- Part 2 – page 2
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Most marketers would agree that having and demonstrating they know the customer well is a key to great customer service. Nevertheless, it is possible to go overboard when trying to know the customer well. The signs I found in a Western Kansas Days Inn demonstrate  that knowledge can also be a little disconcerting when it’s less about providing great customer service and appears to be more about micro-managing the customer experience.

Don’t Clean

For instance, not sure I wanted to know—via this sign on the table by the television—that the customer experience of the previous occupants of my room had possibly involved cleaning game or boarding hunting dogs where I was walking around barefoot.

Do Clean

On the other hand, I found it interesting that those same bird-shooting, dog-keeping occupants were significant consumers of beauty aids that must be removed with a special cloth.

Did You Clean Enough?

Finally though, I did appreciate that while the hotel management was going to charge me if I stole any of the linens, that they were going to check daily to make sure that I was following good hygiene practices.

How do you want to see a brand managing your customer experience?

How do you react when it feels as if a brand is micro-managing the customer experience? Do you appreciate the deep knowledge they have about you and does it translate into great customer service? Or would you prefer the brand simply back off and give you some room? – Barrett Sydnor

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at [email protected] or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your customer service in a smart way without seeming as if you’re micro-managing the customer experience.

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Are you making sure the strategic questions you use are “open, neutral, and lean”?

There is a lot on the Brainzooming blog about the value of collecting and asking great strategic questions. Complementing those articles, a recent piece from the Pointer Review Project Blog by Jason Fry on the ESPN website highlighted a recommended strategic question formula. The recommendation comes via John Sawatsky, a well-known Canadian investigative reporter.

Sawatsky uses a method he developed systematically over the last thirty years that centers on open, neutral, and lean questions. The breakthrough to his strategic question formula occurred working with students to conduct research for a book on Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Each week during the project, he gave all his students the same questions to ask potential interviewees. He expected some students to be good interviewers and some not so good, but nearly without fail, the type of question determined success more than an individual interviewer’s skills.

Sawatsky found that “open, neutral, and lean” questions were consistently more successful at getting interview sources to open up with answers that yielded useful information and insight.

What are Open, Lean, and Neutral Questions?

Here are the three characteristics and how they play into the strategic question formula:

  • Open questions – These can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no.” Open questions probe on what, how, and why.
  • Neutral questions – The queries avoid adding value statements and judgments, which distract and bias the respondent.
  • Lean questions – As the name suggests, these are brief and conceptually simple. Lean questions keep the respondent on point and don’t allow them to pick and choose what they want to answer.

This strategic question formula is an intriguing guide in not only developing new questions, but checking those already in use to make sure they’re as productive as possible.

What ways do you hone strategic questions you use? How might the open, neutral, and lean question formula influence your approach? – Barrett Sydnor

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A significant barrier to being consistently and effectively innovative is the wall that says you are not succeeding unless you (or your team, or your company) is creating “The Next Big Thing.” But our lives, business and personal, are full of hundreds of small things. The people and companies that make those small things easier to use, more convenient, or less costly are doing yeoman’s work in both incremental innovation and creativity, even if they never create the big thing.

Here are three such small examples of incremental innovation that I’ve come across—two come from recent travels and the third is due to our hot, wet Kansas City spring.

1. Travel soap that doesn’t melt as easily.

The soap holder in nearly every hotel/motel shower I have ever used is a magnet for water. Ergo, the soap you put there is soon a molten mess. If you put bumps on the bottom of the soap bar, however, it stays out of the water, lasts longer and is more pleasant to use.

2. More counter space with no increase in room size.

Staying in that same incremental innovation space—literally. It isn’t often that a hotel/motel bathroom has anywhere close to enough counter space for one, much less two people’s health and beauty products. At this Red Lion in Denver, they did not make the bathroom bigger, but they did increase the counter space by making the toilet tank lid flat with a small lip around the edge.

3. Making yard work fun slightly more tolerable.

It’s been hot early in Kansas City this year and that has resulted in significantly more grass mowing. If you have a mower that uses a gas/oil blend, you know how hard it is to get that mix right. The number of ounces of oil you can buy seldom matches the size of your gas container. Ace Hardware is solving that problem. With its container for two-cycle oil you squeeze the bottom section until you have the desired amount in the upper section. Then you can easily pour that amount—and only that amount—into the gas can. You get the right mix and you pay less for the oil, because you can buy more at a time and you have no waste.

Yes, each of these may represent an incremental innovation, but I was thankful for them. And I remember who was responsible and it has upped the chances of me returning to that hotel chain and that hardware store.  – Barrett Sydnor

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at [email protected] or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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1

Recently, venture capitalist and senior Kauffman fellow, Paul Kedrosky, gave the last of four scheduled presentations at the Kauffman Foundation relating to Google Fiber. He concentrated on what Kansas City should do to make sure it—and the U.S.—gets the most out of the Google Fiber innovation opportunity. Here are four specific lessons on Google Fiber innovation from Paul Kedrosky that likely apply to our organizations as we strive for greater innovation.

1. Co-location

Kedrosky said some applications are not appropriate for development in Kansas City. Development must take place close to where they will eventually be used because even with extremely fast internet connects, execution or feedback will not be fast enough. The reason for this may be physical (in the case of stock trading, the speed of light is the limitation) or they may be sociological or cultural.

The lesson: Make sure that functions in your organization requiring nearly immediate feedback are in proximity—in terms of both physical location and where they fit in the hierarchy. Think sales and marketing, or production and engineering as examples where co-location is critical.

2. Upload/download symmetry

No matter how fast you can download information, it really does not matter if your upload bandwidth is too narrow. Eventually the download will become “occluded,” that is stopped or slowed because the response (upload) moves too slowly

The lesson: If senior management is not giving fast enough feedback and providing enough information, it makes no difference how much capacity an organization has. The organization will eventually stop what it is doing because it is waiting for senior management direction.

3. Understand the advantage/inevitability of flat-rate pricing

Historically the trend in communications is to flat rate pricing. The same first-class stamp takes your letter across the street or across the country. Likewise, long distance calling is rarely metered anymore. Widespread adoption and use becomes the counterbalance for falling prices.

The lesson: Customers shy away from pricing that involves cognitive complexity and risk. They ask questions such as, “What happens if I go over my limit?” or ”What else might I want to do with this product that I won’t be able to?” Look for ways you can make your pricing model flatter. Think restaurants and buffets. Also, consider making standard the options and add-ons that customers want or need. Price in a way that forgoes some upfront revenue but creates more satisfied customers—who, in turn, are likely to return and buy more.

4. Encourage playful experimentation and waste

Paul Kedrosky believes Kansas City will only make the creative breakthroughs in using Gigabit speed if it actively encourages, even demands, playful experimentation and waste. Indeed the title of his presentation was “Waste Lots, Want Lots.” Waste should come in two forms: waste of bandwidth and waste of latency.

The lesson: Ask these questions: Would you have encouraged (and rewarded) an employee who spent time in the back shop soldering seemingly random circuit boards together? Would you have encouraged (and rewarded) an employee who spent time, lots of time, trying to figure out a more systematic way to meet girls? If the answer is no, then you would have not been in on the founding of either Apple or Facebook. You may say that there are no Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg working for you. You are most likely right, and we could know at least one reason why. –Barrett Sydnor

 

How can ultra high-speed internet speeds drive innovation? “Building the Gigabit City: Brainzooming a Google Fiber Roadmap,” a free 120-page report, shares 60 business opportunities for driving innovation and hundreds of ideas for education, healthcare, jobs, community activities, and more.  Download this exclusive Google Fiber report sponsored by Social Media Club of Kansas City and The Brainzooming Group addressing how ultra high-speed internet can spur economic development, growth, and improved lifestyles globally. 

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3

This past weekend CityCampKC, the Kansas City version of the international unconference, focused on innovative strategies in Kansas City for municipal governments and community organizations. The event culminated in a CityCampKC hackathon with a sold-out crowd of programmers and non-programmers working on developing an app to help metro residents and visitors better bike, walk, and use public transit.

Before the hackathon, however, there was morning of presentations that included lots of innovative ideas and sources. I picked out nine innovative strategies showcasing cool people, places, and things at CityCampKC that struck me as particularly interesting:

1. BikeShareKC – Sarah Shipley gave a high energy, visually intense presentation about the new public transportation option that is coming to Kansas City in June.

2. They’ve Got It, You Want It, How to Get It – David Herzog, associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, detailed OpenMissouri.org, a tool the jschool has developed to help connect citizens to data that is stored offline by state and local government.

3. Ten Things about Troost – There are lots of innovative things happening along Troost Avenue, long something of a racial border within Kansas City. One of the ten was the the greatest community service operations you can imagine, Operation Breakthrough.

4. Aaron Deacon and the Ecosystem – Aaron Deacon of The Curiolab talked about “New Models of Civic Progress: Infrastructure + Ecosystem.” Very interesting points he made about using technology to make us both individually and collectively more productive rather than just consumptive.

5. Embrace the Flyover – Jabbar Wesley wants us to show that innovation, particularly multicultural innovation, does not just occur on the coasts. To demonstrate this, Jabbar Wesley and his organization, Social Feen, are putting on Novel Day 2012 this November.

6. SeeClickFix – See a problem in your neighborhood, report it with a few clicks and then track when/how it gets fixed.

7. A Streetcar Named Twitter – New applications of mass transit have been virtually dead in Kansas City for decades. Now it looks like there is at least a chance streetcars in Kansas City may be coming (back) to downtown. Streetcar Neighbors used Twitter and Facebook to build support for a plan that would allow a vote to fund streetcars in Kansas City through a special taxing district.

8. You can go to Harvard and/or MIT – Big deal universities are offering online courses, often for free. LABx, founded by Darrin Ragsdale, is helping flip the classroom with OpenCourseWare technology support for Harvard’s Introduction to Computer Science, CS50, with support for more classes to come.

9. Shareabouts – The platform used to build the app that resulted from the CityCampKC hackathon. –Barrett Sydnor

 

How can ultra high-speed internet speeds drive innovation? “Building the Gigabit City: Brainzooming a Google Fiber Roadmap,” a free 120-page report, shares 60 business opportunities for driving innovation and hundreds of ideas for education, healthcare, jobs, community activities, and more.  Download this exclusive Google Fiber report sponsored by Social Media Club of Kansas City and The Brainzooming Group addressing how ultra high-speed internet can spur economic development, growth, and improved lifestyles globally. 

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The Kauffman Foundation is hosting a series of speakers in Kansas City to provide ideas, inspiration, and innovation lessons for how Kansas City can best take advantage of innovation opportunities with the The Google Fiber project. The latest Google Fiber project innovation talk was from Nick Donofrio, former executive vice president for innovation and technology at IBM. You can watch the presentation here.

My top 7 innovation lesson takeaways from the Nick Donofrio speech include:

1. Innovation isn’t about starting with the solution. Make sure you start with understanding the problem.

Donofrio stresses that starting with the solution often occurs because that is where our experience, specialization, and biases are. He stressed over and over that Kansas City can’t view Google Fiber as a solution, but rather as a tool or an enabler for solving significant problems.

2. Understand this century’s recipe for innovation.

The recipe for innovation in the 21st century is an environment that is collaborative, open, multi-disciplinary, and global.

3. It is just as important (and sometimes more) to innovate in process and in business model as it is to innovate in product or service.

Donofrio detailed examples from Sweden and India. In Sweden, the deputy mayor of Stockholm changed the process for dealing with a large project, from bidding it out one piece at a time, to bidding it as a whole. In India, Bharti Airtel moved away from a business model in telecommunications that called for owning everything to one that just owns the client interface. Vendors and suppliers own/run the network, the back office, etc. Oh, and the phones are really free.

4. Count on it being an instrumented, interconnected world, so innovation must work in those areas.

There are now 250 billion devices connected to the Internet. The trend is on its way to one trillion devices connected to the Internet.

5. In education beware of the “flop on top” when it comes to technology.

Too often in the U.S., we impose technology on education (our solution) without an understanding of what problem we are trying to solve.

6. There is a huge opportunity for innovation using big data sets.

The cost of calculation has decreased by a magnitude of 16 in the last 100 years (10 to the 16 power). In the next 20 years, the cost of calculation is expected to decrease another magnitude of 8. This dramatic reduction in the cost of calculation allows modeling and simulation of almost anything.

7. You never know who has the last piece of the puzzle when solving significant problems.

The innovation lesson is that it is vital innovation efforts be inclusive. For societies, this creates both an opportunity and a responsibility for those at that top of the socio-economic pyramid to make sure that those at the base of the socio-economic pyramid are included and have genuine opportunity.  – Barrett Sydnor


How can ultra high-speed Internet speeds drive economic development? 
“Building the Gigabit City: Brainzooming the Google Fiber Roadmap,” a free 120-page report, shares 60 business opportunities for and hundreds of ideas for education, healthcare, jobs, community activities, and more.  Download this exclusive report on the Google Fiber project by The Brainzooming Group addressing how ultra high-speed Internet can spur economic development, growth, and improved lifestyles globally. 

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It’s not THAT often when successful presentation tips can make a 6-figure financial difference in your career, but that was the case recently in Kansas City. I attended the Gigabit Challenge Finale in Kansas City recently where 17 finalists (individuals or teams) made the last presentation pitch for winning $450,000 in cash and services. Organized by Think Big Partners, the Gigabit Challenge was a global competition centered on the prospects for taking advantage of the Google Fiber initiative under development in Kansas City.

While I admired the creative ideas and hard work that the Gigabit Challenge finalists demonstrated, the PowerPoint presentations were, for the most part, underwhelming.

Presenters faced a panel of 17 contest judges (mostly from the legal and financial worlds), another 250 members of the live audience, and an online audience that averaged about that same number. Each presenter had ten minutes to present their idea and five minutes for questions from the contest judges.

Here are seven successful presentation tips on how many groups could have scored better with all of those audiences:

1. Make sure we know who you are.

Make your name and contact information the first slide in your PowerPoint presentation and make it the last. The judges may know who you are, but why not make sure? Also, the rest of the audience could contain people who have the financial resources, the intellectual piece of the puzzle, or the contacts that you’ve been missing. Make it easy for them to remember you and find you later by repeating your name and contact information.

2. It’s Showtime, Folks.

If you are asking people to invest in your creative idea, they need to be excited about your creative idea. Somewhere in your presentation, you need some drama, whether it is from your performance, from the images on your PowerPoint slides, or from the audacious brilliance of your idea. All three would be good.

3. Use the power of PowerPoint.

Nearly every finalist had some process story to tell – either in how they were going to develop their idea or it was going to be used. But almost no one used the power of basic PowerPoint capabilities. It does nice builds, visual effects, sound effects, reveals, takeaways, etc. It has limitations, but basic PowerPoint capabilities will do a whiz-bang job of focusing the audience’s attention on just what you want them to see when you want them to see it.

4. If we can’t read it, you don’t need it.

Many, okay most, of the presentations had PowerPoint slides that contained way more words than anyone could possibly read during the time they were displayed. That level of verbal detail is what your business plan is for, not your presentation. Words on slides should be cues for the points you want to make in your presentation.

5. Play it safe(ty) margin.

Sometime during the day, the projector went a little off kilter and began cutting off the edges of the slides. That’s not uncommon. Account  for it by making sure that your slide content stays inside a safety area that covers no more than 75 percent of the PowerPoint slide’s area.

6. Have a plan.

This applies to two areas. Many of the presenters presented ideas rather than business plans. If I was looking to invest, I want to know who would be interested in buying your  product/service, how you were going to develop and market that product/service, and what the cost and revenue projections were—pretty much in that order. If that level of detail isn’t available or possible at this point, I would suggest an organization scheme that borrows from the SPIN selling method.

7. It’s your time in the sunshine, enjoy yourself.

Just being on that stage means you done good. Act like you want to be there.

To learn more about the possibilities of Google Fiber you can download the free report sponsored by the Social Media Club of Kansas City and prepared by The Brainzooming Group. – Barrett Sydnor


How can ultra high-speed Internet speeds drive innovation? 
“Building the Gigabit City: Brainzooming a Google Fiber Roadmap,” a free 120-page report, shares 60 business opportunities for driving innovation and hundreds of ideas for education, healthcare, jobs, community activities, and more.  Download this exclusive Google Fiber report by The Brainzooming Group addressing how ultra high-speed Internet can spur economic development, growth, and improved lifestyles globally. 

 

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