Annette Franz’s picture

By: Annette Franz

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Seth Godin’s concept of Finding Your Who, which is all about identifying who your products are for. The Who isn’t defined by demographics but by psychographics: Their (customer) beliefs, their dreams, their desires. It’s a reminder that developing personas is so important to customer-experience design. And it’s a reminder that we should be finding products for our customers, not customers for our products.

Why personas

Because personas...
• Shift the organization’s focus outside-in (on the customer), as it should be, rather than inside-out
• Really put the experience in the customer’s perspective and make you think about the customer as a “real human”
• Help everyone understand who the customer is and obsess about the customer’s needs
• Keep people from forming their own opinions about who the customer really is—everyone is on the same page
• Develop empathy for the customer
• Bring the customer to life
• Shift “target demographic” thinking to a more actionable definition and view

Karla Jo Helms’s picture

By: Karla Jo Helms

Covid-19 has changed America’s workforce in a fundamental and most likely permanent way, and not adopting the “new normal” can be the difference between success and failure.

According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of American workers surveyed have said that given a choice, they would want to keep working from home even after the pandemic. What began as a necessity has resulted in a refashioning of how work gets done.

Many experts believe that employees will continue to prioritize flexibility and safety, with the expectation that many old paradigms will be reconsidered—from the five-day work week to the power dynamic between employers and employees. Additionally, that shift has brought about changes in the use of technology, which has in and of itself led to a cultural transformation in the workplace. Companies that do not adapt to this new reality are destined to fail.

Innovating Service With Chip Bell’s picture

By: Innovating Service With Chip Bell

One of my favorite Halloween memories was decorating the annual giant pumpkin with my son when he was young. As a toddler, he was primarily an observer as he watched me sculpt the face of the pumpkin with a scrimp knife. However, his commitment to the pumpkin-carving process ramped up dramatically as he got old enough to wield the knife himself. He got to use “the knife” (with close supervision) long before his grandmother thought it was “being responsible.”

Customers care when they share. Their participation elevates their allegiance when they are invited and encouraged to put skin in the game. But when a service provider goes one more step and adds a bit of risk to that inclusion (“the knife”), their allegiance soars to devotion. This is by no means an invitation to cast safety to the wind or to act irresponsibly. But it is a recommendation to walk with your customer on the wild side. It signals how much you care; it communicates how much you want a valued partnership, not just a typical relationship.

Corey Brown’s picture

By: Corey Brown

Even with advancements in technology and automation, the frontline workforce remains essential to modern manufacturing operations. In fact, 72 percent of factory work is still performed by people.

This means that operators, technicians, and line managers are all your biggest operational risks.

Manufacturing organizations have the same goals—reduce waste, improve quality, and increase efficiency. But operational excellence is an evolving target.

With the generational shift happening in the frontline workforce, manufacturing employees are facing a new set of challenges that directly affect these goals in unique ways. It’s time to understand the needs of the frontline workforce and how new strategies can empower them to perform their best.


Manufacturing has a perception problem. Overall interest in manufacturing has decreased by more than 70 percent since 2004, according to Google Trend analytics.

Aron Solomon’s picture

By: Aron Solomon

The past few weeks I advised several entrepreneurs who are trying to bring a product or service to market. Each is struggling with whether the minimum viable product (MVP) they’re launching is too minimum and would therefore be nonviable. The notion of the MVP has always had its pros and cons, but the often-bitter cocktail of time pressure, competition, and agile software development made the MVP the ongoing easy choice.

I introduced my concept of the initial viable product (IVP) to these founders, as I have with many others, and it seems to have resonated with most. The IVP isn’t just a hyper-iterated MVP. It’s the first truly viable product you choose to launch. You’re going to be judged on the first thing you launch—everyone is. Incessant explaining that it’s just your MVP and it’s not really ready yet is sometimes fine, but I’ve seen many other times where that’s the dealbreaker in itself. Why? Because your idea of minimal is far more minimal than that of the person you’re showing it to. Minimal is a sliding scale that will always slide onto you.

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

By: The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

The other day I heartily congratulated a friend on her job promotion. She replied, “What if they made a mistake? What if I’m not really qualified, and it’s the Peter Principle in effect—that I’ve risen to the level of my incompetence?”

“You’re totally qualified,” I responded, “They wouldn’t have given you the job if you didn’t deserve it.”

She then said, “But I feel like a fraud.”

My friend was suffering from imposter syndrome. I understood how she felt, so I said, “I get it. I’ve been there. In my first year of speaking professionally, I was hired to present the keynote speech for a national association. It was extremely exciting, and exactly what I wanted, but the night before I was to go on stage, feelings of doubt emerged. And, like you, I felt like a fraud. Worse, I started to feel panicky.

Nate Burke’s picture

By: Nate Burke

With the rise of online shopping continuing to increase, thanks to the convenience and comfort of shopping from home, it's important for e-commerce businesses to look to their returns policy to ensure they’re not only catering to the tech-savvy, modern consumer, but also the environmentally conscious.

And with research suggesting that 84 percent of consumers are likely to buy from, and 86 percent likely to return to, a brand with a free returns process, there’s a clear shift in demand from the modern consumer, whose patience for brands with poor returns processes is rapidly fading.

The struggles of returns for e-commerce businesses

Brands right now are doing everything they can to cater to the concerns of consumers in turbulent times, such as increasing their returns windows. However, this can create logistical and financial difficulties, particularly given ever-rising return rates. Some estimates place these at 20 percent for e-commerce businesses.

Multiple Authors
By: Angus Robertson, Ahmet Abaci, Beth Somplatsky-Martori

Often, there’s a razor-thin margin between success and failure. Not long ago, Gillette—which dominated the $3.5 billion market for razors and accessories for longer than a century—was challenged by a little upstart called Dollar Shave Club, which had just starred in its first commercial for a reported production cost of $4,500.

At Gillette, innovation mostly consisted of adding the occasional blade to its disposable cartridges, but there was little incentive to otherwise rock the boat of its delightful recurring-revenue model. After all, hair continues to grow, whether we want it to or not. Prices remained artificially high, and the whole industry had a stodgy image.

But Dollar Shave Club noticed that, although razors themselves were still quite relevant, the way they had been marketed and sold was quite antiquated and inconvenient. Dollar Shave Club entered the market with a far less expensive pricing model, as well as an auto-ship process that would ensure shavers had a fresh blade at the ready without leaving the comforts of home. Along with fun commercials, resonant social media and globalization helped prop DSC up with $200 million in revenue during its first five years.

William A. Levinson’s picture

By: William A. Levinson

Shigeo Shingo was able to summarize entire concepts in single phrases, such as “paint parts, not air.” This meant that paint which misses parts in a spray booth constitutes wasted material and also an environmental aspect. “Ship product, not air” defines similarly empty space in packaging as wasted shipping capacity and shipping material.

“Ship value, not water” extends this concept to products that are mostly water, and that can be shipped in dry forms to which water can later be added.

I ordered replacement heads for my Sonicare toothbrush, with which I have had good results for many years. The pack of six arrived, along with air-filled bags to occupy the empty space in the box, as shown here.

Figure 1: Waste in Plain Sight

Maureen Metcalf’s picture

By: Maureen Metcalf

Many organizations feel the need to be leaner, faster, stronger, more adaptable, and more profitable. The right tool set to get them to that outcome may not be intuitive or singular. Building organizational agility is a solid approach to help organizations develop the capacity to perpetually evolve.

Organizational agility enables companies to accelerate their ability to sense and adapt to the volume, complexity, and rate of change organizations face in the current environment. We believe business agility is comprised of four main elements: strategist leadership, nimble culture, lean principles, and agile methods.

The challenge

Change is accelerating across all sectors of organizational life, largely driven by technology, geopolitical changes, and strong academic research. This accelerating change in disparate sectors comes together to drive organizations to develop the capacity to perpetually evolve, often quickly, to set trends, or to respond to forces that are changing the market. Although this volume and pace of change seem daunting, the most successful organizations address them by developing organizational agility.

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