Sunday, 31 October 2004

Friday, 29 October 2004

Tuesday, 26 October 2004

A Systems Thinking Overview

As an introduction to the perspective Working Pathway’s brings to your project, I present this excellent overview of systems thinking from the late Donella Meadows: Dancing with Systems.

Here are some highlights to get you started:

“Before you disturb the system in any way, watch how it behaves.”

“Aid and encourage the forces and structures that help the system run itself.”

“Invite others to challenge your assumptions and add their own.”

“The way you learn is by experiment—or, as Buckminster Fuller put it, by trial and error, error, error.”

“A decision-maker can’t respond to information he or she doesn’t have…”

“Look for the ways the system creates its own behavior.”

Here’s an additional link to Dancing with Systems. Yes, it’s that good.

Thanks to Willem Van den Ende for bringing this seminal work to our attention.

Friday, 22 October 2004

Cost of Stolen Towels Comes Out of Marketing Budget

A couple years back, Amazon attempted two things:

  1. Advertising in print and on television.
  2. Charging for shipping.

They found little return on the first, and a found a huge backlash against the second.

Amazon now finances their Super Saver shipping with their advertising budget: NY Times – Amazon Tries Word of Mouth

Holiday Inn just took a page from Amazon’s playbook.

About the Towels We Forgive You, documents guests’ stories of ‘borrowed’ Holiday Inn towels. An excellent idea, capturing the enthusiasm of their most brand-passionate guests and giving the proceeds to charity.

Yet the idea is only being half-executed.

I agree with David Paul at Perceptional Analyzer when he says:

“I think hotels should encourage guests to take a towel or robe anyway. They take it home, use it, see the logo all the time. What better way to stay top-of-mind for when people are making their next travel plans? Sure there is a cost involved, but it’s called the marketing budget.”

I see a similar phenomenon in talking with clients. They want to proceed with a project, and aren’t able to support it in their discreet budget. While other, related budgets have a surplus.

Should redesigning a website or software product come out of product development’s, customer service’s, training’s, or marketing’s budget? Yes.

As should the customer research driving the redesign. As all those departments are intertwined in your customer’s mind, building a passionate customer base will help all those departments. In this cooperative environment, to paraphrase Seth Godin, everyone gets a Free Prize Inside.

Monday, 18 October 2004

Sales Clerk Shops Competiton With Customer

Until now there were only 5 responses you’ll receive when asking a store clerk about an item:

  1. “Yes, we have it. Allow me to get it for you.”
  2. “Yes we have it. It’s in aisle 4, I’ll show you.”
  3. “Yes we have it. It’s in aisle 4.”
  4. “No, we don’t carry it.”
  5. “No, we don’t carry it. Try my competitor.”

That was before Jhanice Nelson.

Nelson introduced a whole response. It’s a response that understands how shopping fits into a customer’s life goals and how their value to a store can be measured in customer evangelism and lifetime purchases.

“You came to me with a wardrobe problem, and I wanted to help you solve it,” she said. Just because she didn’t have anything to sell me shouldn’t stop her from helping me, she said.

Read the entire article by Jackie Huba @ Church of the Customer.

Success Comes in Small, Cheap Projects

Instead of spending milions of dollars on “The Superbowl Ad”, why not spend that money cranking out beermat campaigns, till you find one that really works? Using beermats in small, test markets, you could easily create 50, 100 (500? Who knows?) campaigns for the price of one decent Superbowl/TV commercial. It would be a simple, cheap and quick way of working out the necessary language to resonate with the beer-drinking public. – hugh @ gaping void

I met a art professor in college who believed everyone had 500 bad drawings in them. Only after getting the 500 bad drawings “out” would you start drawing well. Some professors asked their students to complete 1 or 2 drawings in a 3 hour studio. This professor – 50. Fifty drawings, each from 5 to 20 minutes a piece. Each one to find out what works and what doesn’t. No erasing. If you’re not happy with it, start a new one.

This quick and cheap way to success stuck with me and is one of the underlying principals of Working Pathways. We’re continually asking, “What’s the simplest, quickest, most effective way to reach the project’s goals?”

With this perspective, we’ve reduced turnaround times for some of our client’s research initiatives from weeks to hours. We solicit feedback continually. We provide long-term ‘teach a man to fish’ success.

We’ve all got 500 bad ideas in us, Working Pathways is here to help you get to the good ideas more quickly.

UPDATE: This notion of small, quick, projects paving the road to success is re-iterated by Robert Rodriguez,

“The more experience you give yourself the better prepared you are for the next project…”

This by way of Anita Sharpe’s Thought for the Day, Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Sunday, 17 October 2004

5 Tips For Better Customer Interviews

The easiest way to collect interesting, usable data from a research effort is to blend into the background of the subject’s life. Media journalists know this – that’s why they’re embedded in the presidential campaigns and in the military actions.

To give honest unselfconscious, response, subject’s need to be comfortable with researchers – as peers, as collegues, as one of them.

Susan Orlean describes this necessity in her recent interview on MPR’s Midmorning. For good data, she schedules at least a week to blend into the background.

The need to commit time to really see into someone’s life is echoed in Tod Maffin’s the Art of the 10-Hour Interview.

The projects here at Working Pathways move much more quickly than those in either of the articles. We are often charged with capturing usable data with less than hour per respondant. With that in mind, here are 5 tips we use for “becoming invisible” in under an hour.

  1. Make Good Small Talk.
    The weather, the traffic, a recent news item, the goal is to find common ground quickly. You probably share a handful of similarities -find a a couple. Share the joy of meeting someone new is this small world.
  2. They’re the Expert.
    Whatever you’re talking about, they know more than you. Chances are their situation and challenges in whatever you’re talking about are unique. Use the little you know on the subject to probe and show them you can speak the lingo, not that you could take over their job.
  3. Pay Attention.
    Everything is a conscious decision – body language, intonation, language, word selection, wardrobe, facial expressions, everything. Each movement betrays their personality and honest, unguarded emotions. Picking up and following up on these cues is where the good data lives.
  4. Always Be Curious.
    There’s nothing worse than an interviewer uninterested in the respondant. If you don’t need or want another interview, cancel it. Otherwise you’re wasting everyone’s time and money.
  5. Keep the recording devices out of hand and sight.
    This is not to be sneaky or misleading. As an ethical researcher, all participants should be aware and give concent to recording. Have an assistant be responsible for the recording equipment. This recommendation is so;
    1. You can focus all your attention on the conversation and not recording.
    2. Your respondant can focus on the conversation, not being recorded. Thereby reducing the chance of them being self-conscious or saying what they think ther researcher wants to hear.

Saturday, 16 October 2004

Thursday, 14 October 2004

Wednesday, 13 October 2004

Six Step Process to Motivate Others

In a highly collaborative working environment, the traditional hierarchical relationship between employees doesn’t exist. The result is peers making requests to one another to move their respective projects forward. More akin to a volunteer organization than a button-down for-profit business.

The best volunteer organizations use a 6-step process to motivate peers in assisting. This is a time-proven process for both getting things done and clearly identifying those individuals that are not at all interested in your project. Use it whenever you need to make a request of someone’s time.

  1. Introduce Yourself.
    It’s so easy yet so frequently ignored. If you’re making the request over the phone, it is doubly important that you introduce yourself, the organizations you’re representing, the person you wish to speak with, and why you’re calling.

    “Hi, this is Garrick Van Buren from Working Pathways. I’m calling for Darrel Austin regarding the AcmeCo Accessibility Audit. Is now a good time to talk?”

    This is very similar to my earlier Get Your Email Read post. Notice the “is now a good time…” question. Always provide an out at this point. It’s most polite to do all this upfront. Otherwise you’re wasting your peer’s valuable time and reducing the chance they’ll help you now or in the future.

  2. Provide an Update.
    This is where you provide a quick, 2-sentence background on the project you’re working on who referred you to them. For example:

    “I’m working with Darrel Austin on redesigning the shopping cart process. We’re about to evaluate the new model with AcmeCo’s best customers.”

  3. Define the Problem.
    This is why you need their assistance. Again, make it brief – 1 sentence is ideal.

    “We have evaluations scheduled for early next week and we do not have all the timeslots booked.”

  4. Define the Solution.
    One sentence describing how you want to solve the previously stated problem.

    “The good news is store managers like yourself are helping out.”

  5. State the Urgency.

    “It’s going great, and we have one last remaining timeslot to fill before the end of business today.”

  6. Ask Them.
    This is where you formally request something from them. At this point, they have a clear understanding of the situation you’re in and how they can help. They’re thinking 1 of 3 things at this point.

    1. “I’ll help by filling in that last timeslot.”
    2. “How can I help?”
    3. “I’m not interested in helping.”

    This is your opportunity to make a clear, formal request to them:

    “Can I put you down for the Wednesday 4pm timeslot?”

    If there are multiple ways the person can assist you, start with the option requiring the greatest commitment and wait for a ‘No’ before offering the next option.
    If they decline all options – I recommend re-evaluating them as a future resource.