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Guest Bloggers

Guest Bloggers

Mary Beth Nelsen: How Employees Who Refuse To Change Can Damage Your Entire Business

On Feb 8, 2019 6:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

Categories: business change management, business change, change, behavior change

Mary Beth Nelsen: How Employees Who Refuse To Change Can Damage Your Entire Business

From Guest Blogger Mary Beth Nelsen 

I had just finished a 3-day training program. My husband asked what in the world could require three whole days. Thinking he was actually interested, I began to explain the process, including skills development, change management, practice, gaining buy-in, coaching, feedback, etc.

Pay DayHis eyes had already glazed over, but one thing caught his ear. “Gaining buy-in? That’s simple.” He held out one hand. “Here’s your paycheck.” He held out the other hand. “Here’s your job.
You want the paycheck? Do your job.” 

His training programs are very brief. The message is clear. But when change is involved, it’s not that simple. 

In general, people don’t like change, even if the change is innocuous, like a new wrapper on a favorite candy bar. “What was wrong with the old one?” We like things to remain familiar. 

When the change involves habits or behaviors, the resistance and frustration increases. Map out a new route to work. Reduce the file size of a JPEG. Find the peanut butter in a reorganized kitchen. Master social media. Find a favorite show using a new content provider. Ask Alexa? 

The same holds true when the changes are taking place at work.

Always done it this wayI’m convinced that every business has a sign somewhere that reads, “Because We’ve Always Done it That Way.” Many employees think it’s the company motto. There may also be a companion sign, “That’s the Way ___ Did It.” (Fill in the name of a former and possibly long-dead CEO who had a cult following.) 

Effective change management is a process. People need to understand why the change is important and necessary- to the company, and to them personally. They need the tools to succeed- training, coaching, reinforcement, recognition and rewards. They also need to know that everyone is on board and rowing in the same direction. The last key to effective, sustained change is accountability.

To illustrate my point, let's take a look at the story of Mary. 

Safe Boating

There’s something about Mary.

Mary was a dedicated, long time employee, hired for her technical skills. She was well-liked by customers and co-workers. She got excellent performance reviews and was rewarded with regular pay raises. Her company had a very good share of the local market, but Mary’s industry began to undergo significant changes that dramatically changed the nature of their business. The company needed to develop a new approach to attracting and retaining its customers. The new approach required, among other things, new skills.

Mary’s company understood that they needed to evolve if they were to survive and thrive in this new environment. They determined what changes needed to be made, explained the changes to their employees and brought in a consultant to train the new skills.

Mary’s job changed. So did her job description. But Mary wasn’t sold on the need to change what she’d been doing so well for so long and wasn’t sure she could. She attended the training but opted out of using the new skills. She stuck with what was comfortable.

Mary’s boss was frustrated. She knew that Mary knew what she should be doing, but Mary wouldn’t do it.

I was that consultant. When I asked what was being done to get Mary on board, I got a lot of excuses.

It was mentioned in her review, and she got a smaller raise.
A smaller raise, for not doing her job.  

She’s been spoken to.
That’s the extent of the consequences?

She’s doing a few of the new things.
She’s doing part of her job.

I observed that Mary didn’t have to change, as there were no consequences for opting out. At least none that bothered her enough to make the necessary changes.

“So, what are we going to do? Fire her? She’s been a good employee, with us for a long time, and is going to be retiring in 5 years, anyway.”

Five years. So for the next five years, everyone else is going to be rowing in sync, keeping the company boat afloat and moving forward, while Mary drags her oar in the water? Or worse, starts drilling holes in the boat?

How is that fair to everyone else? Mary’s not only not helping, she’s hurting. It’s unfair to the other employees to allow someone to get paid to not do what is necessary for the company’s stability and growth. What about the example it sets when Mary gets away with not doing the job that needs to be done? Pretty soon, you have more oars dragging. Going out of your way to be extra nice to good old Mary, you’re hurting the employees who are really trying. And you’re hurting your business.

change managementMary is a type of highly disengaged employee. Not only is she not helping, she’s actively hurting. McLean & Company has estimated that an individual disengaged employee can cost a company up to $3,400 per year for every $10,000 of salary. And they’re contagious. Next thing you know, your boat is full of holes.

What should you do about Mary? I had a version of Mary in a class, and I will share her wisdom in her own words:

“At first I thought, who the hell are you, coming in here and telling me my perfectly excellent skills are no longer valid? Then I thought, well, it really isn’t anybody’s fault the industry changed. So, I guess I have two options: One is to take advantage of the company’s willingness to provide training and coaching and develop new job skills. Option 2 is to go somewhere else, where my skills are better appreciated!”

Key takeaway here? There cannot be an Option 3, where an employee decides not to learn and use new skills, but will continue to show up every day, be unhelpful and collect a paycheck.

As for my version of Mary, she decided on Option 1, and turned out to be key to her company’s success as both a worker and a role model. She was willing to change. A CEO who oversaw many mergers and acquisitions in his career noted that the people who are ultimately successful are those who were willing and able to change, with willingness the key.

How do you manage a Mary? First she needs to know why the changes are important, to the company, to her. Once you’ve provided skills training, focus on supporting her through strong coaching to master the new job knowledge and skills. People often resist change because they are afraid they won't be able to succeed.

Accountability is critical. She needs to know there is no Option 3. Give regular feedback. Praise success and address challenges. Make sure rewards and/or performance improvement plans are properly aligned. (Tip: A smaller raise for not doing a key part of one’s job is still a raise. What is the message?)

How many Marys are dragging the oars on your boat? What’s your plan? 

About Mary Beth Nelsen

Mary Beth photoThrough her business The Right Resource, Mary Beth Nelsen brings over 25 years of experience as an outcome-focused professional development consultant and coach. Her passion is helping people and organizations realize their best potential by developing people’s business communication skills to meet business needs. She specializes in leadership development, communication, coaching, generations in the workforce, essential management skills, change management and employee engagement. Working in partnership with her clients, she focuses on integrating and aligning customer, employee and organizational needs to catalyze personal and organizational change and achieve winning outcomes. 

Previous experience includes administrator of the Connecticut Bankers Association School of Finance and Management, a two-year leadership development program for banking professionals, and SVP and client manager for Fairmont, a national research, training and development company. She is Chair of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council’s Women’s Leadership Council and a Board and Executive Committee member. She serves on the boards of the St. Vincent Medical Center Foundation and the Fairfield County Community Foundation’s Fund for Women and Girls’ FESP Advisory Council. She is also a Justice of the Peace and volunteers with Junior Achievement, Center for Family Justice, Sandy Hook Promise and Charlotte Bacon Acts of Kindness. 

You can contact Mary Beth at mbnelsen@therightresourceusa.com.

Want to learn more? I've got 4 great podcasts for you

As a culture change expert who works with companies who want or need to change, I see firsthand how hard it is for people to change. I always say change is like a dramatic play, where your employees are well-versed in acting out Macbeth but suddenly they're being asked to do Hamlet. What's the new script? What are my lines? I don't want to learn a new play...I like the old one! Yes, change is something I talk about a lot, because it's a big part of what we do at SAMC. For a deeper dive, check out these four On The Brink podcasts, including my 3-step process for bringing about lasting change:

SAMC Guest Bloggers  

We have a select number of guest bloggers whom we have invited to share their insights with our readers. They bring different perspectives to the challenges of change, innovation and opening new market space, recurring themes here at SAMC. Please enjoy their viewpoints and share them with others.

Resources:

From Observation to Innovation,

AndiSimon_headshot.png

Andi Simon, Ph.D.
Corporate Anthropologist | President
Simon Associates Management Consultants
Info@simonassociates.net
@simonandi

Don't miss a single episode of our On The Brink podcast! 
Subscribe now

 Subscribe to "On The Brink" Podcast

Buy On the Brink by Andi Simon

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Elisa Spain: How Ego Diversification Can Be The Key To Satisfaction And Joy

On Nov 20, 2018 6:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

Categories: women entrepreneurs, business leadership

Elisa Spain: How Ego Diversification Can Be The Key To Satisfaction And Joy

From Guest Blogger Elisa Spain

Ego Diversification

What does it mean to diversify your ego? Does that even make sense?

In the investment world, diversification is de rigueur. Anyone who works with an investment advisor has heard them talk about the benefits of holding a diversified portfolio. The reasons are pretty straightforward, asset classes typically move differently and when one class is underperforming, another is likely to outperform. The goal, therefore, of holding a diversified portfolio, is to achieve an overall positive return. And, even when a positive return isn’t feasible, e.g. in a significant downturn like we experienced in 2008, a diversified portfolio will still outperform a single asset class that experienced a significant loss, the S&P 500, in this example.

The concept of ego diversification is similar. If we are getting all of our identify, our ego satisfaction, from a single pursuit, what happens when something is not going well with that pursuit?

I recall a time early in my career, when I learned this lesson the hard way. I was in my first significant leadership position, and 2 of the divisions I was leading were having major issues. I was frustrated, feeling inadequate and convinced I was a failing. So, what did I do? I worked more. Convinced that if I cut everything else out and focused just on work, things would get better. Not so much. The issues were long term issues, they were there when I took over and it took a long time to sort them out. Meanwhile, my feelings about myself continued to focus on the negative. I was fortunate at the time to work for a manager, Jim was his name, that understood this concept of ego diversification. In fact, he was the one who first shared this idea with me. As I was telling him how badly I was feeling about the problems continuing to go unsolved, instead of trying to help me solve them, or trying to “make me feel better”, he simply said “what you need is ego diversification”. Find something else to spend time on that will make you feel successful.

While it seemed counterintuitive at the time, since I was already working so many hours, this led to my first charitable board position. This work was fun, I was able to have an impact and it gave me separation from my regular work. Eventually the work issues were resolved and since that time, every time I have felt myself sucked into 110% focus on just one thing, Jim’s words came back to me.

Here is what I learned from this. When we focus all of our attention on fixing a problem, when our initial instinct is to double down and laser focus on solving the problem:

  • What is the impact to our self-esteem when our gut tells us solving the problem is going to take a while?
  • What if instead of grinding away, heads down, for weeks or even months, we intentionally spread our attention toward positive situations, time with a happy customer, or time being in service to someone or something that matters to us?
  • How might the “performance” of our lives improve, if we endeavor to diversify our ego gratification all the time thereby creating a “portfolio” of pursuits that together provide satisfaction and joy?

About Elisa Spain

Elisa SpainElisa is a leadership coach, blogger, executive peer group facilitator, Vistage Master Chair and founder of her own leadership coaching practice, EKS Ltd. She also leads a Vistage CEO advisory board whose members include INC 5000 and Crain’s Fast Fifty winners, Chicago Tribune’s Top 100 Workplaces and Crain’s Largest Privately Held. Her dual experience as both executive and entrepreneur has given rise to a unique perspective, enabling her to find new ways to leverage her communication and team building skills to develop high-caliber leaders who achieve transformational results.

Enjoy this podcast on the subject

To add my two cents to the theme of leadership that Elisa touches on so well in her blog, I'd like to ask our readers, what makes a great leader? As a corporate anthropologist, what I've observed over many years is that the main attribute of a great leader is resilience. A manager just manages a problem but a leader has the ability to build resilience in his/her team when things get rough, inspiring them to reach higher. To think about what could be, not what is. If you can be resilient and lead by example, your folks will surely follow. This is the strength that leaders bring to a situation, something I talk about at length in this Ask Andi podcast, How to Learn Resilience.

SAMC Guest Bloggers  

We have a select number of guest bloggers whom we have invited to share their insights with our readers. They bring different perspectives on the challenges of change, innovation and opening new market space. Please enjoy their viewpoints and share them with others.

Resources:

From Observation to Innovation,

AndiSimon_headshot.png

Andi Simon, Ph.D.
Corporate Anthropologist | President
Simon Associates Management Consultants
Info@simonassociates.net
@simonandi

Don't miss a single episode of our On The Brink podcast! 
Subscribe now

 Subscribe to "On The Brink" Podcast

Buy On the Brink by Andi Simon

Read More → Back to Top

Can Marvel Comics Make You Love Blue Ocean Strategy?

On Aug 17, 2018 6:00:00 AM

/ Andrea Simon

Categories: Blue Ocean, Andrea Simon, Blue Ocean Strategy, business strategy, Blue Ocean Strategy Expert

Can Marvel Comics Make You Love Blue Ocean Strategy?

From Guest Blogger Michael Olenick

The idea that higher value and lower cost are incompatible is taken as an assumption. Better things cost more, right?

Sometimes that’s true, but not always. Blue Ocean Strategy theorizes the relationship can be broken, that higher value can be delivered at lower cost. This concept is called the cost/value trade-off.

Let’s use an obvious example:

Complex remote control

All those covered-up buttons add cost; each must be engineered to do something, tested, manufactured, distributed, and explained to consumers (who have no interest in them). The extra cost adds unnecessary complexity. Let’s check out Apple’s TV remote instead:

Apple Remote Control

Much better.

Now a larger example, the turnaround of an entire company and creation of a new movie studio.

Marvel, the beloved comic book/movie/TV/game/toy company went from bankrupt and deeply in debt to a $4.2 billion buyout, in just over a decade, by breaking the cost/value trade-off. Marvel movies earn considerably more than movies from other studios yet cost considerably less to make.

A brief history. Marvel’s success as a business reads like a plot from one of their movies, with superheroes and supervillains of business. The company was founded in 1939. They did OK as one of five unremarkable comic book companies for decades until German psychologist Dr. Frederic Wertham testified to the US Senate, in televised hearings in 1954, that comic books cause homosexuality and teenage pregnancy. Never mind that common sense dictates this is ridiculous (homosexuality and teenage pregnancy?!) – or that Wertham released a sensational book a day before his Senate testimony – his arrow hit the target. There were Nazi-style comic book burnings.

 

Marvek Comic story

By the time comic book hysteria subsided, the five comic publishers had been reduced to two, Detective Comics (DC) and Marvel.

Not content to rest on the strength of their characters, DC purchased Marvel’s distribution channel and allowed only a small number of books to be published each month. It is in this context, from 1960 to 1964, that Marvel issued a mandate to their then middle-aged employees, editor-in-chief Stanley (“Stan Lee”) Lieber, lead cartoonist Jack Kirby, and the slightly younger Steve Ditko, to make new characters or find new jobs. Over about four years they created virtually every Marvel character we now know.

Marvel thrived until the 1980’s when raider Ronald Perelman purchased the company, leveraged it by issuing a lot of bonds (that he largely pocketed the proceeds of), and extracted as much value as possible. By 1996 about two-thirds of the staff were gone, about half the comic book stores were out of business, there was a fan boycott, and a comic book collectible pricing bubble burst. In December 1996 Perelman’s Marvel filed for bankruptcy, hoping to reorganize their way back to profitability.

Ron Pearlman

Ron “Ronnie” Perelman

As if one corporate raider weren’t enough, Carl Icahn had purchased the bonds and decided on a hostile takeover. Icahn did briefly gain control of the business, but it was Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, who owned a toy company, Toy Biz, that had an exclusive deal with Marvel who prevailed. Perlmutter had a history of buying bankrupt companies and fixing them. After a 17-month hotly contested bankruptcy Perlmutter gained control of Marvel, thanks to a $250 million high-interest loan.

Perlmutter, as Chairman of the Board, hired turnaround specialist Peter Cuneo as CEO. He knew the normal (oftentimes ineffective) cost-cutting that turnaround artists embrace would not work. It seldom works anyway and, at Marvel, there was nothing left to cut.

Instead, Cuneo created an atmosphere where creativity and risk-taking could thrive. Cuneo inked deals with Sony to make Spider-Man movies and with Fox for X-Men movies. Eventually, Perlmutter hired Hollywood insider David Maisel to build Marvel’s own movie studio. After their first movie, Iron Man, Maisel sold a debt-free Marvel to Disney for $4.2 billion ($4.5 billion by the time the deal closed), barely a decade after the company emerged from bankruptcy.

In reviewing the idea that Marvel movies are different one person said “seriously – all those superhero movies are the same.” They’re not. Marvel produced movies, featuring Marvel characters, gross about double the amount of Marvel movies produced by other studios, which in turn gross about double the amount of non-Marvel characters. The X-Men movies, Marvel characters licensed to Fox, did considerably better than Superman movies, owned by DC Comics. Iron Man and the rest – Marvel characters in films produced by Marvel itself – earn even more.

Since Marvel movies gross about 2-4 times more than non-Marvel superhero movies, don't they cost more to make? No, they cost less. About 30 percent less. They have more value and cost less to produce, breaking the value/cost trade-off.

OK, answer people still not ready to accept the idea. That’s because Marvel produced movies are their best characters whereas the others are boring and stale, right? Remember that Marvel licensed Spider-Man to Sony and the X-Men to Fox; they were left with largely unknown characters. Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man, Black Panther ... the only character anybody outside comic book nerdom knew was Hulk, and their first and only standalone Hulk movie is also their lowest grossing Marvel produced movie out of the 20 released so far.

Why do Marvel movies resonate more than other superhero movies? Like the simpler remote control, the lower cost movies are better. Instead of high priced stars there are top-quality largely unknown actors. Rather than flashy backstories there’s a couple of good actors discussing a story in a cave, allowing the audience's imagination to fill in the place of expensive CGI scenes. Instead of a dozen cars chasing the protagonists from a remote military base there’s two cars, because the budget supported only two cars exactly like a poorly financed military outpost would.

“Our strategy from the beginning was that our characters were the heroes of the films and we did not want to hire any highly paid actors or actresses,” said Cuneo. “We thought the heroes, the stars, were the characters and there were many fine actors who could play these roles and we did not need expensive talent. Obviously, we hired talented people. We had very talented directors and producers, which are very important. If you were a highly paid actor and wanted to be in our films then you had to take less than normal compensation.”

Marvel characters are people first, superheroes second. Often reluctantly transformed from one to the other. They have angst about the bad guys and often resent their superpowers. These are dramas with superheroes, rather than superheroes trying to shoehorn effects into a plot.

Marvel’s Blue Ocean movie studio broke the cost/value trade-off to become the most profitable movie franchise in history.

Read more about Marvel’s Blue Ocean movie studio here, at Harvard Business Review: The Marvel Way: Restoring a Blue Ocean.

About Michael Olenick

Michaell OlenickMichael is an experienced product and business developer who has used Blue Ocean Strategy to create businesses that have added substantive value. Michael works with startups, established firms, consulting companies and government entities. He is a senior research fellow at INSEAD and a long-time certified Blue Ocean Strategy consultant. 

Michael can be found on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/michaelolenick

Some additional reading to enjoy

We, too, are Blue Ocean Strategists. This blog pulls together some of our favorite posts, podcasts and white papers and we think is well worth a read. 

goldfish clear water-square

Mid-Year Update: SAMC's 10 Best Blue Ocean Strategy® Blogs/Podcasts/White Papers 

The phenomenally successful book Blue Ocean Strategy powerfully teaches entrepreneurs and business leaders to go where the profits and growth are and the competition isn’t. But how exactly do you do that? These 10 blogs, podcasts and white papers will show you. Enjoy.

SAMC Guest Bloggers  

We have a select number of guest bloggers whom we have invited to share their insights with our readers. They bring different perspectives on the challenges of change, innovation and opening new market space. Please enjoy their viewpoints and share them with others.

Resources:

From Observation to Innovation,

AndiSimon_headshot.png

Andi Simon, Ph.D.
Corporate Anthropologist | President
Simon Associates Management Consultants
Info@simonassociates.net
@simonandi

Don't miss a single episode of our On The Brink podcast! 
Subscribe now

 Subscribe to "On The Brink" Podcast

Buy On the Brink by Andi Simon

Read More → Back to Top

David Grebow and Stephen Gill: When History Happens And No One Notices

On Jun 14, 2018 6:00:00 AM

/ David Grebow and Stephen Gill

Categories: business change, technological innovation

David Grebow and Stephen Gill: When History Happens And No One Notices 
From Guest Bloggers David Grebow and Stephen Gill

“When we look back across five centuries, the implications of the Renaissance appear to be obvious. It seems astonishing that no one saw where it was leading, anticipating what lay around the next bend in the road and over the horizon. Even the wisest were at a hopeless disadvantage, for their only guide in sorting it all out the only guide anyone ever has was the past, and precedents are worse than useless when facing something entirely new.”

—William Manchester, A World Lit Only By Fire

Book by Steven Gill and David Grebow Minds at WorkIn the 1980’s, technology, automation, artificial intelligence and globalization combined for the first time to form a new powerful force. The impact of this force began the historic and too often unnoticed ­­ transition from a labor-intensive workforce that had existed for thousands of years to what is still a relatively new and emerging mind-intensive workforce. In our book, Minds at Work, we refer to this period as The Great Inflection Point when we moved from managing hands to managing minds.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates the loss of the relatively unskilled jobs that populated most of the labor-intensive economy would impact more than 1.4 million workers by 2026. Yet, a World Economic Report analysis and report in response to these numbers pointed out that 96% of the 1.4 million jobs could be easily upskilled and transitioned into more challenging and skilled work once automation and AI replaced the repetitive, labor-intensive parts of their jobs. For example, assembly line workers could become construction laborers, electronic equipment assemblers could transition into electricians, and machine operators would learn to be machine mechanics.

Labor-intensive work that can be more cheaply and effectively done by automation and AI has aspects and elements to it that AI and automation cannot do. It means that parts of many jobs are, to use a new term, “robot-proof.” They are the parts of a job that requires you to use your mind life experiences, creativity, ability to continuously learn, and more  in the work you do. Harry Davis at the University of Chicago summed it up when he said, “We have to make it so that people don't leave too much of themselves in the trunk of their car.”

Some countries have paid more attention to this historic shift than others and are doing a better job training and educating their workforces for these upskilling transitions. In Singapore, they have started what is referred to as a “Lifelong Learning Initiative.” The focus is on training and education for skills that will be required in a world that is mind-intensive and not labor-intensive, the brainful work that will need to be done in the future. In Germany, there is the Educational Vocation Act that offers 500,000 Germans with up to three years of education in the classroom that is then coupled with a transition into the workplace as paid on-the-job apprenticeships. These countries have a growth mindset and know that people want to learn and prepare for the future.

Some countries, such as the United States, are still not seeing the implications of The Great Inflection Point and have no strategy for succeeding in this new mind-intensive world. A few companies are leading by example. AT&T realized (almost too late) that their new competitors include not only the new cellular phone companies Verizon and Sprint, but also the internet service providers Amazon, Netflix and Google. Randall Stephenson, AT&T's Chairman and Chief Executive, knew he had to reinvent the company to compete. So in 2014, he asked 280,000 employees worldwide to start a retraining program called Vision 2020. In his mind, it was an easy choice: Take classes and begin to upgrade your skills or limit your opportunities at AT&T to zero. The company knew that a large portion of the workforce needed to learn the new digital technology and quickly be able to work with AT&T’s cloud-based system, scheduled for implementation in 2020.

The World Economic Forum summed it up: "As the types of skills needed in the labor market change rapidly, individual workers will have to engage in lifelong learning if they are to achieve fulfilling and rewarding careers. For companies, reskilling and upskilling strategies will be critical if they are to find the talent they need and to contribute to socially responsible approaches to the future of work. For policymakers, reskilling and retraining the existing workforce are essential levers to fuel future economic growth, enhance societal resilience in the face of technological change and pave the way for future-ready education systems for the next generation of workers.”

History does not happen to someone else. It happens to all of us. The cost of not noticing when history happens is failing to react and falling behind other countries that have been paying attention.

About David Grebow and Stephen Gill

David Grebow has been considered a visionary in the management and education fields for over 35 years. He has held senior management positions with leading technology and education companies, including IBM where he co-founded the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research. David's blog, KnowledgeStar, is one of the most widely-read on learning and technology. 

Steve Gill 2015-979548-editedStephen J. Gill, co-author with David Grebow of "Minds at Work," is a co-founder of Learning To Be Great, an online resource for creating and sustaining a learning culture in organizations. He has designed and evaluated training and learning programs for office systems, manufacturing, utility, healthcare, education and philanthropic organizations, and has written over 50 articles.

SAMC Guest Bloggers  

We have a select number of guest bloggers whom we have invited to share their insights with our readers. They bring different perspectives on the challenges of change, innovation and opening new market space. Please enjoy their viewpoints and share them with others.

On The Brink podcast with David and Stephen

Take a listen to our On The Brink podcast with David and Stephen about the changes taking place all around us in the way people work. Today's "knowledge worker" in a typical corporation is very different from the line worker in a plant, yet so many of our businesses have paid little attention to this significant shift in the labor force and what their response to it should be. Pretty important stuff. Don't miss this!

Resources:

From Observation to Innovation,

AndiSimon_headshot.png

Andi Simon, Ph.D.
Corporate Anthropologist | President
Simon Associates Management Consultants
Info@simonassociates.net
@simonandi

Don't miss a single episode of our On The Brink podcast! 
Subscribe now

 Subscribe to "On The Brink" Podcast

Buy On the Brink by Andi Simon

Read More → Back to Top

Bob Roitblat: 9 Ways Traditional Market Research Fails Innovation And What To Do About It

On May 15, 2018 7:00:00 AM

/ Bob Roitblat

Categories: Business Anthropology, Corporate Anthropology, finding new customers, innovation

Bob Roitblat: 9 Ways Traditional Market Research Fails Innovation And What To Do About It 
From Guest Blogger Bob Roitblat:

"We should discard the old, unquestioned assumption that demographics is always the best way to segment markets."  —Daniel Yankelovich, New Criteria for Market Segmentation, Harvard Business Review, March-April 1964, page 89.

Bob Roitblat-1Traditional market research techniques focus on data, metrics, purchase intent and attribute preferences—i.e., on logical analysis. These provide only a fraction of the available knowledge and insight necessary for effective innovation for several reasons: 

1. Data mining is only effective at uncovering insights into your current customers’ current buying habits. It tells you nothing about people who never were customers or who eventually might be.

2. What customers say in surveys and focus groups often contradicts what they actually think and feel, and how they will ultimately act.

3. Asking customers what they need from your products and services tends to elicit predictable yet inadequate answers such as "less expensive," "easier to use," or "more features."

4. Surveys and focus groups tend to uncover explicit needs and not implicit or latent needs. These needs are most important to driving innovation.

5. Customers are often unable to fully articulate their own needs, at least not in much useful detail.

6. Focus groups produce opinions, but not how to derive meaning from them.

7. People don’t always know why they do certain things, so interviewing them doesn’t reveal their thought process.

8. Consumers often adapt their behavior to compensate for product inadequacies, or cobble together solutions for which no good alternatives exist. Since few people realize they are compensating, they are unable to explain what is missing or what might be improved.

9. Human behavior is influenced by many factors, most of which aren't conscious or rational, and, therefore, can’t be quantified. 

As UCLA professor Theodore Porter wrote in the preface to his 1995 book, Trust in Numbers (Princeton University Press), “quantification is a technology of distance.” 

Rather than being distant from customers and prospects, for successful innovation, we need to be closer to them. 

Empathy is more important than numbers when it comes to delivering successful innovation. 

Empathy, defined as “identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives,” is the language of proximity. Empathy is what gets us closer to customers and helps us uncover their important yet unarticulated needs.

Empathy enables us to get close enough to individual customers or very specific market sub-segments to understand them in the context of the emotional world in which they live. It allows us to inhabit the customers’ minds and hearts in order to thoroughly understand their attitudes and aspirations, what works well for them, what doesn’t work so well, and where their pain and frustrations are within the context of their particular situation.

A deep understanding of customers and their needs, worries and motivations also enables us to find common, often unspoken, drivers of behavior shared by otherwise diverse, traditionally identified market segments.

Innovation starts with empathy for the people we want our ideas to matter to.

Empathy starts with observation; observing the customer up close and over time to uncover their unvoiced, often unrecognized needs.

What customers and prospects do speaks volumes compared to what they say or even hint at. Watch the gyrations your customers go through in real settings when trying to achieve their objectives: what are they frustrated with? What are they wasting time on? What are they struggling to obtain, understand or perform? What do they find easy and delightful?

The empathy gained through observation uncovers the greatest opportunities for innovation.

SAMC Guest Bloggers  

We have a select number of guest bloggers whom we have invited to share their insights with our readers. They bring different perspectives on the challenges of change, innovation and opening new market space. Please enjoy their viewpoints and share them with others.

On The Brink podcast with Bob 

Take a listen to my On The Brink podcast with Bob in which he shares with us how to develop a goal-focused mentality and the competitive skills we need to become great leaders whom people admire and follow. Using his experience as the CEO of Mainsail Consulting Group, combined with years as a competitive sailor, Bob powerfully draws parallels between building and leading a winning yacht racing team and building and leading a winning business. Listen, learn and share!

Resources:

From Observation to Innovation,

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Andi Simon, Ph.D.
Corporate Anthropologist | President
Simon Associates Management Consultants
Info@simonassociates.net
@simonandi

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