What is the value of an idea? A billion or zero? I have been thinking about this question a lot lately. A good idea can transform a whole industry. In any organisation you will constantly encounter ideas from many different people but which ones should you pursuit? Smart companies usually have some sort of filtering process where the most qualified ideas are being developed. But an idea can also be bad. In the worst case following the wrong idea can bankrupt you. Look at Nokia betting on their Symbian system. Or Kodak, betting on their idea for printed pictures. So what is a good idea?
It is actually hard to say what a good idea is. Sometimes a good idea can be ahead of its time or a new idea can be to complex to execute on. From my experience the best ideas come from careful analysis. A combination of three things, numbers, user behaviour and innovation. The idea can although start at any of these points. It does not have o start in numbers, you can have seen a competitor use a certain technology and get an idea how to improve your business.
As I work with lots of data daily my main vantage point is through data. First of all you need to find the right numbers in a ton of data. Second you need to truly understand how your user views your product. Third you need to keep a close eye on technology and how it can be used to improve your customer’s experience. So if someone throws an idea at a meeting ask him these three questions:
- Do you have any numbers to back up your idea?
- At what phase does this idea fit the user experience and how does it improve it?
- Is there any technology that can be used to execute this idea?
Why is it important to ask these questions? Well as an organisation you have limited resources, money, personnel, time etc. Pursuing the wrong ideas will generate a lot of waste. Also any new idea will generate further complexity in your system with a multiplication factor, which is something people tend to forget.
How can an organisation capture good ideas?
I have heard about a couple of different approaches to this one. One company has no fixed budgets but lets anyone pitch ideas and access funds from their total budget. Another approach is to dedicated a portion of your workweek to ideas that align with the company, like Google. A third approach is to have an open digital workspace where the employees are voting ideas.
Any way you do it just structuring the idea generation process is a good thing in today’s fast environment. Today speed a competitive advantage therefore you need to harness the collective intelligence of your organisation. An idea that can transform your business can start anywhere within your organisation. Are you rigged to capture it?
If you work as an analyst you already know what are the key aspects of your job is. If you are recruiting one it might be harder to know what you should look for. These three aspects are critical according to my opinion.
Observe the right things
Many analysts learn the trait of observation but observing the right thing is harder than observing anything. In a world of big data where data is everywhere one needs to understand to observe the right things. The right things will make a difference. The other stuff is not that important so don’t waste your time. As a recruiter ask you potential employee how they do to filter through the clutter. As an analyst you need to truly understand the business model and customer journey.
Connect the dots
As a good analyst you will pass through lots of data and might find significant results in isolated issues but you need to connect the dots. Explaining the holistic view and how the figures can help the business is one of the hardest but most valuable traits an analyst can posses.
Create the solution
Based on the analysis you should recommend solutions that will have an effect. Many analysts observe, analyse but stop short of recommending solutions. If you understand the business model, what drives value to customers you can more easily make recommendations that will have a bottom line effect.
So if you are in the lookout to recruit an analyst ask them questions on the above three traits. Make them elaborate, deep dive and let their answers guide your decision.
New buzzwords get invented every year within the consulting business. I see two reasons for that. Consulting companies need to sell more so they invent new words. And the other reason is that people need to feel important. They want to throw fancy words around since it boosts their ego. I cannot count how many times I have been to conferences where the speaker thinks he is the shit. He throws these big words, big data, agile, customer experience etc. and all of these things are simple things that have been around for ages.
Buzz words are not new, they are new name of old things
Take for example digitalization. What does that mean? Digitalization and is actually the same thing as customer centricity. Customer centricity in 2017 means that as a company you need to deliver what the customer wants on the platforms the customer uses, hence mobile and computers.
Another word that is thrown around a lot is agile organisations. Agile organisations have always been in demand – those organisations that can react fast enough to customer demand. The main difference between todays market and say 30 years ago is that digital platforms offer new ways to do things. Today content is king and just in time is more important than ever. Your content builds relevancy, which in turn grows your business.
So everyone stop obsessing about fashion words. Do not throw them around like pennies. Most people have heard them but don’t understand the true meaning of them. Instead talk in simple terms such as what do customers want, how can we produce quickly, how do we generate value etc.
There is a lot of talk about agile organisations but what no body talks about are that your management layers will hinder your agile organisation. There are countless examples from people that I know that tell the same story. Top management need to do something to react to todays challenges so they jump on the agile-organisation train. They take in a consultant make a lot of workshops, change the organisation but keep the top management levels intact. What happens? Basically nothing. Things work as before but now with an agile twist. To be true agile decisions need to be taken by the most suitable people on the floor and not a manager. Old organisations are unfortunately not built for agility but rather like a pyramid leading to several implications:
1. One of the most important implication is that top managements is to far away from your customers = death in the long run. Family businesses that grow large survive as long as the owners are active since the owners have built the company from the floor and up. As soon as the owners are removed bureaucrats and career minded people take over and suck the life out of a company.
2. Pyramid organisations get into autopilot. Auto pilot mode is dangerous since you will not see what will hit you until it is too late. For example Netflix has caught many broadcasting companies by surprise and they are now in a downward trend. You also spend more time on processes than on innovation.
3. Too many management layers lead to politics. Politics consumes your organisations energy. Your energy should be focused to solve customer problems and innovate the next thing.
4. Management layers are the kryptonite for agility. Agile means that you react to your customers. How fast you can react depends on your organisational setup.
The organisation that I think have the best setup is actually Google/Alphabet. The setup is so smart that the output can be seen in the number of innovations that comes steadily each year. It seems that Alphabet can do anything they set out to do.
80% of what you do within your organisation deliver no value. This is what textbooks tell us, the 80/20 rules. If you contemplate on it for short while it is a scary thought. I have worked now for over 15 years and I can say that this rule is true. The larger the company the more true it is. So how do you get out of it? Well I think the most effective way is to use the customer experience as a tool.
I must admit that customer experience is fairly new to me as a work method. I am still developing my thoughts but I see the power it can have since it can both alter the thinking of people but mostly it focuses your resources to do solve true customer problems.
So how do you kick-start your customer experience mapping?
Well there are probably several ways, but theses three methods are a good way to start.
· Your data speaks to you. Understanding your data is your main skill as a leader. Data driven is key to right decisions. Let your analyst paint a picture with data on phases your customer goes through, and force them to put words together with the data. You are looking for story, let them build the story from the numbers you have.
· Your customers voice is another easy key. Listen to your customer service agents and look at your Facebook comments or other reviews you might have. Force your analyst to map the reviews on a customer journey. Keep track of new reviews
· Get a consulting company to do a customer journey mapping. I think this is a must for all companies that work within the B2C field. The mapping will not only give you new insight but it is a super useful tool to keep your organisation customer centric.
I will try to write more on the subject as we move along. One of the main pitfalls I see right now is that your top management does not embrace the results. If they don’t truly understand how to use it to transform the company then you are in a true uphill.
Customer experience is becoming the only game in town. You can do a thousand of things within your organisation but if your customers haven’t noticed then you have failed.
The above statement is today’s harsh reality we live in. Everything is spinning faster and new technology opens up for attacking your business. This is especially true for companies within the B2C field. To cling on you need to grasp the importance of customer experience and the role it has in tomorrow’s market. Companies that do not grasp its essence will eventually diminish. One company that gets it is Amazon. Google on Jeff Bezos letter to shareholders and you will see his restless championing for the customer.
The person that should be the champion for your customer experience should be your CEO. Your CEO is the captain of your ship. The captain holds the wheel and sets the course. Since todays environment is so competitive and fast the role of the CEO can no longer be only to work with high-level questions. Todays CEO need to get their hands dirty, they need to care for the details of the organisation, understand the customer and understand the key components that drive growth. One of the main areas that only a CEO can influence is to setup an organisation that is fast and makes the right decisions with minimal management involvement.
The CEO together with the employees needs to figure out what parts of your customer experience that drives value. Thereafter you need together with your employees setup a direction on what you are aiming for. Doing this will have several effects:
o You will start delivering true value to the customer that will turn into growth.
o As a CEO you will understand your business and be able to make better decisions. You will be able to ask the right questions towards the organisation. This will make everyone smarter and more focused.
o People will be super motivated with a sense of purpose. As a CEO you will then have a smooth organisation that will be self-sustainable.
A company is of course more than just one person but the higher up the more you can influence the outcome. In the end the only thing that counts is what your customer thinks. So if your CEO is not passionate about customer experience, then you are most likely screwed in the long run, so you better start looking for a job now.