When the task is more important than empathy

Following a script or checklist is helpful to keep us consistent when interacting with customers or patients.

But sometimes consistent isn’t effective.

Have you ever been part of a customer or patient experience where the script was clearly being followed but lost its relevance?

When the task becomes more important than the empathy it creates a big risk. One that might create a detractor out of the experience instead of an advocate.

Make sure your standard approach always begins with gaining empathy and a way to check your assumptions.

Keeping empathy and good diagnostics at the beginning of your standard engagement process ensures your consistency is also effective.

The first budget cuts: innovation and market research

When confidence erodes in the company financials, what are the easiest costs to cut?

Usually innovation and market research.

The problem people have with both is a lack of short term results.

Sure it felt good to make the numbers more palatable today, but it hides a future reckoning.

Companies that refuse to stay close to customers and don’t work on different things to create value are stubbornly protecting the status quo. It’s also called complacency.

Perhaps instead of cutting budgets, we should be changing methods instead.

Creating value is the life-blood of every organization

All existing organizations create value. And the flip side is also true,

An organization that does not create value cannot exist. It is impossible.

Every organization that exists is creating value, for someone, at least one person, somewhere.

The moment an organization ceases to create value is the exact moment it no longer exists.

Creating value is the life-blood of every organization.

Creating value always involves conflict

And there is a good reason for this.

To the degree we are doing worthy things today, is to the degree it will be harder to let it go for something different. And good people are usually doing meaningful and worthy things in the present.

Value Practitioners on the journey of creating value, cannot ignore this law associated with value creation. They must expect conflict and be skillful at navigating it.

As you lead change to create value, expect the conflict - don’t be surprised or frustrated by it.

Navigating conflict is a skill that can be learned. Must be learned.

3 steps to make time with prospective vendors more productive

If you’re a corporate practitioner you probably get upwards of 3 calls and 10 emails a day from prospective vendors soliciting their services or products.

It’s important to keep a pipeline of innovative partners, but how do you appropriately consider them without making it your full time job?

Here are three practical steps that can make you and your team more effective in this regard.

First, define your top 3 priorities both for the next 6 months and the year ahead. Use this as the lens by which you assess potential vendors for relevance. You can relax this requirement once or twice during the year to inspire your team’s thinking.

Second, for vendors that appear relevant based on the first step, ask them to share how their offering links to helping you gain on these priorities or solve problems in the way. Never just ask them to come in and give you a pitch. Demand they demonstrate their link to creating value.

Third, set aside a half day every other month to allow prospective vendors to share how their solutions will help you gain on your top goals and solve your top problems.

This helps you stay focused on what’s important and ensures the perspectives you gain are aligned with value creation. Even if you never decide to work together, you’ll be strengthened with fresh perspective.

The fallacy of 'self-made'

In today’s world, self-made people don’t exist.

How did this false phrase ever come to life?

Perhaps in the early 1600s when the phrase “self-made” was first documented, it was possible to step into the wilderness alone with nothing and survive into a successful life.

Certainly we can take ownership of the “want to” and the first step, although even then, environment plays a big role.

But never will the path of growth be paved by efforts of only ourselves.

What is the cost of lowest bid wins?

A lowest-bid-wins strategy is always a choice.  And it has a cost.

Price can only be the determining factor when the benefits of all purchase options are exactly the same. 

Inflexibly assuming the benefits of every bid submitted are the same (you do if all that matters is low price) motivates your bidders to give you - more of the same.

If you're always rewarding your supplier base for more of the same, it's the opposite of innovation.  Because innovation is something different that creates value.

So don't be surprised if your industry or organization lacks innovation.  It's the natural cost of using a low-bid-wins strategy.

Good is the enemy of great

Leaders are providers and provisionaries. They look to the future to guide people to a better place.

But change is conflict with the status quo.  

The more good there is in the present, the harder it is for people to let go.

Good is the enemy of great.  If people are losing something, the loss speaks to them more loudly than what they are set to gain. 

Therefore, make your case for change logical and imminent with a strong link to the benefit of the people.

“For where there is no vision the people perish.” 

Meet the people where the people are

If you wanted to make your organization more innovative...

You could,

Demand your people to think bigger, remind them of popular brands' success stories, introduce them to celebrity executives who seem to exemplify the creative brilliance you need to be innovative.

Or, you could learn their language, understand them more deeply, build empathy and craft a clear path - from where they are to a disciplined process driving change that creates value for customers.

The first option is easy, but largely ineffective and the second option is hard, but usually effective.

Don't expect people you've hired to be reliable and consistent to be suddenly inspirational and risk taking.  Magnify strengths and make weaknesses irrelevant, said Drucker.

If you're building innovation capability, meet the people where the people are.