowledgeable people than I that financial assistance is the better way to go. However, I would want three conditions:

1. Accountability and openness
2. Expectations of revolutionary change and innovation (with measurements)
3. No reward for greed and other bad behavior, or the people who have created the problem

Monday, January 19, 2009

Raising the Spirit

The idea for this interview derived not from wanting to understand how Annie is so creative, innovative or intuitive, but rather something that is characteristic of her - humor. The idea was to find out how she used humor in her work in nonprofits, but as we interviewed her it became obvious that humor was a tool she used in all of her life, not just on a volunteer team or classroom. Humor permeates her life.

We got something unexpected, as you often do with Annie, and absolutely wonderful - the elevation of spirit. The resurrection of the spirit out of the dust. This explains why people love to be with Annie. No matter what her situation is, you leave with an elevated spirit after an interaction.

After the interview, I mused over whether I could find four causes of the reality she creates. Aristotle suggested that for every reality there were four causes that brought that reality into existence - material, formal, efficient and final.

The material cause is the building blocks of the new reality. The formal cause shapes the new reality. The efficient cause is what brings the parts together into a form described in the formal cause. The final cause is the purpose of the new reality.

Starting with the final cause that is raising the spirit, her elevator humor.

The efficient or productive cause leading to this type of humor is the fact that she has the seven forms of humor running in her brain as an operating system - plays on words, reverses, triples, incongruent paired elements, exaggeration, understatement and realism.

The formal cause, what shapes the humor and allows it to lift the spirit, is the situation. It's topical and temporal. She talked a lot about the flow - establishing it or reversing it if it's going in the wrong direction. The humor is not directed at someone, but with or for. It's shaped by her intuition.

The material cause is her facile brain and a lifetime of experiences, stories, anecdotes and facts that are the building blocks of what she does. Annie is a master, a guru, a wise sage, a Delphic oracle, Yoda. And, as such her messages are in the stories she tells and the humor. She always gives you a lot to think about and she's always given you more than you realize.

Read the complete interview and you will see how she used humor to teach us how she uses humor to lift the spirit.

"Personality is the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being. It is an act of high courage flung in the face of life, the absolute affirmation of all that constitutes the individual, the most successful adaptation to the universal conditions of existence coupled with the greatest possible freedom for self determination."
Carl Jung

Mike Bown, Tom Carroll, and Paul Schumann

Note: This interview was conducted in 2004 before Anne's death in 2005. Read more about her here. It really applies to life now.

Read Interview

Applebee's America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community

Note: This was originally written in 2006.

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin

This book is at the same time engaging and appalling. Either which way you might interpret it; it is a book that you have to read. It provides clues into some of what has been happening in America. By tying together the success of the Republican Party in the last several elections, companies like Starbucks and Applebee’s, and the mega churches, the authors have pulled the curtain back on the tools, principles and mechanisms of manipulating people into doing what an organization wants them to do.

Life targeting, or micro-targeting, as it has been recently tagged, is a methodology of predicting the behavior of micro segments of a society based on lifestyle and demographics. Then identifying specifically who these people are by name and contacting them with a message targeted to their micro sector. It is not necessary that the organization really hold the values held by the members of the micro segment, only that the organization can make the people believe that the organization does.

In the 1980’s I came to realize that organizational values were the key to success in the marketplace. While at IBM, I developed an organizational change methodology to determine the values of the customers, and change the values of an organization to reflect those values. This was described in a book I coauthored entitled Innovate! (McGraw Hill, 1994). We pointed out that here must be a values match between the customers and the values those customers perceived from the organization. And, that it was set of values that differentiated one organization from another. Moreover, that same set of values controlled the type of innovation most likely to be produced by the organization. Efficiency and effectiveness of the organization depends respectively on the target of the values focus and the spread of the values focus.

We, the authors of Innovate!, assumed naively that organizations were really interested in changing their values…

Do I hear protests from the readers? Some of you may be saying, “But lifestyle targeting has been used by consumer companies for a number of years.” That’s true, but not in the same way. Examples in Applebee’s America are described such as Applebee’s convincing individuals that they really cared about what happened to them. (Remember the ad showing the coach retiring?) When’s the last time you believed that a large corporation really cared about what happens to you. It is a business and until business stops being totally driven by shareholder value, concern for the individual will remain a lost value. Yet many of us need to believe that the message is true, and the corporation continues to grow.

Sosnik, Dowd and Fournier repeatedly give example from politics, business and mega churches that can be interpreted as I have. Politics goes one step further however. With American divided nearly equally between the two major parties, and low voter turnout, a small group of voters actually determine who wins. Using concepts like business, politicians can calculate the cost per vote in these micro segments and allocate money accordingly. The message they delver to these micro segments, if effective, swings the election, even if the candidate holds the values projected or not. It’s not about the issues. The American public glazes over when issues are discussed. It’s about the values connection between the candidate and the voters. This technique will win elections but it will forever divide us for there is no benefit of collaboration among differences. It exploits the differences.

Hypocrisy is defined as “a pretense of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude.” This is the line we have crossed over in the current use of micro-targeting.

Eventually hypocrisy is revealed. It is just too difficult to sustain a pretense, and actions do indeed prove louder than words. But what America’s powerful have learned is that it takes a long time for people to perceive the pretense.

In First Democracy, Paul Woodruff points out that in Athens the primary role of public education was to prepare Athenians to be able to participate in their democracy. Unfortunately, we haven’t done that.

To the author’s credit, while they do not take the low view I have of micro-targeting as it is now practiced, they do point out that the values connections has to be real to be sustained:

“Navigating the Stormy Present - How to Be a Great Connector:

I. Make and Maintain a Gut Values Connection. Voters felt President Bush was a strong and decisive leader. They felt President Clinton cared about them and would work hard on their behalf. Both presidents fell out of favor when they were not true to their Gut Values, proving that authenticity matters in this era of spine, not spin.

2. Adapt. President Clinton realized he needed to change his message and methods to appeal to Swing Is and Swing IIs. Eight years later, President Bush determined that there were no longer enough swing voters to make a difference and that he had to find new Republican voters.

3. LifeTarget. President Clinton barely scratched the surface of the potential to find and motivate voters based on their lifestyles. President Bush took it to a new level in 2004.

4. Talk Smart. Both presidents broke new ground in niche and local advertising, constantly looking for ways to communicate to their voters through the channels those voters used to get information.

5. Find Navigators. President Bush's campaign identified more than 2 million people who could influence how their friends, family members, and associates make political decisions.”

In each of the three markets they analyzed, they provide the above roadmap.

Applebee’s America describes a methodology that is borrowed from Myer’s Briggs Personality Type, the concepts of lifestyle, the concepts of generations, demographics and the concepts of the tipping point. It’s pieces of these sets of concepts lashed together in a way that is incredibly effective, according the authors.

Oh, by the way, how did the Republican’s get the specific names, addresses, telephone numbers and in some cases e-mail addresses for the members of the micro-target sectors? Well, they got them the same way that business do from credit card transactions, and from the membership of some of the mega churches. Is this ethical?

So far I’ve been writing about the first part of the book – Great Connectors. I personally found the second part of the book – Great Change – much more professionally interesting. The chapters on anxious Americans, the 3 C’s (connectors, community and civic engagement), navigators and generation 9/11 give a good, insightful view of present day America with some views of the future. However, as a professional I would have preferred to get accessible references to the data they quoted to make a point (none are given). Example:

“…’protecting the family’ rose to become the No. 1 value of American’s (cited by 53 percent of respondents in a 2000 Roper analysis.”

Anyone who works with data taken from surveys knows that it is important to know the context and how the data was collected and what else the data indicates in order to interpret it.

The author’s provide:

“Ten steps for political, business, and religious leaders who want to take advantage of the public’s yearning for community:

1. Clearly define your purpose. It’s what galvanizes your community.
2. Give your staff the clear sense that they’re vital to achieving a common purpose.
3. Build your organization from the bottom up, not the top down. Technology makes grassroots organizing easier than ever.
4. Give your customers/voters/worshipers a say in how the product/campaign/church is marketed. Recognize that the consumer has more control than ever.
5. Tap into existing networks when possible. Create networks where none exist.
6. Be true to your purpose. Authenticity, accountability, and trust are the keys to building a bond or a brand.
7. Join the online community of bloggers to catch the first whiff of a crisis and to make sure your message is heard in the cyberspace community.
8. Wherever possible, make your enterprise a Third Place, a community outside home and work for people in search of connection.
9. Donate time and money to community causes. Customers are inclined to support civic-minded companies such as Home Depot, according to Bridgeland, the former head of UDSA Freedom Corps.
10. Identify the community’s leaders (Navigators) and get them on your side. Better still, use the Internet and other tools to create products that draw people together in online communities.”

In spite of my negative reaction to what they were saying in the first part of the book, I liked the book. It’s a book that should be read by many and the focus for a lot of discussion.

It was very curious to me that the book (inadvertently?) undercut the approach of the first part of the book with the second part. In politics, the battle between micro-targeting and grass roots civic engagement is being fought out in present and future elections. If I have a vote, I vote for the latter.

Applebee’s America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community
Douglas Sosnik, Matthew Dowd and Ron Fournier
Simon & Schuster (2006)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Prophet

This is a book that was originally printed in 1923 and has been re-printed over a 120 times. It is of course a classic, but one I had not read until now. The wisdom of Gibran is et inside a fable. A prophet, Almustafa, who had lived for twelve years in the city of Orphalese, awaiting a ship to carry him back to his home land. His ship arrives, but before he leaves, he answers questions from the city’s residents. Those questions concern 25 issues as important to us as they were to people in 1923.

When asked about marriage, he advises, “But let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of heaven dance between you.”

On work, “When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.”

With respect to joy, he advises, “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.”

On buying and selling, he says, “It is in exchanging the gifts of the earth that you shall find abundance and be satisfied. Yet unless the exchange be in love and kindly justice, it will lead some to greed and others to hunger.”

He was asked about talking. “When you meet your friend on the roadside or in the market place, let the spirit in you move your lips and direct your tongue. Let the voice within your voice speak to the ear of his ear; for his soul will keep the truth of your heart as the taste of wine is remembered when the color is forgotten and the vessel is no more.”

On pleasure, he said, “It is the blossoming of your desires, but it is not their fruit.”

This is a book of mystery with deep understanding that requires not just reading but studying. I read the book once, and read it again. Something I’ve never done before. It would be fun to read it out loud to each other and then discuss.

The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran, Alfred Knopf, 1992, 96 p

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Principles of Innovation

The purpose of an organization is to create wealth. Not just wealth in the sense of money, but in its original meaning that is prosperity, well being, and health -- the common weal. And, the organization creates wealth, not just for its owners, but its employees, stakeholders and the community at large. In order to create wealth the organization must innovate.

Four principles of innovation are:
1. Gain the Vantage Poin
2. tSeek Change
3. Motivate Freedom
4. Delight People

Gain the Vantage Point: A vantage point is a place where one can see clearly. It can yield a competitive advantage. To gain the vantage point, an organization must balance four factors -- the opportunities and threats in the market, the desires of the organization’s stakeholders, the capabilities of the organization and the capacity of the organization for development. Resulting from this balance is an innovation strategy that can give competitive advantage, fulfill the desires of the stakeholders, utilize the organization’s current capabilities, and stretch the organization to develop beyond its present limitations. The result of this analysis and synthesis is a strategy that is composed of a vision, mission, goals, and plan.

Seek Change: Innovation both causes change and takes advantage of change. Innovation that takes advantage of change that is occurring or will occur, is far more likely to be successful than innovation that seeks to cause change. This type of innovation, that takes advantage of change, is market driven. The market consists of customers, competition and technology all interacting to cause change. The needs of the customers, the responses of competitors and the capabilities of technology all must be understood independently along with their interaction as a market. In addition, this market is embedded in an environment of driving forces that channel this interaction of needs, responses and capabilities. Social, political, economic, demographic and scientific driving forces for change must be understood in order to determine how the market is going to change over time and where the opportunities for innovation lay.

Motivate Freedom
: To motivate freedom means to go through a process of ennobling, enabling, empowering and encouraging the members of the organization. Ennoblement provides the purpose of the organization and how it relates to creating wealth. Enablement provides the knowledge, skills and abilities required for the innovation program. Empowerment gives the people the freedom and responsibility for their own actions. Encouragement is the role of the management team as the organization goes through the innovation process.

Delight People: To satisfy people is to put an end to their desires, which you really do not want to do. When a person is delighted, they want more. Delight, in the business context, is an ongoing process of anticipating needs and providing solutions just before people realize that they need something. Using innovation to delight people assures a technology transfer in the easiest possible way.

If you follow these four principles, you will create a more innovative organization and gain significant competitive advantage over your competitors.

Ten critical elements for an open innovation culture

Stefan Lindegaard, INTRAP

In our Leadership+Innovation community on LinkedIn, Chris Thoen who is a R&D Director at Procter & Gamble, asked which elements are needed in order to create an open innovation culture. Our community had an interesting discussion and I want to share the key elements that came up.

- Willingness to accept that not all the smart people work for your company. We need to work with smart people inside and outside our company.

- Willingness to strive for balance between internal and external R&D. External R&D can create significant value; internal R&D is needed to claim some portion of that value.

- Willingness to give part of the control to others. We don’t have to originate the research to profit from it. We don’t need to control everything from the cradle to the grave.

- No need to always be first. Building a better business model is better than getting to market first.


Discovering Opportunities and Threats in a Market

A market is composed of three major elements: customers, competition, and technology. Customer needs are anticipated and filled through the use of technology by the enterprise and its competitors. A market must have, in addition to customers, competition, and technology, a time frame, geographical reference, scale, and scope. In a market, money, goods, services, and/or information are exchanged.

Markets have evolved over time. In its earliest use, market referred to a place, usually a juncture between roads where people were likely to meet. In time, markets became more specific places for exchange within towns and villages. However, in today's environment markets are no longer always tied to a concrete locale; instead the term has come more to represent a set of conditions. These conditions generally are descriptions for each of the elements mentioned above. Defining a market is not a linear process.

The methodology described in this article assumes that the enterprise has at least a vague sense of direction. It assumes that there is an ongoing purpose and that the enterprise is attempting to make decisions about whether to:

• Stay where they are
• Develop new markets
• Develop new products or services
• Diversify
• Integrate their operations either forward or backward in the supplier-customer value chain


Wake Up Call

"I like you so much that I've got to wake you up. You make biscuits and I'll make tea. I just want to watch you looking at me." -- Lyrics from a background song on a TV commercial that I can't get out of my head.

Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future

This is another great Margaret Wheatley book – beautiful, poetic, and insightful. She begins with an excerpt from a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:

“You must give birth to your images.
They are the future waiting to be born.
Fear is not the strangeness you feel.
The future must enter you long before it happens.
Just wait for the birth,
for the hour of new clarity.”

Her premise is in the first paragraph: “I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again. Simple, honest, human conversation. Not mediation, negotiation, problem-solving, debate or public meetings. Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, and we each listen well.”

Later she writes, “For as long as we’ve been around as humans, as wandering bands of nomads or cave dwellers, we have sat together and shared experiences. We’ve painted images on rock walls, recounted dreams and visions, told stories of the day, and generally felt comforted to be in the world together. When the world became fearsome, we came together. When the world called us to explore its edges, we journeyed together. Whatever we did, we did it together.

We have never wanted to be alone. But today we are alone. We are more fragmented and isolated from one another than ever before. Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes it as ‘a radical brokenness in all of our existence.’ We move at such frantic speed, spinning out into greater isolation. We seek consolation in everything except each other.”

We live in complex times. On the other side of today’s complexity is simplicity. She quotes Oliver Wendell Homes:

"I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

Real conversations are not easy. “For conversations to take us into this deeper realm, I believe we have to practice several new behaviors.”:

1. Acknowledge each other as equals
2. Stay curious about each other
3. Recognize that we need each others help to become better listeners
4. Slow down so we have time to think and reflect
5. Remember that conversation is the natural way humans think together
6. Expect it to be messy at times

“Sometimes we hesitate to listen for differences because we don’t want to change. We’re comfortable with our lives, and if we listened to anyone who raised questions, we’d have to get engaged in changing things. If we don’t listen, things can stay as they are and we won’t have to expend any energy. But most of us do see things in our life or in the world that we would like to be different. If that’s true, we have to listen more not less. And we have to be willing to move into the very uncomfortable place of uncertainty.

We can’t be creative if we refuse to be confused. Change always starts with confusion; cherished interpretations must dissolve to make way for the new. Of course it’s scary to give up what we know, but the abyss is where newness lives. Great ideas and intentions miraculously appear in the space of not knowing. If we can move through the fear and enter the abyss, we are rewarded greatly. We rediscover we’re creative.”

Read the book. She writes better than I can describe what she has written.

Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future, Margaret Wheatley, Berrett-Koehler, 2002, 158 p

Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations and Society

This is a good book and one I can highly recommend. I like the style. It is innovative, at times conversational and at other times authoritative. Like many of us grappling with the problems we see in front of us and an uncertain future, perhaps the book attempts to do too much. However, the insights in this book are wonderful and show up every ten pages or so. (at least according to my marking of the book)

Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski and Flowers are long time colleagues and from the conversational nature of much of this book, I assume friends. The narrative laced through the book is the basic structure and it’s their struggle to make sense of some very large problems.

The book begins with the four friends meeting for the first time to discuss why people and their organizations don’t change.

Joseph leaned forward. "But isn't that why we're here? Haven't we come together to answer one fundamental question: Why don't we change? What would it take to shift the whole?"

"We don't change because we think we're immortal." Otto's tone was matter-of-fact. "Like teenagers, we might be afraid, but we still think we'll go on forever."

"Perhaps that's true," said Joseph, shaking his head. "I recently read an article that's been circulating in the foundation community written by a man named Jack Miles, a senior adviser to the J. Paul Getty Trust, called 'Global Requiem.' It's a speculation about what would happen if we started to realize that humankind might not overcome these problems, that we might not develop a sustainable society-that the human race might perish. It's an exploration of the unthinkable."

"But don't scenarios like that evoke the very fear Peter is talking about?" Otto asked. "As he showed, this sort of fear is usually met by denial or simply makes us feel hopeless."

"But that doesn't have to happen," Joseph replied. "I've seen many instances where imagining alternative futures, even negative futures, can actually open people up."

"Scenarios can alter people's awareness," Betty Sue agreed. "If they're used artfully, people actually begin to think about a future that they've ignored or denied. The key is to see the different future not as inevitable, but as one of several genuine possibilities.

"Maybe if people really believed we could be headed for extinction, we would do collectively what many people do individually when they know they may actually die-we would suddenly see our lives very clearly."

"If we could actually face our collective mortality-and simply tell the truth about the fear, rather than avoiding it-perhaps something would shift," said Peter.

The Society for Organizational Learning met in June 2001 in Marblehead, MA to discuss the growing problems of globalization. This resulted in what’s called the Marblehead Letter

The Marblehead Letter
A natural agenda of issues is shaping the future, especially for corporations with global scope.

• The social divide: the ever-widening gap between those participating in the increasingly interdependent global economy and those not. How long can 15% of the people get 85% of the benefits of globalization?
• Redefining growth: economic growth based on ever increasing material use and discard is inconsistent with a finite world. How long can we keep piling up more junk in the same box?
• Variety and inclusiveness: developing inclusion as a core competence in increasingly multi-cultural organizations. Who is the "we"?
• Attracting talented people and realizing their potential: developing commitment in a world of "free agents" and "volunteer" talent. What are we committed to, really?
• The role of the corporation: extending the traditional role of the corporation' especially the global corporation, to be more commensurate with its impact. Just how accountable will society expect us to be?
• The system seeing itself: the challenges of coordination and coherence in social systems. How can we stop going faster while our ability to see further ahead is decreasing?

June 2001

How do we begin to solve problems like those outlined in the Marblehead letter? The process begins with a vision, but is not an individual vision that will foment organizational change. “…there’s nothing more personal than vision, yet the visions that ultimately prove transformational have nothing to do with us as individuals.”

“The seeds for this transformation lie in seeing reality more clearly, without preconceptions or judgements. When we learn to see our part in creating things that we don’t like but that are likely to continue, we can begin to develop a different relationship with the our ‘problem.’ We’re no longer victims. When we move further from sensing to presencing, we become more open to what might be possible, we’re inevitably led to the question ‘So what do we want to create?’”

Presencing is the key capability required for the transformational model the authors call the “U”. It’s at the bottom of the “U” and the necessary step before transforming action can occur. The “U” movement has three major areas – sensing, presencing and realizing, as shown below in the chart from Presence:

The entire U movement arises from seven core capacities and the activities they enable. Each capacity is a gateway to the next activity-the capacity for suspending enables seeing our seeing, and the capacity for prototyping enables enacting living microcosms-but only as all seven capacities are developed is the movement through the entire process possible.

"Clearly, people relate to the U theory in different ways. Some appreciate the distinct capacities in moving down and then up the U. Others just seem to grasp the whole of it and aren't really interested in the different capacities and aspects. Others respond to the idea of seeing with the heart and opening up to something beyond yourself, and to spontaneous action in support of the whole."

"In my experience, the part that people struggle most to understand," said Betty Sue, "is the bottom of the U-presencing."

"Yes, that is really is the 'heart of the heart,' as Eleanor Rosch puts it," said Peter. "It's the essence of the whole theory, and perhaps what we really may be discovering about shifting the whole."

"The mystery at the bottom of the U ... ," said Betty Sue slowly.

"In the end, it may be impossible to give a very complete explanation of it. Some things are beyond human comprehension, and it's actually unwise-some would say irreverent-to try to analyze them too far."

My intuition is telling me that this model of change is extremely powerful. And, indeed it may not be possible to ever write a “cookbook” of how you go through the three major stages. Hover, this is a book that must be read by anyone interested in change, and collectively we’ve got to create ways of at least reproducing the process when required.

In 1994, Donna Prestwood, Barbara Benjamin and I set out on a journey similar to the one these four friends traveled. We researched. We interviewed over 60 people, including Betty Sue Flowers, and we met and had deep conversations, some lasting several days in retreat settings in Maine. The result of that work was 8, 2 hour TV programs for the National Technological University, entitled “Leadership in the Interactive Age”. It also resulted in a change model that emerged three years later that was published in The Futurist in Jan/Feb 1997.

The core of that change model was seven principles:

• Who are you?
• Letting go of what you got hold of
• Learn your purpose
• Live in the question
• Learn the art of barn raising
• Give it away
• Let the magic happen

These seven principles mirror most of the seven capacities of the “U” movement, although the wording and the sequencing are different.

I was struck by the similarities of the “U” model to other models and stories I knew from mythology and religion, including the hero’s journey, and twelve step methodology. But, also other models of change like Richard D. Grant’s interpretation of Mastering the Change Curve by Dennis Jaffe & Cynthia Scott (2003), and F. Scott Peck’s model for community development – pseudocommunity, chaos, emptiness and community – in The Different Drum (1987). The “U” shape is a common way of describing the descent into “hell” required for transformation.

The major stages of the hero’s journey are:

1. A call to adventure, which the hero has to accept or decline
2. A road of trials, regarding which the hero succeeds or fails
3. Achieving the goal or "boon", which often results in important self-knowledge
4. A return to the ordinary world, again as to which the hero can succeed or fail
5. Applying the boon, in which what the hero has gained can be used to improve the world

In a well-known quote from the introduction to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell wrote:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

As I wondered why we choose a “U” to represent this process, I was reminded of the “S” curve. The “S” curve is a measurable archetype for technology and markets. It is also sometimes referred to as the “growth” curve, and is a staple for analyzing technological substitution.

It’s general form is one of slow growth at the beginning, a period of rapid growth, and then ending with another period of slow growth.

What struck me is the derivative, or rate of change of the “S” curve is related to the “U”.

The rate of change curve is an inverted “U”. So, the inverse of the rate of change would be a “U”.

The inverse of the rate of change is an indicator of resistance to change.

If this synthesis is correct, then while the “U” curve is appealing emotionally to us because we have to go deep inside and then come out, it is misleading from a change perspective. In the “U” curve, it would appear that it would be easier to “fall” into the “U”, but in reality the resistance to change is highest at the beginning and end of the process. In the hero’s journey it is clear that the resistance to change is high at the beginning, and it is difficult to return to the ordinary world.

This is not a criticism of Presence, for all have used the form. But I think this topic is worthy of more conversation.

I wonder if the citizens who are ranking change as their first political issue, and the politicians who are responding to that message, have any idea of what they are asking for? They probably don’t. My guess is that change means so many things to people, the question and the results are meaningless. Some may want change back to the past. Some may mean just “rattle the rocks in the box” and see if anything better happens. I would guess that very few understand that the kind of change we’re going to have to go through is the kind of radical change this book refers to…

Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations and Society, Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers, Doubleday, 2004, 287 p

Copy of Article

The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace

This book suffers from only one problem and it’s in the subtitle – community making and peace. The two topics are so widely divergent, that the narrative is almost sure to fail accomplishing one or the other. In this, it does a good job at describing community making.

However, even that part of the book has to be viewed from the perspective of the person who wrote it – a psychologist steeped in group therapy.

The heart of the book is his stages of community building:

1. Pseudocommunity
2. Chaos
3. Emptiness
4. Community

Some of characteristics of community he describes are: inclusivity, commitment, consensus, realism, contemplation, a safe place, a laboratory for personal disarmament, a group that can fight gracefully, a group of all leaders and a spirit.

In the first stage – pseudocommunity – “The members attempt to be an instant community by being extremely pleasant to another and avoiding all disagreement.” At this stage a group avoids conflict by telling “white lies” and avoiding the recognition of differences. “To avoid the risk of conflict they keep their feelings to themselves and even nod in agreement, as if a speaker has uttered some universal truth.”

Chaos erupts when people begin to acknowledge differences but do so in a destructive manner, often with the motive to heal and convert others to their way of thinking. “In the stage of chaos individual differences are, unlike those of pseudocommunity, right out in the open. Only now, instead of trying to hide or ignore them, the group is attempting to obliterate them. Underlying the attempts to heal and convert is not so much a motive of love as the motive to make everyone normal – and the motive to win, as members fight over whose norm might prevail.”

“There are only tow ways out of chaos…One is into organization - but organization is never community. The other way is into and through emptiness.” To enter emptiness the members of the group need “to empty themselves of barriers to communication.” These barriers are: expectations and preconceptions; prejudices; ideology, theology and solutions; the need to heal, convert, fix or solve; and the need to control. This requires sacrifice and “sacrifice hurts because it is a kind of death, the kind of death that is necessary for rebirth.”

“When its death has been completed, open and empty, the group enters community. In this final stage a soft quietness descends. It’s a kind of peace.” But, although joy is the prevalent mood of a true community, not everything is sooth. The real work in community is difficult. It is still a struggle it’s just that people seek the third position, not either or, but a creative act of love.

If one were to draw a figure representing this process, it would quite likely be a “U”. Pseudocommunity is a nice comfortable stage at the top left of the “U” and “Community at the top right of the “U” lively and intense. The temptation is always to jump across the “U” without the descent into the “hell” of chaos and emptiness. But, that doesn’t work.

Many other models of change result in a similar “U” pattern. As described by Richard D. Grant from “Mastering the Change Curve”, by Dennis Jaffe & Cynthia Scott, organizational change begins with the comfort and certainty of the past. The final stage is the future rationalized. In between is all the messy work of relationships and spontaneity. In Presence, Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski & Flowers, describe a “U” that begins in the upper left and proceeds through the bottom to upper right through suspending, redirecting, letting go, letting come, crystallizing, prototyping and institutionalizing.

Real change, no matter what the goal is messy and requires a lot of work. That’s why change is so difficult and why people and groups rarely change. Like paradigm’s progress, we’d rather ignore the anomalies, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain spinning the controls, and pretend that everything is OK until the world collapses around us. We’d prefer that rather than facing the fear of having to change what we believe.

The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, M. Scott Peck, Simon & Schuster, 1987, 334 p


Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats Plus Scenarios

A SWOT analysis can be an efficient and effective way to quickly assess the strategic position of an organization or company. In order to be effective and actionable the SWOT analysis needs to be facilitated by an expert armed with a comprehensive perspective. The combination of expertise and perspective enables a SWOT analysis to appear effortless to the participants yet result in significant insights.

Understanding SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis is a way to utilize the existing knowledge of a team to produce a framework for the development of strategies. It is quick, low cost and can be effective if managed correctly. For small businesses or teams, repeated application of a SWOT analysis may be the only type of strategic analysis required. For larger companies, organizations or highly complex projects, a SWOT analysis is a good way to start a strategic analysis and strategy development project. It can identify the gaps and uncertainties in the existing knowledge base.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Strengths/Weaknesses are internal. Opportunities/Threats are external:

* Strength: a resource or capacity of the organization, company or team that can be used effectively to achieve objectives now or in the future
* Weakness: a limitation, fault or defect of the organization, company or team that will hinder achievement of objectives now or in the future
* Opportunity: any favorable situation present now or in the future in the market
* Threat: any unfavorable situation in the market that is potentially damaging now or in the future
In general, an effective strategy is one that takes advantage of the opportunities, avoids the threats (or turns them into opportunities), builds on the strengths and minimizes the weaknesses (or takes action to eliminate them).
A potential strategy matrix for a simple SWOT analysis would be:

Benefits of a SWOT Analysis

One of the major benefits of a SWOT analysis is that it is scaleable. It can be a small as a couple of people talking about a situation to a multi-month project in a large multinational company. Dr. Ralph Wilson comments in Web Marketing Today, "Restaurants ought to make bigger napkins, since some of the most productive business ideas seem to come to mind over a meal. The SWOT analysis technique lends itself to napkin planning and snapshot insights." Don't stop there though. Use the team and an expert facilitator to get the most benefit from institutional knowledge.

Other benefits include:

* Simplicity: It's simple to the participants. They can grasp the concepts and process easily. And, they almost always enjoy the process. However, the apparent simplicity can belie the underlying complexity utilized by an expert facilitator. A good facilitator manages the complexity necessary for an effective SWOT analysis and makes it appear simple to the participants.
* Low cost: A SWOT analysis can be done internally, but usually internal facilitators lack the experience to manage the complexity and the SWOT analysis becomes simple with less insights as a result.
* Flexibility/ Customizable: The basic SWOT technique can be fashioned to meet individual needs.
* Collaborative: It allows the participation (and hence more likely buy in) of the team. In addition, since it utilizes the whole team, the results are more likely to more accurately represent the real environments.
* Quickness: It can be quick from the napkin example quoted above to a few days or weeks. However, it is also possible to use the framework over more extended periods of time if the situation warrants it.
* Integrateable: A SWOT analysis is easily integrated with other strategy and planning techniques. It is a great way to start an even more elaborate strategy and planning project.

Guidelines for an Effective SWOT Analysis
Some guidelines for an effective SWOT analysis:

* Be comprehensive: As this is either the only strategic analysis to be done or the start of a more elaborate strategic analysis, it is imperative that it be done on as broad a base as possible. Keep it broad and open. It can be narrowed later.
* Manage the group dynamics: You want to hear from everyone in an open, collaborative, and creative environment. Don't let group dynamics determine the outcome.
* Keep the thinking straight: The SWOT framework is specifically designed to organize thinking and expand the groups concepts of what's possible. Stay strictly within the framework. Don't muddy what belongs in what category, like calling skills of the engineers an opportunity rather than the strength it is.
* Fight for clarity: Work very hard in the facilitation process to make every statement as clear and unambiguous as possible. As Rashi Glazer, Center for Marketing and Technology, University of California at Berkeley states, " Clarity in strategy works. Fuzzy strategies fail."

SWOT Analysis Process
The process we use involves the following steps:

• Discover the driving forces for change: Collect the available knowledge within the company, organization or team before the facilitation on the social, political, economic, demographic and scientific driving forces for change affecting the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. If this knowledge doesn't exist, it would be better to preface the facilitation with a research project to determine these driving forces for change.
* Begin the facilitation with a presentation and discussion of the driving forces.
* Facilitate the group through the SWOT analysis in the following sequence:

1. Strengths
2. Weaknesses
3. Opportunities
4. Threats

This is usually also the order of difficulty for the group. Strengths are the easiest to think about and threats are the most difficult. We utilize the Innovate! framework for this facilitation.
* Facilitate the group through the development of the desired state they would like to achieve as a result of the implementation of the strategy.
* Work independently to develop four scenarios of potential futures based on the SWOT analysis.
* Present the scenarios to the group and facilitate them in the development of strategies.
* Identify next steps and document the entire process and results.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Chamging How We Change America

Lee Scott, President and CEO, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

"Unfortunately … it often takes a crisis or a period of great difficulty to face challenges and … most importantly … to change. I learned this at Wal-Mart – during the good times and, most recently, during the tough times, as well. I believe this moment is an opportunity for America to put aside special interests and focus on the common good. And I believe that those of us in leadership positions have a responsibility to recognize this.

Above all … we need to change how we bring about change in America. What do I mean by that? Over the last few years, a problem-solving vacuum has existed in Washington. There has been too much partisanship … too much gamesmanship … too much selfishness. And the American people are tired of it. They are tired of Republican versus Democrat and liberal versus conservative. They are tired of business versus labor and NGOs versus business. They are tired of one side insisting on everything they want versus reasonable compromise to move the country forward. The America people want their leaders to set aside their differences, find common ground and work together. And they know that government cannot do it alone. No institution can.

The opportunity for a new problem-solving approach will soon be at a crossroads. The new Congress and President bring high expectations for reform and change. The temptation will be for everyone to choose sides, go into their corners and, when the bell rings, fight it out. But as the American people know -- and all of us in business know -- you do not get things done that way. You usually end up right where you started … with hard feelings on both sides … and little or no results."


This is an amazing speech. Maybe there's hope... Link is to text and video.

A Market Intelligence System

A conceptual description of a market intelligence system based on web 2.0 technologies for a collaborative team.

Market Intelligence System
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Serendipity, Abundance and the Relentless Pursuit of Innovation

This presentation covers the topics of Exploiting Change, Leveraging the Innovation Profile, Revealing Hidden Innovations and Tapping the Magic of Groups.


An overview of the book, Innovate! The presentation covers Innovation, the InnoVantage Grid™, Principles of Innovation and a Summary.

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This presentation covers the concept of innovation, types of innovation, observations on the pattern of innovation, and innovation development.

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Your Survival Strategies in a Perplexing World

Some concepts to survive personally in times of change.

Survival Strategies
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Being There

It was Sunday. Chance was in the garden. He moved slowly, dragging the green hose from one path to the next, carefully watching the flow of the water. Very gently he let the stream touch every plant, every flower, every branch of the garden. Plants were like people; they needed care to live, to survive their diseases, and to die peacefully.

Yet plants were different from people. No plant is able to think about itself or able to know itself; there is no mirror in which a plant can recognize itself its face; no plant can do anything intentionally; it cannot help growing, and its growth has no meaning, since a plant cannot reason or dream.

It was safe and secure in the garden, which was separated from the street by a high, red brick wall covered with ivy, and not even the sounds of the passing cars disturbed the peace. Chance ignored the streets. Though he had never stepped outside the house and its garden, he was not curious about life on the other side of the wall.

Thus begins this amazing novel by Jerzy Kosinski. This 1971 book has stayed mostly dormant in my brain for over thirty years only occasionally popping to the surface. However, in my recent studies of McLuhan, it surfaced and requested that I reread it. I believe after rereading the book that Kosinski was drawing a metaphor for the impacts of electronic media on perception and thinking, and the emergence of the post-literate man.

Chance went inside and turned on the TV. The set created its own light, its own color, its own time. It did not follow the law of gravity that forever bent all plants downward. Everything on TV was tangled and mixed and yet smoothed out: night and day, big and small, tough and brittle, soft and rough, hot and cold, far and near. In this colored world of television, gardening was the white cane of a blind man.

By changing the channel he could change himself. He could go through phases, as garden plants went through phases, but he could change as rapidly as he wished by twisting the dial backward and forward. In some cases he could spread out onto the screen without stopping, just as on TV people spread out onto the screen. By turning the dial, Chance could bring others inside his eyelids. Thus he came to believe that it was he, Chance, and no one else, who made himself to be.

Chance, you find out in the story, is a person of unknown origin who lived his entire life tending the garden of a very wealthy man. His education was TV and the garden. When the old man died, his life was abruptly changed.

He rose early as always, found the breakfast that had been left at his door by the maid, ate it, and went into the garden,

He checked the soil under the plants, inspected the flowers, snipped away dead leaves, and pruned the bushes. Everything was in order. It had rained during the night, and many fresh buds had emerged. He sat down and dozed in the sun.

As long as one didn't look at people, they did not exist. They began to exist, as on TV, when one turned one's eyes on them. Only then could they stay in one's mind before being erased by new images. The same was true for him. By looking at him, others could make him clear, could open him up and unfold him; not to be seen was to blur and fade out. Perhaps he was missing a lot by simply watching others on TV and not being watched by them. He was glad now, after the Old Man died, he was going to be seen by people he never been seen by before.

Chance is called in to meet with the executors of the Old Man's will. He is found to have no papers, no record of his existence. The executors are unbelieving and fear a scam. Chance retorts,

"But you have me. I am here. What more proof do you need?"

He is told that the house and garden will be locked the next day and he must leave. On the morning of the next day, he dresses and packs his suitcase with the very expensive suits that the Old Man had given him, now in style, and prepared to leave.

He turned on the TV, sat down on the bed, and flicked the channel changer several times. Country houses, skyscrapers, newly built apartment houses, churches shot across the screen. He turned the set off. The image died; only a small blue dot hung in the center of the screen, as if forgotten by the rest of the world to which it belonged; then it too disappeared. The screen filled with greyness; it might have been a slab of stone.

Chance got up and now on the way to the gate, he remembered to pick up the old key that for years had hung untouched on a board in the corridor next to his room. He walked to the gate and inserted the key; then, pulling the gate open, he crossed the threshold, abandoned the key in the lock, closed the gate behind him. Now he could never return to the garden.

Chance is now on the hero's journey described by Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

He almost immediately has an accident. A chauffeur driven limousine crushes his leg. The wealthy man's wife, Eve or EE, brings Chance back to her house to care for him. There through a series of misunderstandings his name gets changed to Chauncey Gardiner. Her powerful husband is old and very ill. The doctors already in the house care for Chance.

Chance thinks,

"When one was addressed and viewed by others, one was safe. Whatever one did would then be interpreted by the others in the same way that one interpreted what they did. They could never know more about one than one knew about them."

Chance wondered whether Mr. Rand would ask him to leave the house. The thought that he might have to leave did not upset him; he knew that he would eventually have to go but that, as on TV, what would follow next was hidden; he knew the actors on the new program were unknown. He did not have to be afraid, for everything had its sequel, and the best that one could do was to wait patiently for his own forthcoming appearance.

Benjamin Rand has a meeting with the President. He is prepared for the meeting by his handlers. Chance comments:

"I hope that you're feeling well, sir. You do look better."

Rand moved uneasily in his chair. "It's all makeup, Chauncey - all make-up. The nurse was here all night and through the morning, and I asked her to fix me up so the President won't feel I'm going to die during our talk. No one likes a dying man, Chauncey, because few know what death is. All we know is the terror of it. You're an exception, Chauncey, I can tell. I know that you're not afraid. That's what EE and I admire in you: your marvelous balance. You don't stagger back and forth between fear and hope, you're a truly peaceful man! Don't disagree; I'm old enough to be your father. I've lived a lot, trembled a lot, was surrounded by little men who forgot that we enter naked and exit naked and that no accountant can audit life in our favor."

Chance participates in the meeting with the president. The President and Rand are discussing the economy, which has recently taken a turn for the worse. Chance observes trying to emulate what he has seen on TV about how to act making sure that he looks straight into the President's eyes. The President turns to Chance and asks him a question.

"And you, Mr. Gardiner? What do you think about the bad season on The Street?"

Chance draws on the only knowledge he possesses, gardening, and replies.

"In a garden, growth has its seasons. There are spring and summer, but there is also fall and winter. And then spring and summer again. As long as the roots are not severed, all is well and all will be well."

Rand and the President are pleased. The President incorporates Chance's philosophy into his thoughts and in a national TV speech quotes him. This leads quickly to a TV appearance for Chance on a talk show.

Chance turned on the TV. He wondered whether a person changed before or after appearing on the screen. Would he be changed forever or only during the time of his appearance? What part of himself would he leave behind when he finished the program? Would there be two Chances after the show: one Chance who watched TV and another who appeared on it?

When Chance went to the studio for his telecast, Kosinski observes and comments.

Chance was astonished that television could portray itself; cameras watched themselves and, as they watched, they televised a program. This self-portrait was telecast on TV screens facing the stage and watched by the studio audience. Of all the manifold things there were in the world - trees, grass, flowers, telephones, radios, elevators - only TV constantly held up a mirror to its own neither solid nor fluid face.


Facing the cameras and the audience, now barely visible in the background of the studio, Chance abandoned himself to what would happen. He was drained of thought, engaged, yet removed. The cameras were licking up the image of his body, were recording his every movement and noiselessly hurling them into millions of TV screens scattered throughout the world - into rooms, cars, boats, planes, living rooms and bedrooms. He would be seen by more people than he could ever meet in his entire life - people who would never meet him. The people who watched him on their sets did not know who actually faced them; how could they, if they had never met him? Television reflected only people's surfaces; it also kept peeling their images from their bodies until they were sucked into the caverns of their viewers' eyes, forever beyond retrieval, to disappear.

When Chance gives his garden answer to the host's question on the economy, he becomes an instant national, and later even an international, celebrity. The story concludes with Chance being considered as a presidential candidate.

Chance is attending a large party for international dignitaries as the novel ends.

He crossed the hall. Chilled air streamed in through an open window. Chance pushed the heavy glass door open and stepped out into the garden. Taut branches laden with fresh shoots, slender stems with tiny sprouting buds shot upward. The garden lay calm, still sunk in repose. Wisps of clouds floated by and left the moon polished. Now and then, boughs rustled and gently shook off their drops of water. A breeze fell upon the foliage and nestled under the cover of its moist leaves. Not a thought lifted itself from Chance's brain. Peace filled his chest.

Marshal McLuhan wrote about three stages in the development of mankind - preliterate, literate and post literate. Preliterate society existed until the development of an alphabetic phonetic language. Literate society's development was accelerated by the invention of the moveable type printing press. Post literate society began developing with the invention of the telegraph and was accelerated by the development of TV and computers. Most of what we know is based on literate perceptions and means of communication.

McLuhan believed that the real impact of a change in a medium is in the medium's ability to alter our perception of reality. This altered perception of reality is nearly impossible for anyone to consciously notice, and therefore its impacts are profound. Media, which are extensions of man's senses, alter the ratio of our sense usage. Kosinski opens and closes the book with sense driven descriptions of reality.

McLuhan's post literate society has many of the characteristics of the preliterate society of the distant past. He labeled the society "acoustic", not that it was going back to being only an oral - aural environment of the preliterate age, but that it was going to be more "wavelike", as in the wave nature of matter. However, the post literate age was going to rely more heavily on the spoken word, rather than the written word of the literate age. And, instead of gathering around fires, we gather around the TV screens (TV or computer), in our caves.

Chance is Kosinski's conception of what someone would be like if they skipped the literate age entirely. Chance's learning is preliterate and post literate. He learned from nature and TV.

He draws a distinction in the second paragraph between nature and humankind in the ability to be aware and have intention. Later he points out that TV could portray itself, a feat unmatched in nature.

Kosinski gives hints about TV's ability to alter our sense ratios and it's impact on our perception of reality when he writes, "The set created its own light, its own color, its own time. It did not follow the law of gravity that forever bent all plants downward. Everything on TV was tangled and mixed and yet smoothed out: night and day, big and small, tough and brittle, soft and rough, hot an cold, far and near. In this colored world of television, gardening was the white cane of a blind man."

The last phrase is a particularly important piece of advice about how to cope with the changes when he advises the perception of nature as a way to achieve balance.

Chance is so altered by his TV education that he's not sure of his existence outside of the TV, and he thinks that he can change himself by changing channels.

In a literate world, existence is proven through demonstration of literacy and a written record. In Kosinski's post literate world, existence is proven by being seen.

"The cameras were licking up the image of his body, were recording his every movement and noiselessly hurling them into millions of TV screens scattered throughout the world," writes Kosinski. "Television reflected only people's surfaces; it also kept peeling their images from their bodies until they were sucked into the caverns of their viewers' eyes, forever beyond retrieval, to disappear." In a chaotic post literate world where electronic media have altered our perceptions of time, space, sequence, cause and effect, past and future, the present moment and temporality, Chance appears to be a wise man. He is "post literate" and wise in the way of the garden.

Being There
Jerzy Kosinski
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971

Also the movie:
Being There
Lorimar Production
United Artists, 1979
Screenplay by Jerzy Kosinski