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Monday, May 30, 2005

Flowmaster Challenge

Saw this some time ago and put it aside to write on it. Okay, it took me awhile to get to it. Here goes.

Oddly enough, while this is
"a disguised example of the process that I have gone through to get system access for a new-start who I have renamed Rupert. The example isn’t quite real, but it’s damned close. In reality there was lots more swearing ..."
it strikes too close to home for comfort. I can use this as an example of what we don't want to do at my own workplace. It should get the attention of a few key folks to help nudge the effort along.

It is not that hard.

You do need to be aware of what is going on.

Think about what it must look like from the outside.

Think about keeping it simple.

Think about keeping the flow going forward.

What data do you need?

What data do you already know (and thereby don't have to ask for)?

Pilot it. Check out the results. Tweak as required.
As for customer input and feedback.

Repeat until the customers are very happy!
(Note that this may take awhile, but keep at it!)

Sunday, May 29, 2005

GEL 2005 - Only a few left

Yes, today has been productive.

I have only to write up the following GEL 2005 Conference speakers:

Bruce Shapiro

Charlie Todd

Dee Breger

Russell Shorto & Charles Gehring

Stay tuned!

GEL 2005 - Ross Kaufman

Ross Kaufman, director of the award winning Born into Brothels, spoke about the development of this documentary of kids with cameras in the red light district of Calcutta.

I have not yet seen this film but it is now high on my list of those I need to see, which is even higher than those I want to see.

He showed some clips from the film and talked of how Zana Briski had come to him with the idea. How he struggled with it, eventually worked on it, and how they eventually finished the film and were a success by winning an Oscar. Their own personal relationship was not so successful.

The kids are still using cameras. The photos that are sold fund their education so that they can leave the red light district. Kids with Cameras is the foundation that coordinates these activities. Zana founded this and Ross is listed as a friend of the board of directors.

A deeply touching story. I'll admit there were tears in my eyes (and I was not alone in that theater feeling that way).

This documentary succeed because it exemplifies many of the current best practices in marketing today.
  • A different idea (the simple use of cameras)
  • From the customers point of view (the kids took the pictures)
  • Passion to succeed against all odds (Zana and Ross's efforts)
If you have not seen the film, let me know what you think.
If this entices you to see the film, let me know.

GEL 2005 - Rick Smolen

Rick Smolen, photographer and multiple book publisher spoke on how he got started. A photographer for National Geographic, he talked of the community of photographers and the normal conflict with the editorial assignments. How no matter where they were assigned, it was always the same set of shots that the editors were looking for. How he thought it would be good for the photographers to be able to just go somewhere and capture the place with their own vision, their own ideas. How he tried to sell this idea around and was unable to get any backers for it. He did get some advice that proved worthwhile. He sought out the film makers (Kodak, et al) to see if they would sponsor this and be featured as the exclusive film used. He sought out airlines to see if they would fly 100 photographers into Australia (his first project) and receive acknowledgement as the exclusive airline for the project. And so on... The concept gained traction this way and needless to say was a success.

Other projects followed. America 24/7 arose from the aftermath of 9/11 and the idea that America was not really the big bad monster that the current political administration was conveying to the rest of the world. They made a special feature available for this book. If you sent them a picture, they would print it as the cover of the book and send it back to you. This was a great selling feature. It personalized the book for each coffee table.

From this project, they realized that many of the photos being sent it as cover shots were of the family dog or cat. It was logical to extend the concept and then Dogs 24/7 and Cats 24/7 were created.

Attendees at the conference came away with one of these two books in the "gift bag". There was quite a swap period amongst the attendees to figure out who had what so that if they ended up with Cats and wanted Dogs, or vice versa, the swap was made and both left happy.

GEL 2005 - Laurie Rosenwald

Laurie Rosenwald, creator of the New York Notebook, designer, and illustrator spoke at the GEL Conference.

She did not convey an imposing personae, yet her insights were amongst the best of the conference. She teaches folks to work quickly. To work without thinking. To just let it happen. Many times. Then step back and select of what you have done, what you would choose to keep.

This ties in with Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, the subtitle you may recall is "The Power of Thinking Without Thinking". If you have heard about it, or read the book, you may recall that by taking and trusting your first impression, your gut reaction, you tend to get the best results. When we stop and think, we tend to let our biases take over. We think too much and thereby tend to go wrong.

Laurie avoids this by working so quickly. You get some good stuff that way.

I wonder if Nike had this in mind when they approved the "Just Do it!" campaign?

GEL 2005 - Theo Jansen

Theo Jansen, creator of strandbeests, was one of the few recipients of a well deserved standing ovation at the GEL Conference. What he is doing is almost unbelieveable! I say almost because as simple as it is in concept, it is based upon math, and better yet, the videos on his web site show these creations in action.

Mark Hurst had the opportunity to interview Theo before the conference here.

Theo describes what he is doing:
It's a sort of symbiosis. I live on these beasts - they give me income - and they live on me, because they need me to make them. You could also say they make me make them. It's already a life form that lives in the media. Many people understand what I'm doing without my having told them; even children, they don't know anything about evolution, but when they look at a beach creature they seem to understand what I'm doing. It's strange. Even in nature - butterflies need flowers, and flowers can't work without worms - everything depends on each other. It's a big symbiosis of many creatures. So the beach animals fit in there.

This is one presentation that I am at a loss for words to describe adequately.

You do need to visit the website: strandbeest.com.
You do need to view some of the videos and web cam shots available there.

Then read on how he uses plastic tubing to create these wonderful moving, almost living beasts.

Astounding! Yes, anything is possible!

GEL 2005 - Bob Mankoff

Bob Mankoff, Cartoon Editor for the New Yorker magazine, is doing some interesting research these days. While he has edited The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker, in addition to contributing some of his own, he is interested in understanding what it is about a cartoon that makes us laugh.

Mark Hurst interviewed Bob before the conference here.

Bob says:
The experience of humor is similar to the 'ah-ha' moment of two things coming together. For humor, two things have to come together to produce the experience of laughter. Normal and abnormal; these things reconciled in a moment, and usually it's a normal situation violated in some way that we can tolerate. You have to have something normal that becomes abnormal, or something that looks abnormal and then become normal.

Technology plays a key role in Bob's research:
We've started preliminary experiments. We watch with high-speed digital cameras to see where people focus their eyes while looking at a cartoon, how long it takes to understand the cartoon.

Bob showed some examples of these cartoons with the each eye of the reader being tracked as an electrical dot moving over the image. This is amazing stuff to figure out how we laugh, what makes one cartoon funnier than another. Given that the amount of time we have to catch someone's attention, and the cost of the delivery, getting it right the first time would help the process. Conceptually, this is not much different that what Sona Chawla is doing with her users and the Wells Fargo web site in what is clearly a different marketplace.

Or is it?

Is not the mind of the customer the marketplace?

What do you think about this?

GEL 2005 - Dan Dubno

Dan Dubno, otherwise known as "Digital Dan" to followers of CBS News, spoke and provided some insight into how CBS told the story of the election of the new pope.

He had video of what CBS projected inside the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican would appear. You'll have to use your imagination here, unless you happened to see the footage on CBS. He decribed how they took pictures and using some new technology, created 3-dimensional images from the pictures. The video tour took you inside the Vatican, inside the Sistine Chapel, down into the tombs where the laid Paul II. The video was amazing. And even more so, having been created from a single dimensional image.

Yet another example of technology advancing what is possible where it had previously been impossible.

What do you wish for?

Think about it.
Someone may already be working on it.
It may yet happen within your lifetime.

And if you have wished for it, maybe you should go for it.
It takes that kind of vision, and passion to drive to the edge to succeed.

GEL 2005 - Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz, author of the recently published The Paradox of Choice, spoke on the contents of his book. (I had picked up the book and attempted to finish it before the conference but was not successful. It is still in a pile of four books in progress that I need to finish.)

Having at least started the book (and made good progress through it) as well as having read a few of the blogging or web articles about it, Barry talks was not as eye-opening for me as it may have been for others. My head was still spinning however with the insights (and implications thereof) that Barry made.

Mark Hurst published a good interview with Barry before the conference here.

If you have not read the book yet, Barry's key point is:

Everyone agrees that having choice is better than not having choice. It seems evident that if choice is good, then more choice is better. The paradox is that this "obvious" truth isn't true. It turns out that a point can be reached where, with more choice, people are worse off.

I highly recommending reading the whole book!

GEL 2005 - Sona Chawla

Sona Chawla, Executive Vice President of Wells Fargo, manages the customer experience on the wellsfargo.com web site.

Sona shared some video of visits to customers houses that Wells Fargo makes. The internet team that Sona leads spends time researching their customers activities on the web site in all the usual ways. Then they spend time with some customers in their homes talking about their finances and how they manage their finances. These conversations are recorded and used for further analysis as the internet team plans for features and enhancements to the web site.

This method takes time and a lot of effort but seems to be worth it in the long run. Wells Fargo was named for having the best integrated web site for 2003.

There is nothing like listening to the customer!

GEL 2005 - Recap thus far

I have thought about reposting the recaps I have done at the GEL 2005 conference here and decided (for the sake of time) to reference them here via links, and then pick up where I left off.

So here goes:

GEL 2005 Intro

The Flying Karamazov Brothers

Jimmy Wales

Alexandra Schwartz

Ron Pompei

Yuri Lane

and more to come....

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Andrew Taylor on "What gets made, what gets seen"

Andrew has a nice posting linking to others and summarizing with:
It's the cultural version of a struggle and juggle that's happening in every communications industry these days...from television news to publishing to newspapers to weblogs. As the means of production get cheaper and better, and the distribution pipe gets larger, expect to see more identity crises among the old guard of what's good.

The old guard looking to maintain status quo, the new guard battering down the walls to create a new playing field.

The lesson in this?

Talk with your customers.
Engage them.
Find out what matters to them.

It may just be the new playing field that they want
but have not be able to express,
that when prompted during a conversation,
they reveal their real desires.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Stanley Marcus on What's Important

There are only two things of importance. One is the customer, and the other is the product. If you take care of customers, they come back. If you take care of your product, it doesn't come back. It's just that simple. And it's just that difficult."
Stanley Marcus

I found this quote along the way and have been using it as part of my signature block within Outlook for my email at work.

It reminds me daily of what is important.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Who's Your Gatekeeper?

Found this at BrandShift, thanks to John Winsor.

Great story: the content fits the context.

What do you mean by that?
I'm glad you asked. I picked up this story from the presentation by Tom Asacker that I attended the other day. It drives the point of the content fitting the context. You could extend it to consistency (but we'll go there another time).

Sign by the side of a rural road. Hand written on a scrap piece of wood, leaning against an old farm stand. The sign says: "Fresh produce for sale".

Now, given the setting, the sign makes sense. If you were to wager on the freshness of the produce, it could not get any fresher than just picked farm the plant.

New scene, slight change. Same road, same sign, hand written, still leaning against the farm stand. Only now the text of the sign says: "Free flying lessons".

Is this an offer that sounds like a real deal to you? I would wager that at this point you would drive right on by thinking that no matter how free the lessons might be, you're not sure if you would be able to enjoy them.

So back to Chipper. He is real and he fits in the Patagonia environment. Could we clone his passion and apply it to a similar gatekeeper, say in a bank? Would Chipper2 attract and maintain good business for the bank?

What do you think?


I have been posting at Steve's Two Cents for a while and branched off to write on running at Passionate Runner.

I joined with Troy Worman to write at The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Blogosphere introducing newly found (whether old or new in blog time) blogs to other bloggers.

This blog will be focused on the good customer experience.

The GEL 2005 conference was a formative moment for me. My business thinking has meandered in various ways over time. I do have a fairly varied background. Customer service, logistics, warehousing, distribution, supply chain management, project management, process re-engineering, vendor management, technical support, life cycle management, and customer advocacy are just some of the roles or functions I have played in my career. I have been a life long learner, of course starting as a secondary school substitute teacher and coach, before moving into the business world probably had something to do with this.

Why was GEL formative?
I was able to identify that other than family and running, sharing the "good experience" was the single item to consolidate my thought processes around a central theme.

So henceforth, if you are looking for my writing on the good customer experience, this is where you can find it.

You can find my writing on running at the Passionate Runner.

You can find my writing on discovered blogs at Hitchhiker's Guide to the Blogosphere.

And finally, you can find my more personal family related items at the one that started all this:
Steve's Two Cents.