Manage By Walking Around http://jonathanbecher.com Aligning Execution With Strategy Tue, 22 Apr 2014 01:07:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9 Breaking Bad Habits http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/04/21/breaking-bad-habits/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/04/21/breaking-bad-habits/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 01:07:55 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=4006 I recently decided to reduce my sugar intake but, disappointingly, I just ate the bowl of ice cream they offered me on my flight. I hadn’t planned to eat it but said yes without really thinking about it. Ice cream on a plane has become a habit. According to the research of Wendy Wood, a...

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I recently decided to reduce my sugar intake but, disappointingly, I just ate the bowl of ice cream they offered me on my flight. I hadn’t planned to eat it but said yes without really thinking about it. Ice cream on a plane has become a habit.

According to the research of Wendy Wood, a social psychologist at the USC School of Business, we truly are creatures of habits. Although people think they are in control of what they do, almost half of our behaviors are not really conscious choices. They are repeated habits cued by our environment. As she points out,

Most people don’t think that the reason they eat fast food at lunch or snack from the vending machine in late afternoon is because these actions are cued by their daily routines, the sight and smell of the food or the location they’re in. They think they’re doing it because they intended to eat [at that time] or because they like the food.

As a society, we have long counseled people with addictive tendencies to avoid anything which triggers their craving; for example, alcoholics should stay out of bars. Wood’s research suggests environmental cues also influence the behavior in healthy people. In one study, Wood found college students were more successful in breaking their television habit if the TV were placed in an unfamiliar location.

The key to breaking a habit is to break the routine. Someone who wants to stop eating fast food could change their normal commute to avoid passing the restaurant. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, explains:

The same technique can be used to create positive habits. If you need to take a pill every day, the solution could be to store it next to your toothbrush. The habit of brushing your teeth is transferred to the habit of taking a pill.

It’s an intoxicating theory. The key to exercising regularly or stopping smoking– or even becoming more productive – is to understand the underlying positive or negative habit.

In my case, if I want stop eating ice cream, maybe I need to stop getting on planes.

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The Five Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff Done http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/04/14/five-cognitive-distortions-people-get-stuff-done/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/04/14/five-cognitive-distortions-people-get-stuff-done/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 04:43:29 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=3983 Ever notice that some people get more things done than others? For years, the most popular explanation came from Steve Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey argued that personal character, purpose and self-discipline were the primary characteristics of successful people. The book has been wildly successful, selling more than 20M copies. My only...

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Joseph SchumpterEver notice that some people get more things done than others?

For years, the most popular explanation came from Steve Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey argued that personal character, purpose and self-discipline were the primary characteristics of successful people. The book has been wildly successful, selling more than 20M copies. My only criticism is that Covey believed that combining lots of highly effective people would result in a highly effective business. I think team effectiveness relies more on the mix of talent and styles, than on individual mindsets.

While he doesn’t say it explicitly, I don’t think Michael Dearing is a Covey supporter. Dearing, a Stanford professor who All Things Digital describes as the Hottest Angel Investor You’ve Never Heard Of, believes that successful people distort their own reality. In a presentation called The Five Cognitive Distortions of People Who Get Stuff Done, Dearing claims successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have the following traits:

  • Personal Exceptionalism
    They believe they are special and at the top of their peer group.  Their work is snowflake-special. Their experiences are well outside the bounds of normal.
  • Dichotomous Thinking
    They see the world populated by black and white extremes, with very few grey nuances in the middle.
  • Correct Overgeneralization
    They make universal judgments from limited observations and yet are correct a disproportionate amount of the time.
  • Blank-Canvas Thinking
    They have a strong desire to invent new rules, especially when the existing ones are generally accepted. They do not paint-by-numbers.
  • Schumpeterianism
    They believe that disruptive innovation is natural and necessary. They assume creative destruction is their reason for being.

Dearing’s traits encourage perfectionism, indifference to facts, and mindless ambition. Having lived in Silicon Valley for 20 years, I see countless entrepreneurs who exhibit these traits. In addition, many of the successful tycoons who rule the Valley follow this thinking. Some believe you need a reality distortion field to get ahead.

Which school of thought do you subscribe to: Covey or Dearing?

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Do underdogs boost March Madness ratings? http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/03/30/underdogs-boost-march-madness-ratings/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/03/30/underdogs-boost-march-madness-ratings/#comments Sun, 30 Mar 2014 18:56:46 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=3953 Do you have Florida winning the NCAA tournament? Here in the U.S. we are in the middle of March Madness. Even if you’re not a college basketball fan, you can’t avoid the phenomena: stories of Cinderellas, upsets, and comebacks dominate the media. The NCAA basketball tournament has entered the national consciousness to such a degree...

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basketballDo you have Florida winning the NCAA tournament?

Here in the U.S. we are in the middle of March Madness. Even if you’re not a college basketball fan, you can’t avoid the phenomena: stories of Cinderellas, upsets, and comebacks dominate the media.

The NCAA basketball tournament has entered the national consciousness to such a degree it seems like everyone has filled out a bracket and has a favorite to win. While most of the predictions are based on gut feel and emotions, in the last couple of years data scientists have gotten into the act. Even my own employer.

While everyone is trying to figure out who will win the tournament, Brigham Young University statisticians have built a model which predicts which teams would create the largest TV ratings. With many popular teams – including Ohio State and Duke – already out of the tournament, the conventional wisdom is that TV ratings will be down. However, the BYU model predicts the highest Final Four ratings would come from Dayton versus Virginia (17.2 million viewers) and Michigan versus Arizona (16 million viewers).  A Dayton vs. Michigan final would draw an estimated 22.2 million TV viewers.

The model suggests the impact of an underdog is significant. A Final Four game featuring a Cinderella team or a smaller market school would have 35% more TV viewers than a game featuring two national powerhouse schools.   As one of the statisticians explained,

The Cinderella teams, with all the national media attention they get, become a national star. It’s not that these schools have an established national fan base, it’s that the NCAA tournament celebrates the Cinderella more so than other sports.

Of course, underdog status isn’t the only thing that influences ratings. Expectation of a close game, the star power of the coach, and the team’s overall appeal also matter.  With Dayton and Virginia losing this weekend, that’s probably a relief to advertisers everywhere.

[30 March 5 PM update: All four teams from the BYU model are out of the tournament. It will be interesting to see if this year's Final Four can surpass 2013 ratings which averaged 15.7M viewers.]

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Can We Cooperate Like Cockroaches? http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/03/18/cockroaches/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/03/18/cockroaches/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 04:27:09 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=3914 Late last year, I wrote a blog describing an experiment in which rats demonstrated the selfless behavior typical of empathy. If these vilified rodents can exhibit the capacity to understand and feel the emotions experienced by their fellow rats, we humans have little excuse. Judging from your reaction, I touched a nerve. We can also learn something...

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CockroachesLate last year, I wrote a blog describing an experiment in which rats demonstrated the selfless behavior typical of empathy. If these vilified rodents can exhibit the capacity to understand and feel the emotions experienced by their fellow rats, we humans have little excuse. Judging from your reaction, I touched a nerve.

We can also learn something from the hated cockroach. In The Cockroach Papers, Richard Schwied makes a pretty good case that cockroaches are “one of the pinnacles of evolution on this planet.”  While humans are resistant to change, roaches should be admired for their ability to adapt to almost any environment.

How adaptive are cockroaches?

Cockroaches have been found in the arctic cold of Alaska, the jungle heat of Costa Rica, and the arid desert of Kenya. Roaches can survive for more than a month without food and more than two weeks without food or water. They will eat almost anything they can find including feces, hair, paper, and skin – even other cockroaches.  Amusingly, one of the few things they will not eat is cucumbers.

While they may not appear evolved to us humans, cockroaches have two brains. One is inside their skulls while the second is in the back near their abdomen. Cockroaches have sex, enjoy the company of other cockroaches, and exhibit the signs of male aggressions.

Still not convinced?

According to one study, cockroaches govern themselves by a simple democracy where each insect has equal standing and the entire group weighs in before making decisions that affect the group. In the experiment 50 cockroaches were placed in a dish that had three shelters with room for 40 insects each. The roaches organized themselves with 25 in each of two shelters, leaving the third one empty. When the capacity of the shelters was increased to more than 50, all of the cockroaches stayed in a single shelter.

As one of the scientists said:

Cockroaches are gregarious insects (that) benefit from living in groups. It increases their reproductive opportunities, (promotes) sharing of resources like shelter or food, prevents desiccation by aggregating more in dry environments, etc. So what we show is that these behavioral models allow them to optimize group size.

Cooperation comes naturally to cockroaches. Can we say the same for humans?

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The Psychology Of The To-Do List http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/03/02/psychology-list/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/03/02/psychology-list/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 05:36:32 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=3882 In a world filled with electronic devices, I still get great satisfaction by crossing out items on a handwritten to-do list. In fact, I find that I am more likely to complete a task if I write it down on a piece of paper. Much more likely than if it’s on an electronic list or...

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To Do ListIn a world filled with electronic devices, I still get great satisfaction by crossing out items on a handwritten to-do list. In fact, I find that I am more likely to complete a task if I write it down on a piece of paper. Much more likely than if it’s on an electronic list or an email reminder.

There is scientific evidence that the act of planning activities through to-do lists reduces the burden on the brain. The most famous example is from Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik. The so-called Zeigarnik effect was apparently inspired by observing waiters could only remember the details of orders before they had been served. Once completed, the details disappeared from their memory.

In the 1927 (!) experiment, Zeigarnik asked participants to perform numerous simple tasks, like stringing beads and solving puzzles. For some of the tasks, the participants were interrupted while for others they were allowed to complete the tasks. Afterwards she asked which activities the participants remembered. The participants were twice as likely to remember the tasks during which they’d been interrupted than those they completed. This supports the notion that crossing off items on a to-do list frees up our brain to focus on other things.

More recently, Professors Baumeister and Masicampo verified the Zeigarnik Effect by showing that people performed worse on a brainstorming task when they were unable to finish a warm-up activity. Because they hadn’t crossed the warm-up off of their mental to-do list, it interfered with the subsequent task. However, if the researchers allowed people to make concrete plans on how to finish the warm-up activity, performance on the brainstorming task substantially improved. The written plan seemed to remove the distraction.

The implications are clear. Even when you are overwhelmed with tasks, the most important thing you can do is make a plan on how to get them done, starting with a to-do list. Simply writing the tasks down will make you more effective.

For a very effective and popular system based on this science, check out David Allen’s book Getting Things Done.

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More Quotes about Failure http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/02/23/more-quotes-failure/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/02/23/more-quotes-failure/#comments Sun, 23 Feb 2014 22:02:17 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=3387 After a lot of feedback on my earlier post, here are some more quotes about how failure is the new black: “Remember the two benefits of failure. First, if you do fail, you learn what doesn’t work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.” Roger Von Oech, American author “There...

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FailAfter a lot of feedback on my earlier post, here are some more quotes about how failure is the new black:

“Remember the two benefits of failure. First, if you do fail, you learn what doesn’t work; and second, the failure gives you the opportunity to try a new approach.”
Roger Von Oech, American author

“There is nothing wrong with being wrong.”
 Mokokoma Mokhonoana, South African philosopher

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
Robert F. Kennedy, American politician

“We are all failures- at least the best of us are.”
J.M. Barrie, Scottish author

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”
John Wooden, American basketball coach

“Make no cry in failure! Make no noise in success! In failure, silence; in success, silence! Fly with the same attitude both in the high and in the low altitudes!”
Mehmet Murat ildan, Turkish playwright

“If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”
Woody Allen, American screenwriter/director

Any other quotes to add?

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Bring Your Gifts to Work: My Maverick Hangout Experience http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/02/20/bring-gifts-work-maverick-hangout-experience/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/02/20/bring-gifts-work-maverick-hangout-experience/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 22:15:12 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=3943 Unlocking human potential. It’s a manager’s most important task, but also the hardest to measure and understand. How can leaders empower employees to be free of bureaucracy and top-down management, while maintaining consistency and efficiency across the organization? Gary Hamel, co-founder of the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX), and I discussed these issues and others during...

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Unlocking human potential.

It’s a manager’s most important task, but also the hardest to measure and understand. How can leaders empower employees to be free of bureaucracy and top-down management, while maintaining consistency and efficiency across the organization?

Gary Hamel, co-founder of the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX), and I discussed these issues and others during a Maverick Hangout on February 19. The MIX tackles many diverse management issues, including the Unlimited Human Potential Challenge which asks people to submit stories that emphasize the power of the individual.

I invite you to watch the video playback of our conversation. I’ve also highlighted what I thought were three key takeaways from the hangout.

  1. Think employee experience
    There is an emerging parallel between how companies treat their customers and employees. In the past, there were customer relationship management tools, but this view was too centered on the organization. No one wants their “relationship managed.”Similarly, there is no employee relationship management. There are individuals who bring unique talents and insights to a company in exchange for personal fulfillment (and yes, compensation). I’ll point to my own experience at SAP, where an internal survey shows the biggest motivator is how one’s work impacts the world beyond SAP. Don’t focus on human capital management but on employee engagement.
  2. It’s O.K. to fail
    This is a difficult pill to swallow for many managers. Empowering employees means more than providing the tools, information and capital to do their jobs. Leaders should encourage risk taking and innovating across the organization – if there are mistakes, it is better to correct them then to have never tried and stifle their creativity. As Demming said, drive fear from the workplace.
  3. Deconstructing the Pyramids
    People learn to protect the job that they have. Organizational pyramids and hierarchies exist for a reason, to provide structure and consistency. I’m not suggesting we move to a chaotic system of confusion, but there is something to be said for a networked system where individual employees can create their own relationship between the organization’s goals and their performance.Company culture is everything, and as I’ve said before, culture eats strategy for breakfast. In a “new pyramid,” the most important qualities will be empathy, for your fellow employee and their skills and responsibilities; diversity, because who wants five workers who think, act and reason the same way; and collaboration, because in a networked economy, we are all interconnected. That means success, and failure, is a shared concept more now than ever before. It remains to be seen what this model will eventually resemble.

Employees today want more than climbing the corporate ladder. In a better run world, there may not be a corporate ladder to climb. As Gary put it, organizations must create an environment where employees willingly bring their gifts to work, for employers who truly appreciate it.

I’d to love you hear your thoughts on the Hangout, and how you unlock potential at work.

Photo: www.bawgaj.eu / Flickr

Originally posted on LinkedIn Today on February 20, 2014.

Follow me on LinkedIn here.

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Banished Words for 2014 http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/02/16/banished-words-2014/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/02/16/banished-words-2014/#comments Mon, 17 Feb 2014 05:38:27 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=3858 After weeks of weather on steroids, the twittersphere has been blowing up with tales of the snow-pocalypse. My favorite is the story about a Mister Mom who t-boned his own home with a snowblower because he was taking a selfie while twerking. Hashtag awesome. Yes, it’s that time again. Lake Superior State University (LSSU) released...

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Banished 2014After weeks of weather on steroids, the twittersphere has been blowing up with tales of the snow-pocalypse. My favorite is the story about a Mister Mom who t-boned his own home with a snowblower because he was taking a selfie while twerking. Hashtag awesome.

Yes, it’s that time again.

Lake Superior State University (LSSU) released its 39th annual “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness”. The list is primarily crowd-sourced; over the years LSSU has received tens of thousands of nominations.  This year’s winners losers banished words are:

  • Selfie
  • Twerking
  • Hashtag
  • Twittersphere
  • Mister Mom
  • T-Bone
  • <Anything> On Steroids
  • Intellectually Bankrupt
  • Obamacare
  • Adversity
  • Fan base

So, fan base, what other intellectually bankrupt words would you like to nominate?

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How Super Is the Super Bowl? 2014 Edition http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/02/03/super-super-bowl-2014-edition/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/02/03/super-super-bowl-2014-edition/#comments Tue, 04 Feb 2014 04:04:32 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=3840 With a final score of 43-8, Super Bowl XLVIII was widely considered to be not very super. To give you a sense of how non-competitive the game was, consider these two facts: The Seattle Seahawks spent a Superbowl record 59 minutes, 48 seconds in the lead. In other words, they scored 12 seconds into the game...

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superbowlWith a final score of 43-8, Super Bowl XLVIII was widely considered to be not very super. To give you a sense of how non-competitive the game was, consider these two facts:

  • The Seattle Seahawks spent a Superbowl record 59 minutes, 48 seconds in the lead. In other words, they scored 12 seconds into the game and never looked back.
  • The Seahawks won by 35 points. While this wasn’t a record (Super Bowl XXIV was decided by 45 points), the previous six Super Bowls were decided by a combined 34 points.

Given this lopsided result, it’s not surprising early results suggested that viewership was down nearly 11% from last year to less than 100 M. It might not have been surprising but it was wrong.  When the final numbers were counted, Super Bowl XLVIII delivered a record 111.5 M viewers, just ahead of the 111.3 M from two years ago.

As impressive as that number is, it’s worth putting this into perspective of the total potential viewership. Due to population increases, the 2014 Big Game is only the ninth highest-rated in Super Bowl history with a share of 69 (defined as % of households with TVs in use that are watching the game). By comparison, the 1982 Super Bowl is the highest-rated ever with a 73 share. To me, 1982 is more impressive. As I’ve frequently said, outcome measures are more powerful than activity ones.

Side note: in the 1982 game my home-town San Francisco 49ers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in the first Super Bowl played in a cold weather city.

Calling this year’s Super Bowl the most-watched show also overlooks the built-in advantages it has on other sports like baseball and basketball.  As I blogged about before, it’s a single game on a fixed date known years in advance when the weather minimizes other distractions.  The 1986 World Series which went seven games is estimated to have been seen by 254M viewers. Of course, these were not unique viewers as people likely tuned in for more than one game; the deciding game seven had a 55 share.

It would be interesting to compare these results to international sports like the Olympics or World Cup. Unfortunately, there’s no consistent measuring system and published estimates have been shown to be inaccurate. For this reason, most people cite the Super Bowl as the most-watched U.S. televised program.

I’m not so sure. The final episode of M*A*S*H had a 77 share, easily surpassing this year’s game.  Now that’s super.

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Extreme Customer Experience: Making the ‘Segment of One’ a Reality http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/01/28/extreme-customer-experience-making-segment-one-reality/ http://jonathanbecher.com/2014/01/28/extreme-customer-experience-making-segment-one-reality/#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 21:59:29 +0000 http://jonathanbecher.com/?p=3939 Imagine you’re sitting on your couch on a Friday night and decide that you want ice cream. Since you don’t have any in your freezer, you order a pint using your mobile device. Your personal fitness tracking device notices your glucose level is high, predicts that you are unlikely to work out for the next...

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Imagine you’re sitting on your couch on a Friday night and decide that you want ice cream. Since you don’t have any in your freezer, you order a pint using your mobile device. Your personal fitness tracking device notices your glucose level is high, predicts that you are unlikely to work out for the next week due to your calendar, and recommends the sugar free frozen yogurt instead. Your revised order is bid on by multiple merchants who price depending on their current inventory, and the winning vendor reroutes a delivery truck to your home. On the truck, your chosen pint will move automatically to the front for easy unloading.

This will all happen within minutes of your first ice cream craving.

This vision of customer experience may seem extreme – but it’s a real possibility. Advances in Big Data analytics, wearable computers, 3D printing, and dynamic supply chains will help companies create increasingly hyper-personalized experiences that bring the “segment of one” closer to reality.

As part of our ongoing look at key trends that are shaping the future of business, we’ve been digging into the topic of customer engagement. Discussions with SAP colleagues and customer experience experts reveal four key elements that are converging to drive significant advances in the way businesses and customers interact.

Context: The smartphone is just the beginning of a wave of intelligent mobile devices that constantly process data for and about consumers and their surroundings. Juniper Researchpredicts that 130 million smart wearable devices will ship in 2018 – 10 times the number in today’s market. That figure does not include the billions of sensors residing in otherwise inert devices – everything from parking meters to digital signage – that are increasingly interconnected across wireless and wired networks.

At MIT’s Media Lab, researchers are exploring new ways to embed sensing devices into physical objects, enabling consumers to interact directly with the things around them. Imagine a retail store in which the displays are aware of contextual information about your current state and can tailor an experience based on that particular moment in time.

Customization: This type of contextual information, accessible to and from devices all around us, can be paired with Big Data analytics to enable a new era of highly personalized experiences.

“Human beings like personalization,” said Ramesh Ramakrishnanfounder of RR Marketing Advisory and author of the FuturistCMO blog. “When technology enables them to achieve high degrees of customization, then the products they use or wear will become an ‘extended self’ – created by them instead of purchasing what someone else created.”

The rise of 3D printers will take customization to an entirely new level and is already disrupting markets and replacing traditional business models, Ramakrishnan said. A company such as Protos Eyewear, for example, has developed an algorithm for creating customized, 3D-printed eyeglasses. LayerWise, a Belgian metal parts manufacturer, designed and built a3D printed artificial jawbone for an 83-year-old woman – the first transplant of its kind in the medical industry.

Enhancement: Successful companies such as Apple, BMW, Virgin Atlantic, and Nike have already transitioned from selling products to selling experiences. The next wave of innovation will be finding ways to enhance those experiences.

Engagement enhancement can be physical (activating more of a customer’s senses), mental (soliciting their ideas and influence), emotional (providing peace of mind, laughter or some other positive feeling), or any combination of the three, according to Steve McKeepresident of McKee Wallwork & Company and author of When Growth Stalls and the forthcoming Power Branding.

“Watching race cars is fun. Riding in a race car is more fun. Driving the race car is the most fun. There’s your template,” McKee said. “Viewed through this lens, there’s no end to what we can do.”

Consistency: Extreme customer experience is not a one-off event, nor is it delivered through a single channel. As more companies reorganize their businesses around customer-centricity, innovation will require a consistently superior experience that spans multiple channels and geographies – in essence, every conceivable touch point between a brand and its customers.

Cross-channel consistency will require breaking down silos, which may portend a move toward collaborative planning, replacing traditional top-down/bottom-up functional planning methods. The goal, as my colleague Volker Hildebrand points out, is achieved through the lens of the customer: Does your company meet my expectations in terms of reliability, convenience, relevance and responsiveness? Does it make my life easier and avoid negative surprises? The most extreme customer experience, is simply to get it right, consistently.

Of course, all of this speculation about the future of customer experience is based on our current perspective. The future, however, is not a linear extension of today’s reality. The truth is that customer experience a decade from now is likely to be something none of us can even conceive at this point in time. If we can envision it already, it’s probably not that extreme.

What’s your idea of an extreme customer experience? I look forward to your comments.

Photo: Yagi Studio / Getty Images

Originally posted on LinkedIn Today on January 28, 2014.

Follow me on LinkedIn here.

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