Tag Archives: #innovation

How do I Know What I do Not Know?

This question can have a pivotal impact across any aspect of our lives. If only, I had known that? Why didn’t someone tell me? Can I backdate it?

“Knowing everything” is impossible however creating an infrastructure of information/data which heightens your awareness of issues that are applicable to your situation can be improved. Here are six ways to increase your chances of asking the “right questions” to ensure that you are getting more of the “right information” coming your way:

question marks

1. Ask incident related questions vs general questions.
Instead of asking: How is it going today? Or how is business, start asking more specific incident-related questions:
• Tell me about the last new piece of business you closed
• Tell me about the last employee you hired
• Did John give you an update on the five client requests made during the March 10 meeting

2. Ask the same question more than once to different people.
Did you ever call a utility company or insurance company and receive completely different answers to the same question — from two different people within the same 60 minute period of time. It happens every day and it goes beyond the quality of the service training. It reflects the experience and the empowerment levels of the person handling your request. Hang up the phone and call back if the answer is important enough to you!

3. Let me tell you what I am going to tell you, and then tell you what I told you that I would tell you.
Creating awareness and interest is a never-ending marketing challenge, Studies show that making an impression on someone can take anywhere from 7 to 20 exposure points across multiple channels of influence.
In addition to telling your story multiple times and in multiple ways, remember to stop and ask questions that are as specific as possible. In small discussion settings, pull from your knowledge of the participants history to open up the dialogue. Whenever possible, the goal is to understand how someone else handled a situation. Are there insights that would help you ask different questions?

4. Can I prevent this from happening again?
We all have situations that annoy the heck out of us, especially since they keep happening again and again. We come up with a plan to remedy the situation so that eventually we are less annoyed and more adept at handling the situation. However, have we truly resolved the core reason behind the incomplete transaction, the never-ending disruptions, or the repetitive errors that need to be corrected?
The application of: How do we know what we do not know in this situation is to make sure to let others know how a problem was solved. This supports continuous improvement in work flow and case management so that the root cause of the situation can be adjusted!

5. Ask someone who really cares.
Some people give their heart and soul to specific causes. Find those who have walked in your shoes. Others devote their lives to providing the support services to the situation you are seeking answers. Ask someone who truly cares, as their answer will point to both the emotional and functional issues that are pivotal to your success.

6. Having the courage to take a leap of faith.
The amount of information in our domain is doubling within brief periods of time. Analysis-Paralysis is no longer possible. A smart pilot program can mitigate the risk. Small changes that can be seen in a conservative culture as acceptable iterations to the process……..move the process forward.
Former NY Mayor Ed Koch created an environment of wanting feedback by including his famous “How am I Doing” question with every appearance. How do you know what you do not know? Start by taking an inquisitive nature to life, always looking for new ways to make the questions you ask more insight.

In keeping with this philosophy, I ask you to share a question with me that you now ask on a regular basis that has made a difference in your life.

 

 

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He can mix a great drink OR position you correctly on the X-ray machine

#agreesharon

Life is filled with so many interesting moments that I decided to create a weekly conversation starter around one of the more entertaining observations made during the previous week. Nothing too complicated — fun to see how people answer the question.

Let me know what you think.

colorful puzzleThe age-old question of “What do I want to be when I grow up” is never easy to define….and I am always fascinated by the stories of those who truly changed the direction of their work, using skills in a completely different application.

I was recently making small talk with an X-ray technician. He told me about decades spent as a bartender and restaurant manager. Earlier days included time in the military.

It was humorous ….. and then the career links became oh so obvious: Helping others. Customer Service. Measuring items that come together within a followed formula. People-facing. Patience. Ability to handle emotionally charged environments.

When was the last time you used one of your skills in a completely unrelated situation?

puzzle coming togehter

Future of Marketing: Collisions and Complexities

The Future of Marketing Summit 2015: Collisions and Complexity #FTMarketing is always a treat to attend. While conference attendance continues to drop these days, the live conferences allow us to share our real time views in more than 140 characters, giving some additional color to the speaker comments.

The conference explored relevance and personalization —objectives that marketers always strive to achieve — regardless of the available technology and in spite of the available technology.

“Content is king. Context is queen and she wears the pants.” 

Big data and the balance of personalized messaging, limited budgets and the creep factor caused by revealing the knowledge of too much individual data, continue to be a dominant subject on everybody’s mind. Ad-blocking is a relevant piece of the conversation as it impacts so many of the content development and customization strategies that we all are exploring.

content and contextWith so much free content available, what motivates someone to share the information that allows us/them to customize their stream of news? The answer lies in the value proposition. The importance of which is not new; the newness is in the never-ending expansion of resources that we can use to meet our needs.

Hence, if I can get the information elsewhere, I will get it wherever it is easiest and most obviously synergistic.

  • Exemplifying this example was Seth Farbman, CMO at Spotify. Consumer access to music at little to no cost delivers huge exposure for the artist. For those artists who do not have the marketing and label support, Spotify sees themselves as an avenue for artist exposure. Their goal is to build music fans. The majority of their users do not pay fees. However, the Spotify service is not free; it is advertising supported. Hence what happens to this business model when users go incognito?

Knowing that “Content is king. Context is queen and she wears the pants.” What can the marketer do to ensure the right experience for the individual customer?  Simultaneously, what can be done to maintain advertising dollar supports? Maintaining a robust exchange of information is paramount.

  • Businesses that are using Virtual Reality (VR) provided a good example of creating customer relevancy. In fact, one of the panelists shared his own story; it involved a dislike for camping activities which ended in the booking of a camping trip after a VR experience. Sounds like the adage: Try it. You’ll like it. Virtual Reality brings us closer to the experience than any copy deck or photo montage could achieve.

Storytelling: A Strategic Business Tool

8591351239_24bcb987df_nAnd, when VR is not possible, we know that a well-delivered story format is a readily affordable tactic to initiating an immersive brand experience. In the panel titled “Shifting the Brand Strategy in the Age of Empowered Consumer”, one message was unanimous: Brands can no longer speak to the customer. Rather, brands must speak with the customer. Be it a consumer or a  B2B transaction, the human being will make a decision and individuals want to buy things that reflect smart decisions and which make them feel like they are adding value to the situation.

When is yes a maybe? Marketers are still figuring this out.

Unraveling what the customer wants will continue to be an ongoing riddle. The true psycho-graphics behind one’s behavior are rarely available on an individual basis and just because someone looks at a website does not mean they want to use or buy the product….a challenge with programmatic marketing.

As marketers, we want to test everything to see how we can better create a dialogue with our customer groups. However, social media is still being challenged to prove the consistency of the measurable impacts that the tactics generate for a campaign.

  • There was an audible chuckle in the audience when Roel de Vries, Global Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy at Nissan Motor Company spoke to the “hobby-ism of doing things. If I have to sell x million cars, is 10,000 hits good enough to get me there?” And, hence, we must again balance testing opportunities with scale impact and the budget allocation.

The Basic Human Need for Emotional Resonance

As technology continues to alter the way we consume data for our decisions, there was chatter amongst the room for another proven behavior: The continued need for emotional resonance. No matter how technological our society has become, in the end, we are individuals with numerous personas that are all actively in play at any given time.

Reminding us of this basic human nature was the five step ecosystem that individuals use to make decisions. The buzz words have changed over time however the concepts remain intact. The five step ecosystem is: brain photo

  • Notice: Get noticed. Create awareness.
  • Curiosity: Generate interest.
  • Interaction: Offer an array of opportunities for interaction and the query for more information. Engage the customer/prospect in a dialogue that makes the impact of this product in their lives real.
  • Reinforcement: Create on-going reinforcement of the purchase decision.
  • Evangelize: With the ultimate goal of turning the customer into an evangelist your product

Some things do not change; they get modified and fine-tuned to reflect the modern-age tools.

Relevance, personalization and service excellence continue to be the critical success factors in establishing long term relationships.

If you found any of the subjects in this post to be of interest to you, please get in touch and lets continue the conversation.

Thank you to the Marketing Executives Networking Group MENG for my ticket. to this event.

Get Real! Purpose + Calling + Balance

The New York Human Resources People and Strategy Group recently hosted an insightful presentation featuring social entrepreneur Aaron Hurst.

In this interactive and provocative session, Aaron presented his concept of a “Purpose Economy”, in which purpose will replace information as the dominant economic driver. Embedded in this new definition of purpose are the concepts of:
• Choice
• Calling
• Self-awareness

The desire for purpose, calling or self-fulfillment is not new. However in today’s society which allows 24/7 connectivity, availability and choice…… the boundaries between our work and personal lives is often non-existent. The concept of work: life balance has become a concept of work: life integration. The premise of seeing one’s act of labor as fulfilling and satisfying —regardless of the role one plays in the world of work—- provides the consistency that allows us to thrive in everything that we do.

Research has shown significant levels of employee disengagement and frustration. Further studies surmise that the disengaged workforce is less productive, less dependable, and less loyal to the work-team. Infusing the purpose approach into every aspect of our lives becomes critical. The concept starts with an attitude. Individually, we create purpose by choosing how to approach a job vs. only looking at the actual content of the job that we are doing.

Some industry articles attribute this shift in philosophy to the millennial; I think the fundamentals of the purpose concept have been percolating for a very long time. Our aging society, sandwich generations and millennial attitudes have allowed these frustrations to be channeled in a positive direction. As a member of the Boomer generation, I grappled with work: life balance as I entered my parenting years and was an active participant in remote work schedules, freelance contracts and career off-ramps. The Purpose Economy addresses the personal interests and demands of individuals by “allowing us to publicly balance our multiple obligations”.
balancing act photo
How can we combine passion and expertise consistency in our lives –vs. – looking to our volunteer work and hobbies to fill in these gaps? Does each of us have the ability to work with purpose and to live with purpose? Is this a learned activity? Will this increased awareness obligate everyone (the employers, the employees, the clients and the providers) to realize that work: life integration is reasonable and attainable? The answer is a definite YES!

Aaron shared four recommendations with the audience that can be viewed as opportunities for both the individual as well as the collective employer/work environment to support purpose-oriented activities. They are:

1. Develop individual self-awareness. As an employer, strive to assist your employees in building their self-awareness.
• Those who demonstrate calling in their daily lives see their actions as being bigger than them. They are motivated by the ability to impact others in positive ways. They are confident in their actions being consistent with their driving emotions.

2. Tailor your work to reflect the purpose(s) that motivate you. As an employer, allow the employee to tailor their work to boost their own sense of purpose.
• Doing this involves the deepening of relationships, defining opportunities for growth and maximizing the impact that someone can make in a situation.

3. Connect your personal purpose with your organizational purpose. As an employer, allow your employees to understand the impact of their labor on the bigger picture.
• People who behave from a position of purpose or calling see their efforts as providing positive growth. The power of continuous learning is important to all of us.

4. Celebrate and connect with others who share your approach to life. As an employer, create opportunities where individuals who share a common perspective can learn and grow together (This does not mean that they work together, Rather that they serve as motivators for each other.)
• I note that this example was given within the context of bringing people together who tested with similar purpose profiles. People with different functionalities and backgrounds were able to gain a new perspective on subjects that they had no understanding— when the sharing was made with someone else who shared a similar purpose-perspective. As a marketer, this reiterates the importance of the emotional connections that we create within all aspects of our lives.

May the spirit of purpose guide us successfully into a fulfilling 2015!great miinds quote

Ah-ha Moments for Competitive Intelligence

Competitive Intelligence can have a huge impact to the bottom line of a business. This knowledge comes in many forms, and ultimately, it is the application of human intelligence and human logic that reveals the value in the data, the trends and the inconsistencies.ahha moment lightbulb

With this in mind, the “aha” competitive intelligence moments will often reveal themselves where you least expect to uncover them. Here are some questions to help you find the “aha” in non-traditional places, creating competitive advantages for you and your organization:

1.     Does it really matter what the competition is doing?

Competitive Intelligence is not just about looking at what your industry competitors are doing; it is about seeing your business through a completely new set of eyes.

Better stated: The activity of your peers is only one part of the equation.  In fact, case studies show that many innovative breakthroughs came from non-industry competitors. Yes, know the industry competition and, do position yourself favorably. However, do not spend so much time on the competitor activities that you forget to focus on the activity of THE most important piece of the marketplace: the customer!

2.     Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

We know that every production line output includes first quality and imperfect items. Does your business allow you to develop a secondary distribution channel for the “seconds”? For example: “ding and dent sales” for furniture or appliances or consignment stores for manufacturers over-runs.

The lemonade concept has been successfully applied to situations where fixed costs render heavily discounted, last minute offers a preferable option for the business. Last minute vacation websites (think Travelocity, Cheap Tickets) alongside of theatre ticket offerings (think Play-by-Play and Theatre Mania in NYC)  have trained many consumers to plan these activities at the last minute, thereby allowing themselves  an experience that may otherwise be unaffordable.

3.     Do you have a diversified reading list?

We’ve all been trained to regularly read the daily newspapers and the industry journals for our business specialties. However, Best Practices are often industry-agnostic; can you imagine any call center manager disputing the value in real time call monitoring and feedback loops? Reading industry journals from any other industry but your own; reading political articles that you do not agree with and occasionally scanning a forever classic Dr. Seuss book….can move your mind into new directions and thought patterns that can impact your business?

4.     Does this really have to be a seasonal item?

Back in graduate school, I prepared an advertising campaign for matzo as an all year round cracker choice. Fast forward to today’s metropolitan grocer and you are likely to find boxes of matzo year-round. In a similar fashion, Gold’s Horseradish has created another category of condiments and eliminated horseradish as a seasonal product.

5.     How can you change consumer behaviors?

Slowly is the pessimist’s answer. By speaking to emotions is the more logical answer. Create a competitive advantage for yourself by focusing on the emotional level appeal.

Forget the product benefits – Focus on the storyline. This is another great example of seeing a situation through a different set of eyes. Madison Avenue examples of this:

  • Nike is not about shoes and running shorts. It is about a state of mind: Just Do It. Get out and exercise
  • The L’Oreal tagline” Because You’re worth it” moved the emphasis off of the products and onto the consumer. Yeah, I am worth it – I am beautiful
  • What if we could apply this to our children’s chore-list? Imagine: “A neat room is a higher test score”
  • Zappos is a customer service company…that happens to sell shoes!

SUMMARY:

Competitive intelligence is not just about looking at what your industry competitors are doing; it is about seeing your business through completely different sets of eyes.  And using these new and varied viewpoints to maximize opportunities.

 

Original posting: FIVE KEY Questions on Competitive Intelligence. New Places to find the “ah-ha” by @sharonlewisnyc #EQlist buff.ly/1gsE3Dz  via @CASUDI

Is there a formula to asking Brilliant Questions?

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first fifty-five minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

Not surprisingly, Einstein makes a good point. And, so I set out to ask others what they think of that observation. In turn, practicing the philosophy first hand. The dialogue was great. The conversations produced a list of seven common themes. And so, with a number of qualitative research projects on my plate, I set out to be uber-deliberate in using these themes in the formulation of the questions that I would be taking into the field. Correlating the brilliant question criteria to my own facilitation guides did indeed have a positive impact!  Here are the seven themes:

What qualities make a question brilliant?

1. Inspiration to see things in a new light

For example: Five plus five equals ten; what other numbers can be used to get me to ten?

  1. Generates thoughtful willingness to challenge the norm

Referencing Storm Sandy remains a tangible reference point. What would happen if a critical piece of this process were no longer available?

  1. Creates ownership of the solution

Tell me: What do you suggest we do here?

  1. Provides clarity of purpose

In explaining what someone does, they are forced to account for how the dots connect.

  1. Encourages new solutions

Probe: What are the frustrations in doing it this way? Can that be done in any other way?”

  1. Asks for an evaluation of limited resources

If you had the power to change it, what are the consequences of choosing A over B?

  1. Open ended enough to solicit the “how, why and what do you think about this” yet tight enough to provide direction to the thought process

Imagine yourself painting a picture. Now imagine yourself painting a picture of the golf course where you played last week-:)

Image

Look Elsewhere for Answers

In addition to the quest for consistently developing brilliant questions to ask, it always astonishes me when the “ah-ha moments come from where you least expect.

I was recently contracted to interview people that could help us learn more about employee overtime as a source of income in today’s economic environment. While speaking to individuals across industries, it was time to dig deeper within a particular function within a particular industry. Employees, HR executives, department managers all provided lots of interesting insights. It was the conversation with a professional in a completely unrelated industry to the one that I was researching….that the “ah-ha” moment came into place. My facilitation guide took on a new twist and each time I presented the “ah-ha” question to my interviewees…they lit up in the same way that I did with the implications presented. This was empowering. And, it was fun for all involved.

When in doubt, provide praise

In the exploration phase of a project looking to uncover breakdowns between functional departments, I was presented with an opinion that I did not quite know what to do with. “Great point. No-one else has mentioned that”, I said.  “Tell me more.” And the flood-gates opened!

Do you find yourself asking questions that lead you to great answers?

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” (said the same man).