Digital transformation is for customers

Your value proposition is changing even if you aren’t.

As customers interact with brands outside your category or industry they become accustomed to new levels of service or technology. These experiences become reference points as they return to interact with your brand.

This is the law of reference in the process of value creation.

Let’s look at an example. People today are scheduling dinner reservations online at restaurants and receiving text messages when their table is ready allowing them to show up at the right time. They can also do the same when making service appointments for their vehicles.

When they need to schedule a healthcare visit, they call a receptionist who checks a calendar, then arrive at a waiting room only to find the team is running 30 mins behind. References to better scheduling and arrival coordination are now included in their perception of value for this particular health care provider.

The shipping speed of product for Amazon Prime users undoubtedly sets a reference point for other brands selling goods online.

Payment speeds of PayPal, ApplePay or Zelle are likely setting references that influences value perception for small banks or credit unions.

Digital transformations or smaller digital evolutions are necessary to stay relevant in today’s fast-paced market.

What customer references are influencing your value proposition?

Never Stop Aligning

You’ll never know 100% of the thoughts and feelings of another person, even on a given topic.

Neural networks change and new information is created constantly. It's hard enough to understand our own thoughts completely.

Here is the implication. Alignment is a process not an event.

If you think you are done understanding after a single meeting with your boss, focus group with customers or interview with your employee. Think again.

I’m not suggesting we should refrain from acting on our current understanding - that’s not helpful. Rather, be mindful that minds are constantly adjusting.

Instead of "I know what they are thinking", say "I assume they are thinking this...", or “here is my current understanding”, or “this is my current hypothesis.”

Small shifts, new trajectory.

 When you see alignment as a process not an event, it keeps you curious and humble.

It might also motivate you to test the understanding everyone else has taken for granted and find a new way to create value.


Empower your people, really

Sure you can tell your people they are empowered, build visually compelling communications and say the right things in meetings.

But it’s how you behave as a leader that sets the real policy.

Here are three mistakes to avoid as you work to empower your people.

  1. Being critical of your people when they aren’t in your presence.

  2. Dwelling on mistakes instead of focusing on the solution.

  3. Talking to people only when there is a problem.

How you behave between face-to-face interactions sets the tone for how you will be engaged.

What other mistakes do you suggest avoiding to truly empower your people?

Don’t throw away your 7th grade science skills

Ms. Skinner was my 7th grade science teacher. She spent a lot of time teaching us scientific method, which I keep finding more and more useful as an adult. Who was your 7th grade science teacher?

Walking into a conversation to test a hypothesis is much different than walking into it assuming my way is right.

But I’m finding it isn’t a popular approach. It’s more popular to assume you’re right and defend your position. (Be confident and assertive, we say.)

I’m mindful of words Daniel Kahneman wrote in Thinking, Fast and Slow, “his favorite game was jumping to conclusions and his favorite position was beside himself.”

So make your grade school science teacher proud. Even if you think you really do have it all figured out, leave room for testing and improving.

Other perspectives and data might make you better. And, most importantly, you’ll bring others along —making them more committed to the outcome.

Different, but not valuable

Phrases, like “I want to make an impact” or “difference”, share a common thread.

An intent to create value.

Oddly enough, humans have the ability to create things which are not valuable. Impacts that do not help people. Differences that are not beneficial.

Perhaps you can think of a few changes in your organization or life that did not create value. If you’ve raised teenagers you know this well. Or perhaps you’ve had a new leader who initiated changes that made things worse.

I’m not sure why we shy away from the word value. Perhaps it’s because it’s easier to focus on differences instead, or we got tired of the word preferring the more dramatic “impact” - which even sounds like what it is.

Some people were meant to create value for the world.

If this is you, are you being intentional and methodical doing it?

Or do you leave it to feelings and chance, making it up as you go?

Uncommon and commendable

Do you know what is uncommon and commendable?

Being successful and yet investing genuine intent, time and resources toward creating more value.  

As progress toward your definition of success increases, the desire for achieving different outcomes can decline.  Success is often observed as the biggest barrier to change.  If you're making the numbers, the growth and money are good - why fix what isn't broken?

But markets shift, consumer attitudes adjust, competitors arise and gradually the market conditions are not the same. Remember how cool flip phones were?  Or how fun it was to be on Facebook for the first time connecting with people you hadn't seen in years?  Or ordering the new iPhone?

What keeps you dedicated to creating more value in spite of you or your organization's success?

Working in is different than working on

It is easier to work in your organization - than it is to work on it.

The daily flow of operations, the never ending to-do list, the frequent meetings, can be frenetic and crazy, but also expected and familiar. And in that sense a routine of comfort.

Organizations are like people, they need to learn and grow too. If it isn’t changing and improving how it works —it’s falling behind. Customer attitudes are adjusting and technology is changing —both driving shifts in categories and markets.

Not everyone likes to work on the organization, nor is it a task fit for anyone —it’s different. It’s less tangible…harder to see immediate results.

Working on the organization usually leads you to a path of change, making you face the daunting task of getting co-workers to unlearn the existing habits and adopt new ones.

Finally, success usually breeds resistance. Desire to work on the organization usually decreases as success working in the organization increases. But find an organization with long-term sustained success and you’ll find a dedication to working on the business.

If you’re not working on your organization, how can you expect working in to improve?

Linking your craft

There’s a way to get really good at your craft. Focus and deliberate practice.

But if all you focus on is getting good at your craft, it’s easy to lose sight of how to sell it. And by sell we don’t mean smarmy-pushy sell. We mean an evidence-based way of enabling others to use your craft at achieving their goals.

It’s one thing to be good at your craft. It’s entirely another to be good at showing others how to use it for their own value.

How much do you practice linking your craft to the goals of other people?

Not easy, but simple

I’ve always enjoyed a good puzzle.  Hard at first.  Easy once you know the solution.

Perhaps that’s what drew Erno Rubik to them.  He created the brilliant Rubik’s cube. He created an object that was not supposed to be possible. His solid cube twisted and turned - and still it did not break or fall apart.

But once you know the solution, it’s absurdly simple.  Only 20 moves.

Shifting the culture of an organization can be like a good puzzle too…seemingly impossible to solve, but when you know the path, the difficulty goes down. 

Way down.

The law of options

Your customers always have options.

Even if you believe no one else in the market is close to competing with you.

Even if you believe your offer is unique.

For example, one option for your customer is to do nothing. Make no change. Keep the status quo.

Another option is to choose a less-than competitor. Or create a makeshift solution inspired by your solution.

It’s easy to see why many try to disregard this law of options in the value creation process.

Disregarding it puts the creator in control, not the customer. And for many egos, control is too hard to resist.