Let’s get rid of track changes!

Some of you might still remember Clippy, also known as the most annoying office assistant ( Clippy died with a new version of MS Office. Time for a new ‘less is more’ in office software: Let’s get rid of ‘Track changes’.

Let’s be honest, track changes is about the past. Literary: it shows the past, it is about control, it’s about showing off (“yes, I’ve added something to this”) or getting away from your responsibility (“this document is created by everybody”).

Track Changes comes from a linear world where people work on a document in a linear way: I write something, you add things, a boss reviews and changes things back to the original state (without even realising it is a step back), and you and up with a ‘compromis-à-la-Belge’. This can be good in political situations, but is often the worst option in texts (whether it is copywriting for a customer or an internal document stating requirements for your next product). It lacks cohesion, passion and vision.

And yes, it always looks like a complete mess!

Things aren’t linear: you work on something in parallel. You get input from various people, but you should take responsibility for delivering a good text, not a bunch of rubbish where everybody recognises a little bit, but nobody is really happy (let alone feels enthusiast).

Today’s world is about creating ideas together (in real time), but taking responsibility (yeah, you!) in delivering the end result to the customer, the world,…

Happy writing!

Customer Experience in healthcare.

General practitioners (at least the ‘huisartsen’ in Belgium) do business like they did 60 years ago. In fact, they don’t do business at all. The just do ‘diagnostics’. The thing is, when you feel ill, you don’t need to be diagnosed. You want to get better. And even more: the journey to become better should not make you even more sick…

How things go today (real life example):

I have injured my feet (the bed is stronger than my feet apparently ;-)). Nothing to bad, but I want to make sure it’s not broken or will heal badly. So I call my doctor for an appointment (my doctor only works on appointment). I am lucky and get an appointment today at 11:15. Upon arrival, I find out there are road works, so I need to find a parking spot some streets further. No big deal; but I hate being late and need to hurry (with a injured foot remember ;-)). When I arrive in the waiting room, there are 4 people still there… I already get the creeps…

Because I was under the impression I had a fixed slot (for me, that’s what an appointment is), I have planned other appointments after my doctor visit. Almost one hour later, when somebody is going in, I ask the doctor I am in his agenda… He apologises for the delay but confirms I’m in his agenda -after the one heading in now.

More than one hour later, when I come out … of course the pharmacy is closed because of the delay, so no healing for me today.

I know, things can happen: doctors can have urgencies (and we all hope they drop everything than and go to the rescue), but this happens all the time. And it’s because doctors don’t look at the customer journey of their patients. Information sharing, planning for delight, segmenting customers (I don’t want a social talk, I want it fast and good, whilst others really value a social talk),… All these things that can create a far better patient experience, a better doctor experience and better health overall.


Which general practitioners want to re-design their process? I would love to help!

Everything is a product (towards a goal).

Elon Musk (Tesla, Space X,…) is building a Gigafactory to build batteries. What stroke me is how he defined the building itself in his speech when he launched the Tesla Powerwall, a solution for home owners to disconnect from the electricity grid. Elon said they were building the factory as a product. This is where Elon’s genius comes in.

Batteries are not a fancy high tech product. Building them is mainly a chemical process. Building a chemical factory is not a sexy thing and has been done 1000 times before. However, by approaching the factory as a product (for internal use even), Tesla will once more be able to deliver real innovation.

Let’s take one step back: Building a Gigafactory is not a goal for Elon. The goal of Tesla is to change the energy production towards a more CO2 neutral one. The factory is just a way to help that goal achieve. So with the Gigafactory, Tesla is basically building a product for internal use. The difference this will make in the conception can be huge: Any other firm would probably look at those 1000 other chemical factories, try to scale that and build a factory just like all the others. Not hard to imagine that this factory will have all the benefits & downsides of those 1000 other ones. Because the architects, technicians,… conceiving, building & operating it will be the ones who have experience with all those other factories and bring that experience to the table. All these knowledge will only limit the thinking frame and come up with another dull factory.

Now imagine if you started from that clear goal in delivering a topnotch product to deliver batteries for the home (which no one really did before). This will open the possibilities for factory designers, chemists, supply chain specialists …  to come up with real new solutions to all the problems they will face during construction… and be able to deliver a new kind of factory.

Also for this Gigafactory, Tesla keeps it’s open-source Patent policy which means they actually mean it: their Gigafactory is a product to achieve their larger goal, so whatever they learn & develop during the build of this Gigafactory, it will be open for others to benefit from. Because Elon realises Tesla is not in the market of operating Chemical factories that are different from competition, but in making the world more CO2 neutral. So the more Gigafactories pop up, the better their annual report will look.

The presentation.

Part of the larger speech:

Extreme customer experience: there is no alternative.

Extreme customer experience: there is no alternative.

Whether you are an industrial player, a service provider, in the commodity business, a high-tech start-up or an independent contractor, there is only one sustainable approach towards growth. With the quick product development of today & the stream of quick and easy copycats that work at a much lower cost than you are, the only way to retain customers is by offering something that is far more difficult to copy: an awesome experience. Yes, sorry to break the news, but your customers are not buying your product or service because it’s the best in the world, they buy a solution, an experience that brings the most value to them. And value = f(product characteristics, price, easy of doing business, easy of use, fun, how they can talk about it to their peers, the price,…).

But what about Value Proposition?

Off course, there is the model of Customer Value Propositions, where the insight behind is that a company should choose where it want’s to beat the competition. The goal is that you are ‘on par’ on all the 3 axes, but divert all your focus on one specific access to win the game there.

Value Propositions
Source: The Discipline of Market Leaders, Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema.

With this in mind, you might be inclined to think that focussing on Customer experience is only one option. However, I want to advocate that Customer Experience is not the same as customer Intimacy and that you relentlessly should focus on customer intimacy regardless of your positioning. So yes, you still can be a Product leader, but you will never have the best product when you are not going for extreme customer experience. The reason is simple: the experience is your product seen through the eyes of the customer. Nobody will buy an iPhone if you need to assemble it yourself, put 20 hours in configuring it,… Same goes for operational excellence. Even if you focus on low cost, the way to bring it to customers needs to be extremely good. Of course, the customers experience will be different, but needs to be designed with the Value Proposition in mind. Take a look at the experience Colruyt is given: It’s completely different than that of Delhaize, be they are relentless a creating a unified experience (no locks on the shopping carts, industrial lighting, the walk-in-freezer,…).

So bottom line: don’t let your positioning be an excuse to not go for Extreme customer Experience.

I’m passionate about extreme customer experience. Want to talk about it over a coffee or need some inspiration: let’s talk! A sneak preview of what I can bring to the table.

Making a complex world complicated?

Reading ‘Reinventing organizations’, I stumbled upon a remark by Jean-François Zobrist (FAVI) between the difference between Complicated systems and Complex systems.

Although the difference is quite straightforward when you think about it, we often tend to mix them up with a huge impact on business.

Let me use the metaphor used by Zobrist to explain the difference:
An airplane is a complicated system. There are millions of parts that need to work together seamlessly. But everything can be mapped out: if you change one part, you should be able to predict all the consequences.
A bowl of spaghetti is a complex system. Even though it has just a few dozen “parts”, it is virtually impossible to predict what will happen when you pull at the end of a strand of spaghetti that sticks out of the bowl.

Now what is the impact on business you say?

A lot of businesses are organized to cope with complicated systems. When we talk about complicated systems, we talk about ‘predict & control’. Organizations that are build to predict the future, to create an upfront strategy, to allocate budgets based on this strategy & to follow up KPI’s and the budget by committees and controllers on the road to the predefined goal.
Nothing wrong with that if you are indeed working in a complicated system.
Everything changes when you are operating in a complex system, with lot’s of uncertainty in the ecosphere and within your company. Predict & control proves to be a really bad way of acting in these systems. Evidence points towards a more ‘sense & respond’ way of working in these systems.

Which system do you think your business is really in? And how is your business adapted to it??

An economical system to kickstart purposeful innovation.

There are many kinds of innovation: You have large companies that successfully innovate by creating new products that actually bring value to customers and you have success stories of entrepreneurs building the ‘next big thing’ starting only from a good idea and a lot of stamina.

But the number of innovation stories could be much higher. What is holding us back?

For large companies?

These kind of innovations work because they are supported by a solid company with a belief in a new service and the financial power to back the investment up with large amounts of cash. Of course, for large companies, this belief is linked to the prospect of making profit out of these new products or services. Here we tackle a first limitation: Innovation in large companies will always be less destructive, as shareholders, executives, unions, employees,… will always need to make sure there is some short (or at best medium-) term payback. But the biggest problem probably comes from the fact that these companies always need to take good care that they can capture (a part) of the value they generate with these innovations. And this is where reality kicks in, because companies have an existing value extracting system: a distribution model, competences, physical presence, processes,… that needs also needs to be able to capture the newly created value. If the existing system also needs to be rebuild, not one innovation will have a valid business case.

For startups?

We probably all love this kind of innovation stories, but the thing is that 99% of them has only a limited impact on society as a whole (they are very regional, only focus only a very specific niche, are limited in terms of channels (most of them are online only, so the chance they are reaching a lot of persons over the age of 70 is rather small)). As startups don’t have the size of a large company, they are focussing on the product, without having the market power to leverage the value towards a large base of society.

Now what what would happen if we could combine both? Suppose there would exist a system that would create an economic incentive for large companies and thus for the people working in those large companies to stimulate innovation even if it could not be captured directly by the company. Suppose I am working for an energy supplier* and we would have found a way to make invoicing 50% more easy, less cumbersome,… It works for us and we are confident it could bring value to a lot of companies & citizens in the country. But we know it’s not our core business, and we probably will not be the company that can make money out of it. As a consequence, nothing will happen. But what if there would be some kind of remuneration for this system if it’s developed more broadly and actually can be used by other companies? The solution will then be developed further and society as a whole will be better, won’t it?

Which kind of system do you think will work? A government that generates funding for this, the creation of a platform at country level to sort of crowd fund these ideas,…? Or am I just a dreamer?

Happy dreaming!

*Full disclose: I am working for an energy supplier 😉

Innovation is not a business unit, it is a mindset.

A lot of companies set up a dedicated innovation department, expect the world of it and then… get disappointed by the results.

The reason is simple: typically these departments are organised to work on business changing and money generation projects which tend to be… well large.

To make it very clear: they should be there and they should be filled with some of your best people, but innovation is more than only this. It is also about your team member having an idea on how to get your insights faster to the sales team, on how to save 1000 Euro by doing something different, on just testing out that new product tweak with a real customer (yes, he might be surprised, but he will not kill you for it), on trying to use a new tool to get organised better, on sharing that one thing you learned from that book/blog you read.

Innovation is about going out their, alone or with your team and challenge the status-quo of your day to day operations.