The Travel Agent for millennials: a lesson in digital customer experience from Europe’s smartest tourist agency

In a recent release from the Rough Guide people, the country voted the most beautiful in the world was the perhaps unexpected Scotland (my home country). Not making the top 20 was Australia (my adopted country) which was subject to some discussion and debate. I myself can vouch for how nice Manly Beach in Sydney is on a Spring morning vs a wet February day in the old country but the heavily young readership of the Rough Guides don’t lie so the title is Scotland’s.

Now it’s not just the pretty pictures that get the job done. It’s worth saluting the people at VisitScotland (who have some serious game) who have the customer experience right in the middle of their thinking. Namely;

–         Focus on creating moments

–         Build an adventure and an experience

–         Be authentic and unique and let people do the work for you

–         Be smart in the engagement

 The Instagram Travel agency

Let’s start with something really clever. In late October, Visit Scotland set up a Instagram Travel Agency in a physical location in London. Believe it or not, Scottish tourism has the biggest Instagram following of anywhere in Europe (which is extraordinary if you think about it) and of that following, the biggest group is from London.

What they did was to create an Instragram wall in a physical shop with a range of photographs from which people picked their favourites and the agents were there to build an itinerary for you based on those picks.

https://www.visitscotland.com/blog/events/instagram-travel-agent/

So what?

Here is where knowing your customers is pretty smart. The number one problem for Scottish tourism is the weather. There is no guarantee of good weather at any point of the year so it is always a lottery. Going back to Australia losing out in the top 20, you could reasonably expect Sydney to have better weather on 350 days a year vs Scotland so if you are planning a trip for three weeks, you’d be smarter to pick Oz right?

Not anymore for the Instagram generation. There is an incredible desire to create ‘moments’ which you can record and share. Finding a perfect moment becomes a primary objective to judge the success of your trip. Now, for Scotland this is perfect because in between the rain or the clouds, you will always get a few pictures of astonishing beauty.

It is for this reason that Scotland is Instagram’s biggest fan.

The North Coast 500

I saw recently that a friend on Facebook had completed the ‘North Coast 500’ which I had never heard of. Having looked at the pictures and had a look at the website (which you can too) I discovered that it is in fact a brand new creation of a Scottish ‘Route 66’ in the far north coast (An area which is not renowned for large visitor numbers). It has been created from nothing as an adventure, you can subscribe be a ‘member’ which includes a £250 gold package with free merchandising, offers, a bottle Scottish gin etc, but importantly, a regular update on what is happening and access to a special ‘club’. It has also been simplified beautifully to make it easy to plan. Pre-set itineraries – basic to luxury, different sections; top, bottom, all. Themes; adventure, relax, indulge

It has been created in the way you would create any modern product to sell. ‘This is our most popular package’, ‘simple click to plan your route’, ‘interactive map (Instagram connected)’, ‘Aston Martin driving experience’ (message; it’s a dream for driving and doing it in your 1998 Nissan Micra will be just as good).

Having never been to this area in my 30 years living in Scotland, I am now as an outsider furiously desperate to go.  This is not how you’d typically sell tourism but….increase in numbers 29,000, £9m extra investment which is a big number for a pretty remote and not commonly visited.

It’s an experience, it’s simple to buy and you can be part of a community

https://www.northcoast500.com/

 #scotspirit

For a few years now, Scottish tourism has been desperately pushing a hashtag friendly motto to encourage engagement. #homecoming  #scotspirit  and even changed the name of the tourist board to the twitter friendly  #visitscotland.

Personally, I thought they were trying too hard but I’m wrong. The Instagram following is around 400k and as with any good social media, it is a virtuous circle of the community feeding more pictures which encourages more interest and engagement.

The plan for this year at Scotland’s marquee day Hogmanay (New Year), is to use real people from amongst the 20,000 carrying torches to spell out a giant #scotword with a word to be selected by a vote from the people of Scotland on what ‘makes them proudest to be Scottish’. This will in turn become the next iteration of pushing their Social Media (with a ready made fantastic visual)

The push for authenticity comes from enabling people to push the positive messages about Scotland knowing that Scotland is a country almost designed for Instagram. Each of those pictures is a real and personal view of Scotland and with your typical filter, looks great.

Be authentic and unique and let people do the work for you

Engagement

Going back to the Travel Agency, Visit Scotland are following a trend in sales and marketing which is to create ‘experience centres’ where the Digital presence is used to drive physical stores. Amazon, Apple etc are already all over this but it shows that it’s applicable everywhere.

There are lots of examples (usually in airports) to push VR or visuals to market tourism but this jump into the sales/service aspect is really fascinating for tourism. Our Celtic cousins in Ireland produced my all-time favourite marketing campaign

Ireland in VR

With the near absolute market penetration of Irish bars globally, they already have experience centres everywhere in the world. It’s perhaps no surprise Scottish tourism numbers lag way behind Ireland’s (around 3m trips vs 9m trips per year – even with UK visitor numbers skewing that a bit). You can have a Guinness in a bar in Manila and it you can pretend you are in Dublin, which gets you thinking…..

The opportunity afforded by social media to build brand awareness and engagement is considerable and the mix of the sales, marketing and service channels will increasingly be smart business for tourism. Scotland can’t overnight build a pub in every city but VR, Instagram etc is a very cost effective way of doing something similar.

So, Scotland can be commended for its approach to customer engagement – numbers this year are up 28% on last year overall and 49% from North America alone which even accounting for the Outlander effect and the £ sterling Brexit Armageddon is pretty good.

www.thecorporatefuturist.com

Scotland ‘The Most Beautiful Country in the World TM’ – To see why, have a look at the #scotspirit on Instagram or Twitter.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/nov/01/scotland-feels-the-strain-as-tourism-causes-disruption-across-the-highlands

I would stress that I have no connection with VisitScotland other than as proud Scottish person (who does agree that it’s the most beautiful country in the world…. maybe joint with New Zealand, or Canada, possibly France….

Recruitment in 2017: The Digital Diversity Dilemma

Digital is disrupting everything and this includes the recruitment process. Some corporates are going so far as to remove the academic requirements as entry criteria to rely more thoroughly on their own tools to assess talent. What are the unintended consequences though? And how do we find the value amidst the noise?

 

 

http://www.ey.com/uk/en/newsroom/news-releases/15-08-03—ey-transforms-its-recruitment-selection-process-for-graduates-undergraduates-and-school-leavers

Back in 2003 when I was applying for one particular graduate role, I had a conversation with the HR lead about psychometric tests where I gave my opinion; 1) that you could learn them and most companies used a small range of suppliers (after a few, my marks were awesome, mostly because I’d seen them before) and 2) they are ignoring a range of skills and abilities that you can’t test with a online paper with some people who fail, who might be great.

Her response at the time was something I hadn’t thought of namely; we get enough applicants so that we could take a random 10%, interview them and get enough quality people for the job. The psychometric tests were there to apply some marginal value to whittling down to a manageable number. Having made it though to the last round myself following 4 tests, 3 interviews and a 3 day assessment centre, I discovered they had a quota of 8 people from the 10 that had made it that far.  This was of scant consolation given my finishing position of 9th.

In the subsequent years, the process I don’t believe has become more personal. There are interviews conducted online using webcams, various assessment centres, interviews and a range of new tests. Digital has enabled much more to be done in the process with less human intervention. From engaging quite closely with the graduate process in particular for a consulting firm, I arrived at the end of the process for the assessment centres and the interviews. Over the years, I’ve not noticed any obvious change in the type of candidate.

Except one.

I think there has been a decrease in graduate candidates from  poorer backgrounds and I have seen a definite trend towards private schooled and very polished graduates. This is no disrespect to some of the excellent grads I’ve worked with but I wonder whether we’d profit from looking at a better social mix.  Now, I don’t want to speak to wider socio-economic trends or education  but as regards just the process itself.

Here are some things to think about;

1)     The digital process – Digital allows for a range of new tests, tools and processes to be delivered/off shored and analysed to bring some analytics to the overall process. This now includes recorded webcam interviews, Skype interviews etc.  The polish which looks good in that process is actually taught in private schools. These kids arrive at University already better prepared for the type of interview process which is increasingly prevalent. I am guilty myself of being impressed by graduates who deliver a nice presentation but even before the grads get to the interview stage, many have been removed from the process. In the early 2000’s there was a trend towards removing dates of birth and photos on CVs to make for a supposedly fairer judgement. The new process essentially doubles down on the original problem by bringing how people look right to the start.

 2)     Academic scores – can actually be a leveller. Your exams are the same for everyone so there is some balance in the scoring. It’s easy to say that exams are not the only thing and that all the extra work is important but the hierarchy of needs for less well-off students is that they spend 25 hrs a week working at a shop and then the rest on their studies.  Is this recognised in the same way as 5 hours of charity work a week would be? For students working every summer full time to save a bit of money vs 3 months on a volunteer charity program in Africa; is there a fair assessment of value? If you remove the scores as a main driver of selection, do you actually make it less fair for some?

 3)     EQ vs IQ –  I’ve written before about the rise of EQ as a core skill vs IQ as the main marker of value. The combination of this plus Digital is why I think companies are looking to remove academics as the gatekeeper of selection. You could essential allow every university student in the country to apply for 1 job if you have enough intelligence and analysis going into the process. A big AI engine could run through the applications and pick out the best people. However, your fit with the culture, your opinions and way of presenting them, and your approach to innovation and creativity are increasingly important. How ready are the tools and the AI to be able to apply those criteria? And even more so, if we are explicitly looking for more diversity of thought. How can that be built into the tool?

 All in all, recruitment faces the same challenges as with anything in Digital Transformation which is to make sure that Digital supports and enables in the first instance and as the technology progresses, you give away more of the qualitative measuring to the AI.

As soon as you measure something, people will find a way to try and game the system. Private schools know that employers like charity work so the pupils are obliged as part of their lives to do charity work (and are assisted in the process). Google constantly change their algorithms not necessary to make them better but because people work out how to get their positioning higher.

The highest position in the search always goes to the people paying the most, the richest not necessarily the best. We need to make sure that’s not the future for recruitment.

www.thecorporatefuturist.com

PS as a bonus,  if you consider recruitment as a CRM process here’s where it might be going.

No touch recruitment –  AI searches online information Social Media, LinkedIn etc and just selects the candidates without anything process at all. You get an IM on LinkedIn offering you a job on a 3 month probation – it doesn’t work out, no harm no foul.

The High School Draft  – ignore university all together, pick candidates out of high school NBA style, sponsor training for them as university modules across a range of universities and training centres. Get the best candidates before anyone else.

Managing Blade Runners : An AI future for management

The premise of Blade Runner is that robots have become indistinguishable from human beings and having decided that this isn’t perhaps the greatest idea; the decision is made to get rid of all the robots. However, precisely because they are essentially identical it’s a tough job and because they don’t know they are robots, it’s even harder. There are a range of moral and psychological discussions which have spurred many a student conversation.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-w-whitehead/blade-runner_b_1445387.html

However, I’m a management consultant so I care more about the managerial and leadership implications of AI and robotics.

Let’s start with a spectrum of AI starting with me (just my brain and my experiences), and then there’s me with a knowledge base (laptop + phone), then me with some AI (Augmented Reality, AI engine, VR maybe), then there’s robot me 1985 Short Circuit version; ability to learn (input, input), process and rationalise and then there’s 2049 Blade Runner me, two of me slightly refined and programmed to be more effective and manageable.

Along that spectrum, each version of me requires different management to take best advantage of my skills and potential but for my manager, she’s going to have to change her approach by the time we get to 2049.

Individual decision making – in a world where everything happens faster and faster, there is a requirement for decision making to keep pace. As the saying goes, ‘a bad decision is better than no decision’. However,  the process for individual decision making relies on taking on board information, advice and environment and then doing what you think is best. When you have AI which assesses all possible outcomes and factors, how brave will you have to be to go against the advice? In all science fiction films ever, the role of the computer/robot is to say ‘there’s a 92% chance that we will die in a massive fireball’ but without exception, the human protagonist will say something like ‘never tell me the odds’ and then does it anyway.

The situation will be that either you have to take the advice from the AI because you yourself can’t work it all out or we’ll all need to be Han Solo, ignoring the odds and therefore the value of the advice? What does the robot do when you ignore them? Do they apply the escalation protocol or take over themselves?

Instinct and accident – there are many a good things discovered by accident; penicillin, post-it notes, the microwave, America. There is also the 400 popular motivational quotes showing how instinct is incredibly important to decision making and success. With experience, most people will make decisions because ‘it feels right’ or ‘smells wrong’. With immense AI, will we ever do anything by accident or instinct anymore and how might we direct our team. As every consultant will tell you, the greatest invention in human history is the post-it note. A 3M guy invented some sticky stuff, a church goer friend wanted to stick bookmarks in his bible and hey presto, a legend was born. Now the robots can probably do the sticky bit but perhaps not the church bookmark bit?

In the future team, how do you direct the AI what to do. It’s already happening that machine learning means that you don’t always have to in the first place but the there needs to be either a genesis for an idea or human link to do something with it. Will AI take away our need for instinct or an approach to try something without seeing the value?

Emotional connection and personalities – there is a strength of leadership which comes from supporting and developing people. Building an emotional connection, making people feel safe and valued, and contributing to their development and learning; these are requisite in an effective leader. With those things, people work harder, do better and add more value. This requirement is not one a robot has, but as with Blade runner, the robots are better when they are given the connection to a past and some emotions. You can accordingly download the ‘your manager is great’ patch and realise the same value.

If you are spending 20% – 50% of your time working with people to develop them (as you should) you will in future, have 20 to 50% more time. You will be used to managing the flow of requests and instructions which will be done quicker, will require less supervision and won’t need the pesky personal development time. (my own coffee budget will reduce by at least 80%, decimating the local economy).

Assuming then, there will be a mixed team of humans and (androids), what is already a hard dynamic to get right will be made much harder (or easier). Will your new management role as a benevolent dictator to the AI machines  go alongside the training of a smaller team of humans in how to be they too can become an authoritarian despot.

In Blade Runner, everyone is ruthless and contains their emotions as they don’t quite know what is real and what is not. It is perhaps this type of manager who will be successful in future. Life in management consultancy is to expect to work in many teams for many managers. A resource request is not for a person but a set of skills. E.g. I need a senior con with HRM experience in the public sector. This approach to resources as a commodity is only likely to become increasingly the norm.

Work structure – we essentially work 9-5 with  grey areas around starting early and finishing late. Even after 50 years of working broadly to those times to match with sunrise and sunset in the northern hemisphere, we are still following that standard. This tradition completely  changes with increased use of AI. There will be a big block of work running 24/7 so what will the role of manager be to oversee the work? Will everyone’s day be 2 hours in a block or will we all be on-call all of the time waiting for the 2 hours whenever its needed?

Now, we aren’t going to be living in a Blade Runner world immediately but you can already see the parallels in the corporate world.

Decision making is increasingly being driven into centralised buckets by project management tools which support the process.

The access to reports and information means senior people can more quickly make lower level decisions.

The focus is on efficiency and effectiveness with reduced time for making valuable ‘accidents’ and instinct is increasingly taking a back seat to information.

There’s also a reduction in direct leadership and development with inspiring leaders more readily available online and we are already working through the clock in India, the US, Europe and Asia.

We just need the androids and their electric sheep.

http://www.thecorporatefuturist.com

The Odd Couple – Getting Designers and Consultants to get along

One’s boring old fashioned, clean and tidy and wears a nice suit, the other’s messy, shaggy haired and goes to burning man. How will they ever get along? Simple answer; it’s the business model and the culture.

Throughout the years, each of the consulting firms has had a stereotype. I’ll show some tact and not describe them specifically but there was a particular clone army who used to arrive at careers’ fairs en masse; everyone in chinos and well ironed semi-casual shirts. They were very open about looking for a certain type of person to join their team and typically, you could pick the likely candidates without anyone opening their mouths. There was another company where the wearing of shoes other than black would be considered a disciplinary matter.

To varying extents, all the consulting companies up until the past few years pursued a similar approach. I knew a number of people who left my own organisation with commentary thereafter that ‘they were an _____ person anyway’. However, with the world of consulting changing so has the approach to hiring and acquisition.

Buying design

The aforementioned chino brigade like the others have bought a design agency and are integrating that into their business.  Everyone else has done something similar but the legacy company won’t suddenly change overnight. Strangely given what consultants do for a living, not everyone is managing the change perfectly. So if you are designer at a consulting firm, here’s a quick lesson in transformation with a view towards what might happen. Here are example 4 integration models. (there are many, many more)

Option 1) The Trojan horse – you set up a new team in the middle of the business with a new name or new job titles. It’s ostensibly part of the same structure and is integrated into the P&L. All the operations work the same and the design people are treated like every other consultant. A slow gradual change of bringing in the skills, starting to get projects and building the team. The team starts to grow and subsume other bits of the business until eventually, it’s no longer the small bit rather the main bit. The change to the business is to blend the skills and capabilities towards the design elements and you transform the business from within.

Problem; is getting through the first couple of years. The designers don’t want to be like everyone else and the performance management is difficult to compare oranges and apples. The culture is a big shock for the new people so they retreat into their own team a little. The rest of the team resents them for ‘getting special treatment’ and some of the designers leave. The experiment is considered a failure and the team is rolled into an existing team.

Option 2) The Mercenary force – you recognise that the skills and culture is so different to the existing business that you keep them separate. Different office, different structure and management. You integrate the services into the business with a service catalogue where you buy in resource from the ‘mercs’. You spend weeks trying to work out how to price it and end up with a compromise. The value is seen in the delivery, the people and the brand is protected and the services can be integrated into the business. The symbiotic relationship works for everyone and everyone is happy.

Problem: is the project managers in the main business who see that they get less margin from using the mercenaries rather than their own people. They see the credit for the good work go elsewhere so they start to try and resource the projects from their own teams. They’ve seen it done before so they repurpose people to do something similar. However, they don’t do as well so the quality drops. The new business gets less money and looks to sell things themselves and even competing with the main business. Either way, someone loses out in some revenue and after a power struggle, eventually moves are made to take it in-house.

Option 3) The club mascot – the business builds something shiny which looks great and has a small team. A huge force of marketing is put into the endeavour both external and internal. The new people feel special and existing staff aspire to join the special team. (needs to have an especially cool name).

Problem; is that it’s likely to be a cost centre and for it’s nice for a while whilst you invest lots in the venture. Eventually thoough someone asks what the business is getting as value and chances are that it slowly loses traction, funding and eventually people. You then go back to square 1.

Option 4)  The melting pot – you create nothing new and hire people into existing teams. The new people align with existing structures, process and performance management. The skills become embedded skills as with anything else and slowly the whole business starts to acquire the ability through training and engagement. The functions delivered are morphed to represent the new way of working.

Problem is; getting any people to join the team and stay with the team when they are likely to go through a tough time before their real value starts to be visible and rewarded. The whole business take a while to adapt to the new way of working and the pain of transition tends to lose some people.

So what

As with anything, Culture is the magic bullet for dealing with transformation so everybody needs to start there.

For the boring, old fashioned consultants. There needs to be a realisation the investment is a medium term plan and unless you change the whole business then ultimately, it won’t work. You maybe don’t share a flat with your new designer friend immediately but you have trips to their house and start to adapt your own for when they move in. You also have to realise that these skills are going to be absolutely core for your own future learning.

For the trendy new designers, you have to realise that it won’t be great as soon as you move in. It can be a long process to get used to something different and even longer before you are recognised for the value. In the long run though, you’ll get the real benefit so don’t jump ship immediately when you realise there’s no in-house barista made Turmeric Lattes.

I see a lot of commentary from designers extolling how corporates are ‘finally seeing the value of design’ and it’s true but you have to appreciate how becoming the mainstream changes the dynamic of what you have to do. You can look to your consultant colleagues and realise that whilst you’ve been talking about ‘service design’ for about 3 years, they’ve been building customer centric operating models for 10 years. The value of the two together is greater than the sum of its parts.

http://www.thecorporatefuturist.com

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1015380_odd_couple

How to design a 1 day workshop in 10 minutes and 10 reasons why you shouldn’t.

If you work in collaboration or event design or facilitation or anything similar, you will probably recognise the following scenario; a client or a colleague arrives at your desk/office/bean bag and says ‘I need a workshop, here is the agenda, can you please deliver it’.

This is not a scenario which is repeated in many other places. You tend to ask help from SMEs based on the presumption that they are the experts. Accordingly, I don’t arrive at the dev managers start-up meeting and say ‘I’ve designed the sprint myself, can you just run it’. However, everyone has been to events and workshops so everything thinks they can do it. Everyone has also eaten a cake but they don’t tell Gordon Ramsay how to bake one.

So, if you are going to do it anyway, here is your 10 minute design guide.

1)     Pick some clear messages about what you need to get out of the session – get the most important person to give them

2)     Give people things to think about – case studies, examples, articles, quotes, videos etc. Pick some customers or employees to tell some meaningful stories to surprise

3)     Let everyone whine about the problems (then politely tell that it’s in the past, gone, forgotten, yesterday, today is about the future……pause for effect

4)     Set a new context and play a game – build, paint, draw, act. Pick some obvious metaphors which demonstrate the theme – customer, working together, value, cost savings whatever

5)     Pick the main areas you want to talk about – have a nice chat to discuss what’s important, have some ideas and then a group chat to discuss

6)     Have another go – more pointed, specific, objective driven, have another group chat

7)     Decide what to do with what you have discussed – plan, initiatives (start to work on output if you have time

8)     Group photo and everyone agrees to commit to do something

 

Have a go at this in 10 minutes and see how you do.

Then please throw it in the bin and go back to the start (ideally by asking someone who knows how to do it if they are available). Here is why

1)     Facilitation is an art as well as a science – if you have been in a workshop with a good facilitator, you will know the difference in how the flow and rhythm of the event works. They ask the right questions, know when to push and know when to let things run. People who do this all the time are better than you because they have experience but mostly because they put in a huge effort in preparation. They might say ‘this is probably a daft question’, if they do, you can bet they have a pre-prepared laser targeted gem ready to go.

2)     You have to go slow before you can go fast – you will think that it’s wasting time to talk about different things, or to go in circles for a while. You do so because you can’t get straight to the heart of the value without taking people through a journey. It’s then much quicker at the end than at the start.

3)     Creativity needs to be applied correctly – anyone can name film titles and suggest that the event is themed with pictures of Disney characters or the all time classic ‘a mountain’. This misses a huge trick if you don’t spend the time connecting a theme with the program or the organisation etc. Likewise, during the session, you have to recognise that people create and imagine in different ways and you can’t force a one size fits all e.g. everyone have 50 ideas on these post it notes……..

4)     Every hour of an event needs a day of preparation – you have to respect the time being taken out of the business and the potential for the event. Unless you can sacrifice some people to (at a rough scale) commit 1 day per hour of session in the preparation, then you are missing an opportunity.

5)     Managing people is on a logarithmic scale – a 100 person workshop is 1000 times harder than a 10 person one. It’s like managing babies 1 is hard, 2 is harder, 3 is nightmarish. The logistical challenge alone going from 10 to 50 people is a huge difference. Please don’t start with a 20 person event, announce that 53 are coming and wonder why the design team are in tears

6)     You don’t know how long things take – if you have an agenda with ‘process redesign session’ which has been allocated 20 minutes, you are going to struggle. You have to recognise that rushing to an answer isn’t worth it if it’s a bad answer. Take direction on how long things take.

7)     Pretty pictures and graphics are lipstick on a pig unless they mean something – people engage really well with visuals/graphics but it’s like anything else shiny, it needs the substance beneath. Rubbish beautifully scribed on a board with hand drawn pictures is still rubbish.

8)     Unless you are extremely clear about what you are trying to achieve then you won’t get there – you need to apply some critical thinking to event design as with anything else. You usually get a view of ‘what’ you want to achieve fairly quickly – a strategy paper, an aligned plan etc. That’s not how you build a great workshop, you need to peel back layers of ‘why’ or the whole thing crumbles at the first challenge. The preparation needs to make sure you answer these questions in advance.

 9)     You need to know the psychology about who is coming and know how to handle them – fundamentally, a workshop is about people, if it wasn’t then you wouldn’t need it in the first place. You could get some strategy consultants in a room, throw them some expensive peanuts once a week and read whatever they give you. So, you need to take the time to understand who is coming, what the dynamic of the group is and work through how to manage them individually. 

10)  You need to think differently – some independence of thought and some disruption in how you would normally run things is of huge value. A different perspective adds immensely to the process and will generate questions that you’ve likely not thought of.

There’s a whole lot more to the above and I’ve missed a pile out but hopefully you can appreciate my message namely; respect the value of a workshop and consider the possibilities. Running a bad workshop is easy. Running a good one takes time, thought and imagination. If your organisation has skills and support available, you’d be mad not to use them.

www.thecorporatefuturist.com

Leadership in 2017: The end of corporate leadership and the Machiavelli matrix.

The changing dynamics of how and where we work, are changing what people need in a leader.  Leaders used to inspire, inform and create an atmosphere. Do they do so now, and do you even need them to?

At some point as you go through your career, you have to make a decision about what type of a worker and what type of a leader you are going to be. The learning process is to understand more about people and different cultures, and to work out how you get the best out of those people. There are a million books and random motivational messages to support you in the process but that is all nonsense unless you can apply what they say.

As Machiavelli said you can choose to be ‘loved’, collaborative and engaging or ‘feared’ directive and imposing. Everyone ends up on that spectrum but if you are at the extreme, you won’t be effective or happy. I.e. everyone takes advantage of you or everyone hates you. (see any leadership textbook anywhere for 500 pages on variants of this).

This has not generally changed but the context around it has. To summarise the change; consider a view of distance to people. Not just emotional but physical. You can be close to your team sat in the trenches under fire from the enemy (insane client requests and visiting leadership) or you can be sat behind the lines sending instructions from headquarters.

Machiavelli matrix

Line yourself up against the model being honest about who you are and what you enjoy the most.

Me, I love being in trenches close to the people and applying the iron fist in the velvet glove approach. It’s all smiles and laughs until a line is breached and then it is fire and brimstone (not for long, then it’s back to the laughs). I’ve trained myself over the years to adapt my approach and my mindset to be good at doing that and I’m pretty happy with where I am.

Big, massive however…….

If you look at where things are going at corporates. The fundamental dynamics of people working together are changing which means that the role of leaders I think is changing too.

Change from experience to efficiency – most if not all corporates are moving towards some type of activity based working with the addition of collaborative spaces. In addition, there are multitude of articles and surveys showing the changing preference towards working from home.

The foundation for all of this is built around people becoming more efficient, better use of space, and more effective allocation of resource.  To me, this goes against a core principle that I have worked to, namely you want to enjoy yourself at work. It’s not a question of the time spent but a value judgement about what you can create in the team. I’ve got more value in the osmosis from being next to people than I ever would have getting my work done an hour earlier and going home. The 30 minute coffee discussions, the Wednesday afternoon cake competitions, the side conversations have all contributed to knowing people better,

I grew up in consulting where you would often work away from home; breakfast in the hotel, you would leave as a group in taxis to go to the office, you would leave as group and commonly all go for dinner. It was a 14 hr a day engagement with the same group of people. I probably worked for 7 of those hours but I learned more in the other 7.

The role of a leader in that context was to create an atmosphere over the whole day where everyone could contribute to more than just the work. Think about graduates in particular, if you only see them in the course of their work during the day, you miss the opportunity to see their richness of knowledge and way of thinking in other ways. I know more about the people I worked with 10 years ago than I do about the ones I did last year.

Ask yourself now in the workplace in 2017 why so many people have large noise cancelling headphones? How much time do your leaders spend engaging you outside of core working? This is a skill and an environment which is disappearing. I can completely understand the opposing argument but we haven’t replaced that old fashioned approach which an equivalent and so the skills are becoming redundant.

Information and insight – it is the same for the tools and methods which enable collaborative working. The potential is huge to improve engagement and alignment in co-production of documents or in the sharing of information.  However, the increase in volume in information does not always equate to equivalent quality and value. Look even at Linkedin and consider how much original content you see produced vs content shared. I know a huge range of people who I’ve never seen write a single thing themselves. Spend a week reading and liking only an article that was written by the poster and see how you behaviour changes.

Sharing a link to the Harvard Business Review with no comment or insight is not entirely valuable. Should I get any credit for knowing something because I’ve shared it. This is translated into corporates too. Leaders now with access to a huge range of material don’t have to produce anything or promote their own thought leadership. Even more than this, because everyone has access to all of the information, younger people no longer are turning to leaders to see what they think in the same way.

Consider, when was the last time you were asked by a junior person what you thought about something or when was the last time you shared something that you did yourself to a colleague?

Inspiration –   a role of a leader was always to inspire the people that worked for them. It was a ethos that anyone would be happy with what they were doing if they felt inspired by the leadership. There’s a great but possibly apocryphal story of someone asking a janitor in 1967 what their job was with the response being ‘I’m putting a man on the moon’. The role to inspire was essential to building that connection with the organisation.

Now with twitter and LinkedIn etc . you can connect with very important global leaders and experts. You can listen to Richard Branson’s thought of the day or assess Justin Trudeau’s utterings on foreign trade. A bit closer to home, you can see the CEO of your own companies account, what she thinks, is reading or is listening to. Younger people in particular therefore, don’t need the inspiration as much from the lower tiers of management because they think they’ve got what they need elsewhere. I don’t need to know what Keith Logan thinks about AI because I can read what Mark Zuckerberg thinks all, of, the, time.

Ask the junior people in your organisation who their business role model is. 10 years ago who would have been given a name in your organisation. Now, it’s likely to be a global CEO or a superstar TEDx er.

So then, the fundamentals for how we work have changed and we are perhaps becoming a industry of managers. So, have a think about your own organisation and look at your leaders. What is being valued and rewarded higher up and even more importantly, think about what’s important to you in a leader and think about the leader you want to be?

 

http://www.thecorporatefuturist.com

Customer experience; the Japanese way: Hyper-specialisation and what Kanazawa’s tiny, tiny whisky bar might mean for the future.

The Japanese know you have to be authentic, you have to have knowledge if you want to look like you care and you have to respect the crowd.

People naturally want to be a little different, they want to feel special or be special. As the world is getting more connected it’s actually becoming more homogenous. Teenagers internationally are all taking selfies, using social media and shopping at Zara. Whether you are in Beijing or Brisbane, you are going to be doing a lot of the same thing.

At the same time, you might all be using Facebook in the same way but you can link with people with really specific interests and ideas. The old fashioned equivalent is the difference between a city like London and a city like Brisbane. In London, you can find from amongst the 9 million people, a Star Wars absinthe bar with enough people who like Star Wars and absinthe, to be able to fill it. In Brisbane, you are more likely to see a range of different people in the casino or in the RSL; every taste in blended into something which is more generic and more middle of the road.

As regards products, services and experiences for customers; the progression is towards wanting the Star Wars Absinthe bar experience even though you live in Brisbane.  How do you build your service and product catalogue to meet that demand?

To do that, we can look to the land of the rising sun for advice.

I was recently in Japan on holiday (and it’s great) and we visited a town on the west coast called Kanazawa. (Until recently a 4hr trip from Toyko before the launch of the new bullet train service.) The town was busy because of their huge annual Oktoberfest celebrations (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen organised Japanese conga lines to oompa music). In this town was a bar called Machrihanish https://tabelog.com/en/ishikawa/A1701/A170101/17000104/ . It is named after a very small town in Scotland with a lovely golf course but it is obscure for Scotland never mind a town in Japan.

Anyone who has been to Japan will notice the incredible range of small bars and restaurants with really specific themes, you’ll see tiny shops selling unusual things. Even if you haven’t been to Japan you’ll have seen their levels of super-fandom and you will also have seen how most crazes- Pokemon, cosplay, tamaguchi etc tend to start over there. It’s a remarkable place to look at customer experience.

But why……how do they approach things in Japan?

You have to be small and specific – with so many people in Japan, you have to differentiate yourself to stand out. People are actively looking for things which are unusual and special. People look for experiences which are away from the mass market whilst at the same time everyone buys commoditised products like iPhones etc. Japan has an amazing dichotomy whereby for some things, everybody is the same and for others, hugely different. The owner of the Machrihanish hadn’t named his bar the Scottish Bar or even the Edinburgh tavern. He went to the depths of something unusual and specific to create an experience.

The logic is, you have to go the whole way to create authenticity and therefore engage people in your product.

Consulting bit

The capability exists for us to use digital to enable the build of these specific products, services and experiences but to what extent do we do so. We also have the capability to understand what are the small and specific things that will interest our customers. As an example in an Australian context; why not produce an insurance product very specific to surfers – bundle up life, car, travel insurance into one experience product which pays out double for surfing related claims.  You have to support the product by showing authenticity by knowing what a surfer really needs from an insurance product. (see design thinking, empathy interviews, CX design). However, specific insights if they are applied generically aren’t that helpful. E.g. the product and the service need to be specific enough to take advantage. I can tell you right now that customers like transparency, simplicity, speed, personalisation and accuracy but that’s not enough for a customer experience strategy.

Knowledge and attention to detail – If you are going for small and specific you really have to look like you understand or you lose the authenticity and the credibility.  My bar in Kanazawa had real menus in it from the clubhouse at St Andrews, it had pictures of golf clubs in Scotland which were put in alphabetical order on the wall. I ordered a whisky and tried to explain it was from the most southern distillery in Scotland. The owner then explained in some detail how there were five further south and I had missed the Mull of Kintyre (a common mistake he said). He then explained how he was a member of St Andrews golf club (showed me his membership card) and described the relative difference between the types of seaweed on the west coast (no joke).

Consulting bit

If you look like you care about something, you have to understand it as it takes a differentiating factor into one of advantage. For the insurance company selling the surfing product, if it looks like a gimmick it will be treated as such. If you hired even one surf expert, he/she could manage the whole case load regardless of where the people are located. If it’s popular and you need more, then great.

The impact is on how you design your service (operating model to handle the traffic). The design in the fabric of your CRM is how to create better routing to your operations. A first line AI engine (with the surfing add-on dude?), 2nd line service to Brad from Bondi or even a sales discussion via Skype at the beach (surfing tinder). It’s an old tactic powered by new technology.

Crowd power – recognise the power of changing demand and waves of interest. The power of social media can generate hype in an incredibly short space of time with the capability in the background to build things quickly (consider the immediate and overwhelming supply of fidget spinners). When I was in Tokyo, I saw a huge line for a tiny food stall and then about an hour later I saw another one. The reason; both were selling Maine Lobster rolls which was the ‘big thing’. My guess would be that it’s no longer the case and everyone is eating ‘Haggis balls’ or something. The capacity for people to wait for something ‘hip’, the speed of change and the scale of demand was remarkable. Just as soon as it came though, it would be gone so if you were a lobster roll only specialist you would be stuffed. (pun intended)

Consulting bit

Any time lag in meeting the demand or any inflexibility in being able to scale would have represented a huge loss in potential revenue. The local McDonaldsshu wasn’t selling lobster rolls because it couldn’t get there quickly enough. They were nonetheless doing some good trade in their usual fare. What you need then is the ability to have that two-speed business where you can maintain your core but you give yourself the capacity to change to meet specific needs which might come quickly from nowhere.

Where I’ve seen Japan mentioned, it’s not usually in the terms of it being a leader in customer experience it’s usually about efficiency, manufacturing, knowledge, accuracy, product design and creation. However, it’s possibly because they think about the latter ones so that they can deliver the former.

Arigato gozaimasu

See more blogs from Keith Logan san @ www.thecorporatefuturist.com