Kindle Fire: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

by Stephanie Hart

Let me start off by saying that I’ve only read six books on this Kindle. Well…three, really, but I read them all twice. That counts as six, right? Oh, which ones, you ask? (Even if you didn’t ask, you get to hear the answer) The Hunger Games series! Yes, I primarily wanted this Kindle so I could transport my beloved Peeta around with me where ever I went (fine, go).

Secondly, this is just one person’s review. A person who isn’t a die-hard reader; rather she’s someone who just reads when there’s a book that’s of interest to her. She would also like to mention that she thinks she’s funny, so at the funny points, you should laugh. But she’ll let you try to figure out the funny points on your own.  Onwards.

Kinds of people who would benefit from a Kindle Fire:

  • Steph getting introduced to the Kindle FirePeople who are big fans of the digital age (that is, those who don’t absolutely NEED a hardcopy of every book you read).
  • People who commute a lot and could do without any extra bulk in their bag.
  • Students who aren’t the write-all-the-notes-in-all-the-books type and don’t mind reading on a screen.
  • People who have ADD (Seriously. If you want to read a book, you can. But if your concentration is waning, you can also check your email quickly, and then get back to your book later).

Things about the Kindle Fire that should make you run as fast as you can to purchase one:

1. Compactibility: This thing in THIN! The Kindle Fire can slide into even the smallest of purses (and maybe even a large man’s cargo jean pockets?) Sometimes it actually gets lost in my big bag and I panic. But it’s always chilling somewhere at the bottom. I commute to work on public transportation for at least an hour a day, so having something that’s of value to me that doesn’t take up a ton of space (unlike my lunch) is important.

2. Screen size: Basically I just dig that it’s bigger than my phone and smaller than my computer. I don’t have to squint at my phone, yet I don’t have to drag out my laptop if I want to check the interwebs on the go. Which, let’s be honest, happens a lot.

3. Holds a ton of information: But really, how cool is it that I can have three novels, the Holy Bible, Merriam-Webster’s unabridged dictionary & a self-help book all in my bag at the same time? On one little device! And that’s just the beginning of it!

4. Free stuff:  The Hunger Games series wasn’t free, but the Bible was. And various authors give away limited editions of their books for free on the Kindle. There are also web sites out there packed with tons of free books for the Kindle Fire. I almost got one about photography, but then for some reason I didn’t. I will now though. Be right back…

5. Battery life is awesome: I give it a long, full charge maybe once a week. That’s all it needs!

Kinds of people who might not be best friends with the  Kindle Fire:

  • People who hate reading. This is, after all, mainly a book-carrier. If you’re only using it for the internet/apps, why bother? I’m sure you have a phone.
  • People who are in denial about the inevitability that books will no longer be printed someday.
  • People who aren’t that great at mastering gadgets.

Things about the Kindle Fire that I wonder about/get frustrated with:

1. The screen: I know, I know, earlier the screen was a good thing. But sometimes I get jealous of the people with the regular Kindles. After their day at work on the computer is over, they get to read their books without the stress of a bright screen on their eyes. Sometimes I just want to read, but my eyes hurt and I don’t want to look at something bright, so guess what I do? I don’t read. And then I cry. Another thing about the screen: It’s verrryyyy touchy. Like, one sliiiiightest graze of the finger on the right side and you’re onto the next page. This can be frustrating. Please, make me work for it a little bit. At least so I can remember what page I’m on.

2. Wireless factor: If there’s no wireless around, or you don’t have a password, then you’re out of luck. Pretty sure you can’t buy a 3G plan with the Kindle Fire. If you can, hook me up.

3. The power button: *frustrated rant alert* Why is the power off button on the side? And why can it SO easily be pressed and shut off? Too many times I’ve been at a good part in the HG or looking up a very important word in the dictionary and all of a sudden my Kindle says “Would you like to power down?” and I say back “In fact, I don’t!” And then I realize that the way I’ve been holding the Kindle (against my lap, propped up with the bottom on the table) has made it so the button gets pressed. So. Easily.

Sidenote #1: For this reason exactly have I been known to hold the Kindle Fire upside down. The screen rotates so that leaves me with the power button on top, and less of a chance of shutting off.
Sidenote #2: I don’t have a cover for the Kindle Fire. Maybe this will help the powers-down-without-wanting-it-to catastrophe? Leave me some suggestions in the comments. Thanks.

4. The home screen: I wish there was a way to “list” the apps & books on the home page, instead of scrolling through everything. This is also another place where the touchiness of the screen is frustrating. I want to get to the Twitter app, so I scroll through (to the right), but I’m not sure just how hard I should flick my finger. Apparently this time is was a little too hard, so it takes me all the way to the last book in the menu. Kindle, that’s not what I wanted.

5. Just a vanity issue: From what I’ve seen, there’s no way to change the pictures that show up when you turn it on. I think it would be cool to change that, seeing as it turns off and on so many times. You might as well like the pictures…

Kinds of people who will be on the fence about the Kindle Fire: 

People, like me, who love technology, but also LOVE real books. The Kindle Fire is mainly a convenience to me. It’s easy, it’s small. But there’s nothing like curling up with a good book. I’ve tried curling up with the Kindle Fire and guess what, IT DOESN’T WORK. The power button shuts it off. But, if I’m on the train, sitting up straight, very bored…. the Kindle Fire is basically my best friend. So I have to pick and choose. Which books do I think I’ll want to curl up with? Which books would be good commuting books? Buy the curl-up books in the flesh. Buy the commuting books on the Kindle Fire.

There you have it. Easy peasy. Nice and ‘read-y’.

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It’s Not About the Desk

Fourteen years ago Bernard Charlès, CEO of Dassault Systèmes had a vision for improving the processes through which innovation could be inspired. Today Dassault Systèmes products and practices enable clients to design life like three dimensional prototypes and simulate real world usage. The brand has achieved the number one position in the Product Lifecycle Managment (PLM) realm and the execution of Charles’ vision has transformed how companies around the world imagine innovation.

In tandem with the growth of the Dassault Systèmes brands, the company recView of New Dassault Systemes campus in Waltham MAognized the value of employee co-location on their core values of collaboration and innovation. Recently, amidst employees, leadership and dignitaries from the US and France, we heard words of thanks, commitment to growth, encouraging partnerships and STEM initiatives during the ribbon cutting ceremony at their new Waltham, MA location that will co-locate employees from numerous locations under one roof.

As a business person, listening to the steps that preceded this milestone was inspiring. As an Experience Designer, I appreciated learning how both the voice of the employee and the customer were integrated into the new campus design to skillfully support both their passion and their purpose – Collaborative Social Innovation. And I was lucky enough to get a behind the scenes look at the new campus. Here are a few highlights that demonstrate their user centered design approach.

Goal # 1 – Virtual Reality The first stop on the tour was in the 3-D virtual reality lab. view of virtual water pipes on board virtual shipWe worked virtually on the filtration system on a ship and then explored the halls of ancient pyramids. The range of companies adopting Dassault Systèmes innovative processes continues to grow because their approach provides insights early in the design process often saving companies anywhere from thousands to millions of dollars by mitigating product failures. Fact.

Goal #2 – It’s not about the Desk. Creating an environment for clients and employees that would foster collaboration and innovation was a key design requirement. I didn’t find traditional rows of cubicles, rather there are open work spaces. Whether in the Café, a manager’s office or an employee’s personal workspace, the open environment boasts glass walls and in order to facilitate what Dassault Systèmes does best: design innovative products.

Goal #3 – The Open Balance When a concern about whether the open concept work space would provide adequate privacy was raised, the design team responded by reframing their work space design to achieve the right balance. The outcome is a work space design that balances open spaces for collaboration with private spaces to be used as needed. Feedback was quick to be received from employees applauding the design as well as the new face to face time resulting from the employee co-location.

Goal #4 – Informal Spaces When a space has a family room feel with comfortable chairs rather than a traditional meeting office with big Mahogany conference tables impromptu conversations are more likely to transpire. With wireless throughout, informal spaces are dotted around the campus encouraging interactions that inspire new ideas. I especially liked the Café on the second floor next to an area of open work spaces. It had a Starbuck’s feel to it minus the shelves of logo dry goods you find at the coffee shop chain.

Goal #5 – Outdoor Connectedness The buildings are connected by walkways, trees and green space and wireless is available in most of the outdoor space. The ‘campus’ like feel is intentional and designed to inspire innovation and attract world class talent often found at colleges and universities in the region.

Goal #6 – Environmentally Friendly The company’s commitment to environmentally friendly practices was evident as soon as I pulled into the parking garage. Sign in parking gargare directing fuel efficient cars to spaces for parkingA sign directing fuel efficient cars to a desirable parking area was prominently displayed upon entry. Other features in support of sound environmental practices range from reflective roofing to rain water recapture and efficiencies gain through windows and lighting. These and other related efforts have earned the campus Leeds Gold Certification in construction and interior design.

The new campus is the result of years of relentless focus on strategic goals and humbly announces the real Dassault Systèmes story which is one of people and of passion. It’s about the convergence of art, science and technology and that which is at the heart of their DNA – Collaborative Social Innovation. And while some companies in their market position might view this as an opportunity to take a reprieve, for Bernard Charlès and Dassault Systèmes Team, it’s clearly only the beginning.

Previously published on Collaborative Innovation Blog.

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The Epicenter of Your Project: The Customer

Equipped with green screens, function key navigation and unforgiving error messages, the claims system I was charged with training my colleagues was complex to navigate for even the most experienced users.  “Be patient with yourself” was the reminder I often offered to anxious course participants as they learned the in’s and out’s of the antiquated system. My adventures as a Trainer demonstrated the impact poor design has on users and have fueled my passion for delivering easy to use technology, products and processes ever since. 

With competition at its highest level ever and social media a megaphone for expressing opinions, customers have a loud voice and low tolerance for poorly designed technology and products.  Customers are essential to project success and need to be the central focus of your project planning and design solutions. Project Manager cheering with Team

Here are five key elements to integrate into your project schedule to embrace the customer voice and leverage the value of a customer-centered design process. This approach has proven to increase customer satisfaction and improve project success.  

1.)    Cross-functional Team – Create a cross functional team and engage them from the start of the project including:  Business Analysts, Subject Matter Experts, Product Designers, Systems Analyst, Architecture, Developers, Marketing, Customer Service and User Experience.  Invite stakeholders from across the organization early in the project to build team cohesion, foster buy-in and promote a solutions-approach rather than a reactive-approach. 

2.)    Create Personas – Project team members seldom meet real customers who will be using the products they deliver. A persona is a customer profile that helps the project team humanize the customer who will be using the product they’re creating. It’s common for teams to give personas names and faces they feel represent the demographics and characteristics of a typical customer.  Use of personas during product design continues to emerge as vital deliverable in the project schedule because they serve as a reminder to avoid temptation of making decisions that best reserved for customers.  

3.)    Complete a Competitive Analysis – It’s likely there are products on the market similar to what your company is offering.  Find them, evaluate what you think your customers will like and leave out what they won’t. Completing a competitive analysis is an effective way to generate scenarios that provide starting points for the design process and foster some blue sky brainstorming at the same time.  

4.)    Ask for Customer Input Early and Often – Traditional design methods engage the customer after the deliverable has been built, if at all.  This customer-centered approach engages customers early in the design process and then throughout it. Customer feedback helps identify and anticipate pain points while shaping the design of the deliverable.  While the project team may be able to provide valuable customer insights, it’s your actual customers who have answers to your design questions and want to be engaged in the process.  Be sure your schedule includes time for customer testing.

5.)    Paper Prototypes – Some companies avoid prototyping thinking it will only be effective if the prototype is real or working. Smart companies are realizing even low-budget paper prototyping can be immensely effective in providing important insights into how customers perceive and will use their products.  Build time into your schedule to design paper prototypes of proposed designs.

Applying customer-centered design practices saves companies time and money while keeping them in command of their deliverable schedule. Best of all, it can transform customer relationships from tense to delightful improving the overall success of your project!

Is your organization considering implementing customer-centered design processes or perhaps it already has?  Share your stories and comments below so we can learn from each others experiences. 

Posted in Achieve Success, Customer Experience, Project Management | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

2010 World Business Forum(Republished from previous blog October 2010)

Before anyone had taken the stage, I knew that hearing from leaders like Jim Collins, A.G. Lafley and Jack Welch would certainly make for a memorable experience. Candid, wise and gutsy these lauded management gurus have earned the respect of leaders around the globe. They were among the long list of business influencers scheduled to share their insights with thousands of attendees who filled Radio City Music Hall during the 2010 World Business Forum eager to grasp a few golden nuggets of knowledge and perhaps, even catch a glimpse of some emerging markets.  Here are a few highlights from these three respected global leaders.

Jim Collins on What Not to Do

I was confident Jim Collins would be a high point of the 2010 World Business Forum for me. The author of one of my all time favorite books, ‘Good to Great’ and a Peter Drucker Fan like me, he’d definitely hold my attention. And he certainly did. Collins shared many valuable management and leadership insights. One that really resonates with me being a techno-gadget junkie is the ‘Not-to-Do-List’.

Most of us have ‘To Do Lists’, but Collins suggested creating a ‘Not-to-Do List’ and on it is an allowance for time to think through current complex issues as well as plan for the future. With the intrusion of so many electronic gadgets, Collins impressed on us the need to regularly retreat from these distractions and reintroduce the practice of ‘pockets of quiet time’ to allow for hard disciplined thinking. No email, no cell phones, completely untethered, he reserves time every week to be gadget free and submerse in rigorous thinking. I suspect this explains why I received a Monday response to the Friday email I sent him. He really must practice what he preaches.

Lesson Learned:
The importance of pausing and reflecting in order to make progress.

I applied the principle from the ‘Not-to-Do List’ strategy to allow for the ‘think time’ needed to complete this article.

A.G. Lafley on Being Customer Centered and Bold

My research about A. G. Lafley revealed his relentless efforts to drive customer-centered product design as the standard practice at Proctor and Gamble and reinforce connections between that standard and ROI, fostering the sustainability of customer centered practices within the organization.  I can’t deny I’m rather OCD about customer-centered design so I was anxious to hear what Lafley had to share on the topic. His stories were humble, suggestions actionable and his insights, brilliant.

These days more and more companies understand customer-centered product and technology design is a win-win. However, companies often still fail to design with a full understanding of what’s really important to their customers. Lafley shared several practices he implemented to better understand P & G’s customers.

For example, each time Lafley visited a different country he would select a customer to accompany on a shopping trip. He’d then share the observations made during that shopping excursion with the product development team. This information gathering process has been core to fostering the development of products customers really want to purchase.

When asked what steps he’d suggest taking to introduce customer-centered design practices into our own organizations, he spoke a simple but familiar phrase: ‘Just do it’, Lafley explained. He further encouraged us to do everything we can to engage customers to get our experiment going now, and to ‘ask for forgiveness later’.

There’s not a lot of downside to engaging the customer in the design process, according to Lafley, but there are lots of upsides. Mainly, we’ll end up with a better product in the short and long term, a product that customers want to purchase.

Another suggestion from Lafley was to do something bold when we got back to the office. Like Collins, Lafley had long respected the works of Peter Drucker. One day he found the courage to boldly reach out to Drucker to request a meeting with him, to which Drucker agreed. As a result of this bold action, the two met often through the subsequent years. And I got the feeling that those times spent talking with, and learning from, Drucker are among Lafley’s finest treasures.

Lessons Learned:

Design with your customers in mind to deliver what your customers really want to purchase.
Be humble, but ready to muster up the courage to be bold as needed.


I continue to study, teach and help people understand the value of customer-centered design.
I didn’t cancel the interview I had with an author of a best-selling book despite the butterflies in my stomach.

Jack Welch – Authenticity in Leadership

I’m not sure I’d find anyone who wouldn’t appreciate hearing the wisdom of Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO who consistently delighted stockholders while growing the company’s $14 billion market value to $410 billion during his fourteen year tenure. From the moment Welch took the stage you could feel his dynamic energy and determination. He was so attentive to the interviewer as well as to members of the audience who asked him questions. And what clearly emerged during the course of the interview was Welch’s authenticity.

Probed about practices he implemented to ‘groom’ employees, Welch graciously explained his theory. In Welch’s opinion, one of the things currently holding back many organizations is their focus on nurturing ‘poor performers’ rather than celebrating the successes of the top 20% and helping to retain high achieving talent. He also emphasized the need to refocus on leadership development, which for many reasons, including economic struggles, has been dwindling in recent years.

One of the moments during the Welch interview that still sticks with me is when he received a question from the audience that wasn’t quite clear. Welch respectfully responded with a few questions to gain clarification and then looked to the Interviewer in an attempt to further refine the inquiry. When neither of their efforts led to enough of an understanding of the question to effectively respond, Welch apologized for not having a comment and moved on the next audience question. As the high-energy exchange of audience questions and Welch responses continued, his broad range of knowledge radiated through the Forum. And his previous admission to not having an answer to a question revealed not only his self-assurance but also his authenticity as a leader.

Lessons Learned:
There is no imposter to authenticity.
Acknowledging that you don’t have all the answers is a reflection of open mindedness and self-assurance.

I’m working toward finding my own voice in my writing, and so… here it is world.
Saying ‘I don’t know’ generally changes the conversation for the better.


So these are a few nuggets that landed in my sack of takeaways from the World Business Forum 2010 already influencing my own profession practices. Although these three well known leaders more than met my high expectations, what I didn’t anticipate was to be ‘wowed’ by many other remarkable presenters whose works I was less familiar.  I can hardly wait to find out what World Business Forum 2011 has in store for us!

(Republished via Brain Logic Blog Spot from October, 2010.)

Posted in 2011, Achieve Success, Brand Expecations, Customer Experience, Leadership, Progress, Strategy, Uncategorized, World Business Forum | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Four Steps to Video Success on the Web

View of a videoVideo is becoming the new ‘photograph’ on more and more web sites.  Being an interaction designer interested in optimizing customer experiences on the web, I’ve been doing some research on video web standards.

One stop on my research trail was a visit with Heidi Stanclift, web master and co-owner of 4Web, Inc.   During our conversation Heidi shared insights on web standards she has experienced that optimize video integration and viewing on web sites.

1. Recap in text, what is discussed in the video.

It’s no secret that no matter where you are and how good your bandwidth is, video can be slow to display.  In many cases potential viewers lose patience with the ‘buffer’ process and abandon the idea of watching the video.  Add text content to summarize what is presented in the video. That allows an alternative way to communicate the same message to the person making an effort to view the video, should they opt out of viewing a slow to display video.

2. No AutoPlay.

Do not set up the video to automatically start playing when the view opens.  Instead give the user control to start the video at their discretion.  They may be in a place like at work or at a library where audio volume of the video would be disruptive.  Keep the user in control of their viewing options.

3. Get a video hosted account.

Rather than storing your video directly on your web site consider hosting your video on a separate video hosted account like You Tube or Vimeo.  Moving video from your web site to a hosted account doesn’t tax your web server and also insures the video will display in the format on which the user is viewing the video i.e.  PC/iPad/ Mac/ Smartphone etc.

4. Avoid bringing down the house.

Expecting (or hoping) your video will go viral?  Is your server ready to handle the volume of hits your video may receive?  At some level this is one of those happy problems but none-the-less, one that’s avoidable when you use a hosting service for your video.

Heidi’s suggestions are easy to implement and ultimately standards that will optimize the user experience when it comes to viewing video on the web.  Thanks to her we can now integrate video into our web sites like a pro.

Want to learn more about improving the user experience of your web site, software or product?  If so, plan on attending World Usability Day New England on Nov. 10th in Brattleboro VT.  Check out our speaker line up and register here. 

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Does Search Engine Optimization Really Matter?

I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with James Lambert, owner of JBLConnect talking innovation and technology.  A recognized search engine optimization (SEO) guru, he graciously agreed to be a guest blogger and provide some insight on the real value of SEO.

by James Lambert

When developing your marketing budget, you might find yourself asking what the value of search engine optimization is and why it matters. While social media has emerged as a major web traffic source, SEO remains a serious driver of targeted web site traffic.

A prospective client recently asked me to give them three ‘good’ reasons why search engine performance is important to their overall marketing strategy, and why they should get started now.  Here are the top three reasons I shared with them.

1. Increase Targeted Customers

SEO increases the number of potential customers that visit your site, bottom line.

Generally about half of all clicks go to the top site on the search engine results page and about 90 percent of all clicks go to sites that appear on the first page of results. This means achieving better results in your search terms greatly increases your chance that a potential customer is going to find your web site rather than your competitors.

2. Improved Reputation

Cementing your brand online helps build your company’s reputation.

If you can achieve high rankings across various keywords, it says you’re a major player in that industry and you take your business seriously. Which company do you feel better about doing business with, one that is at the top of your searches or one that you had to dig page after page of search results to find?

3. Improved Experience

It’s no coincidence that many search engine optimization practices improve the customer experience.

Improved text, headers and titles and code help your site perform better on search engines by enticing potential users to click on them. Making your site more appealing to customers while at the same time making it perform better on Google is a great double-dip win.  Not only will customers find your site, it’s more useful because customers easily find what they’re seeking.

These are just three of many reasons why attention to SEO drives customers to your business.  It really pays off!

About James Lambert:  James is a Vermont-based Web developer, Internet marketer and college instructor.  He holds a Master’s Degree in Information Technology from Marlboro College Graduate School.

Want to find out how SEO and customer experience can move your company to the top of the pack?  Attend World Usability Day New England happening on Nov. 10th in Brattleboro VT.  Check out the line up of incredible presenters and register here.  Hope to see you there.

Posted in Customer Experience, Delightful, Entrepreneur, James Lambert, Search Engine Optimization | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Familiar Packaging Design Impacts Customer Experience

George sitting in chair after telling his story

George - Friend and Mentor

There’s a customer experience associated with just about everything. What people think and how they feel while they interact with a product, technology or process shapes their customer experience – positive or negative.

In this example, George explains how his familiarity with existing lip balm packaging design impacts how he expects to interact with a NEW lip balm packaging design that he’s just purchased.

Here’s the link to George’s Story on his customer experience with the new lip balm.

Posted in Brand Expecations, Customer Experience, Customer Trust, Delightful, Design for Optimal Experiences, Expectations, Innovation, Listen, ROI, Strategy, Trust, Uncategorized, Usability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ice Tea Anyone?

Traditional and accessible ice tea dispensers

Two Options for Ice Tea Selections

En route to what was likely going to be an exciting but long evening, my niece’s high school graduation, we decided to make a quick stop at a Burger King to grab a snack and beverage. Passionate about usability and accessibility in products, technology and process design, you can probably imagine the surprise and joy I felt when my eyes landed on the newly designed ice tea dispenser sitting next to the soda fountain in the self-serve beverage area. This new ice tea dispenser has two selector options, one for traditional walk up service and the other positioned selection buttons lower and closer to the rail. Mesmerized by what I saw, I had to give both selection techniques, and all four flavors, a try.

Accessible design of Ice Tea selections in Burger King Self-Serve area

Ice Tea Drive Up

Kudos to Burger King for acknowledging that not every customer walks up to the ice tea dispenser. Some customers rely on their ride to navigate the order and food pick up process via their wheelchair.  This new ‘ride up’ ice tea selector is positioned so that customers who make their way through the line in a wheelchair or with a walker have easier, independent access to beverage selections. In addition, the design of the buttons to select the actual flavor fosters use by those with muscular or other mobility issues like arthritis.

More and more organizations, like Burger King have begun to recognize how physical and cognitive challenges impact the way customers interact with products, technology and processes. Many companies are taking steps to modify designs to make them easier for all customers and the ice tea machine design at Burger King is just one example.

Have you come across any examples of product, technology or process designs that improve customers experiences for people with cognitive or physical challenges?  If so,  it would be great to hear about them and other comments you have on the topic.

Posted in Accessibility, Brand Expecations, Burger King, Customer Experience, Customer Service, Customer Trust, Delightful, Design for Optimal Experiences, Expectations, Innovation, Listen, Persistence, Trust, Usability | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brand and Expectation

I recently had the privilege of blogging with Jim Estill at World Innovation Forum (#WIF11).  As we chatted at the end of day one about the impact of brand on customer expectations, I asked Jim if he’d share some of those insights in a post. He graciously agreed to do so.

From Guest Blogger Jim Estill:    One of the speakers at WIF11 was Tony Hsieh – founder of Zappos and author of the book Delivering Happiness – A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.   His story is compelling.  Anyone who sells a business for over $1B is worth listening to.

He spoke primarily on corporate culture and how it becomes the brand.  And how important the brand is to success.  At Zappos, they over-interview.  During training they offer people $4,000 to quit.  They want the right people.  It’s all about culture.

While listening to the speaker, I was Tweeting and noticed the trending topics.   One of them was Anthony Weiner, the congressman involved in the latest scandal.  There seems to be a lot of scandals – Arnold Schwartzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn to name two.

It occurred to me that brand sets expectation.

Why do some scandals blow over quickly and others are much more difficult?  It is about brand. For example, Elliot Spitzer had a reputation of all American hometown values fighting all the dirty capitalists ruthlessly.  So when he gets caught, it takes years (if ever) to blow over.  Where Arnold Schwartzenegger’s issue seems to blow over quickly – people were not surprised.

I like Air Canada but have fairly low expectations of airlines in general.  So when I suffer lines, delays and mediocre service, I am not upset.  I expect it.  When I eat food from a chain restaurant, I am not upset when the food is average.  I expect it.  When Bank of America messes up and responds slowly and has a poor customer service response, I do not complain.  I expect it.

But when I buy from Nordstroms, Tiffany’s, my personal tailor etc.  I have high expectation of excellence and low tolerance of anything but the best.

So perhaps I need to cultivate my reputation, my personal brand, as a lazy, drunk womanizer – so any reputation hit will blow over quickly.

About Jim Estill:  Time Management Guru, venture capitalist and blogger at Jim started a technology distribution business from the trunk of his car and grew it to $350,000,000 in sales prior to selling it to SYNNEX.  He then was CEO of SYNNEX Canada driving sales from $800,000,000 to $2 Billion.  Today he invests in, advises, and mentors early stage technology businesses.  He was a founding director of RIM (Blackberry).

Posted in 2011, Brand Expecations, Collaboration, Customer Trust, Delightful, Expectations, Hypersocial, Innovation, Jim Estill, Leadership, Trust, World Innovation Forum | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Type of Innovation Does Your Organization Need Now?

Signs points in many directions on street corner in NYC.

In what direction are you driving innovation?

As day two of the HSM World Innovation Forum  in NYC progressed, I began thinking about how valuable the framework within which I think about innovation has become in filtering elements related to this vast concept.  The framework enables me to sort innovation initiatives into four general areas and help organizations understand what type of innovation they need to focus on now.  

The four areas are: 

  1. Out of the Blue
  2. Optimizing
  3. Solution with No Problem
  4. Problem in Need of a Solution

We heard many great stories from some of the most innovative thinkers of our time at WIF 2011.  I’ll use highlights from a few to demonstrate how I apply the framework to innovation initiatives.

  1. Out of the Blue – Have you ever thought about a product that you’re fairly certain isn’t on the market today and you think it needs to be?  You know like Henry Ford and the first automobile or Jeff Hawkins as he invented the first Palm Pilot.

Paola Antonelli during an engaging and entertaining presentation shared an innovative way to keep your loved one close to you after they’re gone. She suggested transforming lab cultivated bone tissue into a ring of love that you can wear forever.  Now that’s out of the blue innovation in my book!

  1. Optimizing – Is there a product that you use today that with a few tweaks could deliver a higher level of customer happiness?  Although this may sound easy to accomplish we sometimes become so accustomed to a less than optimal product design, it’s tough to imagine it any other way. 

Paddy Miller provided a great example of optimization through the story of the evolving design of the suitcase.  Often so heavy we earn aches, pulled muscles or even rotator cuff tears from the suitcases we carry, yet it took centuries for us to think about a redesign.  We eventually figured out we could shift much of the weight of the suitcase from human strength to the earth and we added wheels.  Ah, finally we optimized the design of the suitcase. So very simple, and it only took about 150 years!  Okay it did reshape the suitcase industry.

  1. Solution with No Problem   – Ever have a ‘what if’ idea and wonder who might want to use it, whether there’s a market for it and if it would even sell? 

Clay Christensen delivered an inspiring keynote during which he explained how scientists at Dupont would go into their labs and emerge with a new formula for a fabric. He challenged us to pause when we got back to our rooms at the end of the day and pivot in a 360 degree circle to look at the variety of fabrics in our room – curtains, bedspreads, towels, rugs and more. 

It’s likely many of those fabrics Christensen explained, were originated in the labs at Dupont. And after the Dupont scientists invented them, it’s likely the ensuing conversation went something like this:  ‘We just invented this fabric. How do you think we can use it?’  Of course not only did Dupont find a use for these innovative fabrics, Dupont’s business has thrived for decades as a result of this approach to innovation.

  1. Problem in Need of a Solution – This type of innovation occurs when a problem becomes apparent and the need to find a solution is needed.  I’m going to put the Zappos story in this category because they realized the need to solve a brand differentiation concern. 

Tony Hsieh shared some highlights of the Delivering Happiness story explaining steps they have taken to differentiate Zappos from other online shopping experiences.  Through transformation of the Zappos culture and vigilance to delivering happiness one customer at a time, the online dominance of Zappos in the retail shoes and clothes is now virtually unparalleled.

So there you have it, the innovation quadrant that helps to filter and navigate next steps of innovation initiatives. This approach enables me to continue to refine needs and next steps in order to navigate the innovation process and helps companies organize and prioritize their innovation strategies.    

I’ll be doing more blogging on topics discussed during two of my favorite days of the year spent at the World Innovation Forum.  Feel free to Tweet me your questions and comments via Twitter @JillBrainLogic

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