When author and marketing consultant Simon Sinek asked companies in his book to run their business by “Start With Why,” he provided a framework that helped leaders to embrace a framework of sense that is more than just running a business. However, I discovered the key driver to success in my projects was more than just the sense of “why am I doing it?” I discovered it in a wider context of “what 4?” Connecting a “reason why” to a certain objective provides a clear framework towards efforts that create an impact. And so my personal mantra of #StartWithWhat4 was born.
Something similar happened to me in rethinking Apple’s Steve Jobs’ mantra: “You have to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology—not the other way around.”
This mantra helped me a lot in losing my fear of technologies and reframing my attitude towards tech by #StartWithWhat4. However, as with Sinek’s mantra above, there was always some part missing for me. Honestly, the “starting with” part—listening to your customer and working back from there—was perfect. However, I discovered that there was more required for me to create innovation and impact than just technology by itself. Even the most experienced business evangelists are not able to create impact just by themselves. Leaders need to align forces with others and create an environment where a common joy of collaboration and trust is driving the impact. Based on this discovery, my next personal mantra was thus born: “You have to start with the customer and work back to customer experience and new work!”
Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast
To be fair, I was literally shocked by my own idea to challenge my professional heroes’ mantras, since they had been instrumental in helping me get that far in my career. However, life seemed to be reminding me right now that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This reminder occurred as a result of being faced with the opportunities digital is providing us in both our professional and personal lives. In my eyes, we are living in the most exciting time ever to drive business. Digital provides us with a landscape, whereby, all of a sudden, we can see and experience the connecting points between different perspectives, connecting and thereby creating experiences we could only dream of before. Digital provides us with new tools, which can not only create sashimi, but the best sashimi in the world, while also having the time to prepare a lovely mousse au chocolat as dessert. But digital also provides us with the opportunity to connect, engage, and collaborate with leaders from other cultures, who can challenge our own perspective and are willing to constantly learn and rethink themselves.
The term “paradigm shift” describes the moment when the usual accepted attitude towards a certain object is being replaced by a new and different way. This term best described the transformation I went through in recent years, having the courage today to challenge my own professional heroes’ mantras.
But how can leaders embrace these two massive paradigm shifts of customer experience and new work? And how are these connected to and influencing each other?
Looking back, I discovered a couple of small paradigm shifts I had gone through. All of these connected to each other made perfect sense. Right now.
You May Say I’m A Dreamer
On my path of paradigm shifts, I discovered the understanding of “imagine” as helpful. Imagine not only provides us the opportunity to dream, it also can be used for distilling down your dreams into action to create a reinterpretation of your status quo. So I will use the understanding of the imagine reframing technique to describe some of the related paradigm shifts.
- Imagine leaders could see millennials and the coming generations not as a threat to their organisations or their own careers? What would happen if you were to provide a framework where these generations did not feel controlled, yet were still committed to driving the best impact for your projects? What would happen if you were to see the experience with them as a refresher course for the skills in your organisation? What would happen if you could empower the millennials to bring their full human-centric acting on the table for reaching your companies’ objectives? What would happen if you would be able to provide your current staff the assurance that their personal career is not being questioned by these new ideas and players? Imagine your current staff might even see such collaborations as a training refresher? I know that such imaginations might sound purely theoretical on first hearing, but I have created a format called “Millennial Innovation Think Tanks” a couple of years ago, which provides a perfect framework for such a refresher course.
- Imagine if chatbots were not just recognised as software used in messengers? But if chatbots were to be provided with the opportunity to focus the work of your customer service towards where they could create the best impact for your customers by providing individual solutions and value? What would happen then?
- Imagine that customer experience were not just a challenge for your IT department. What if customer experience in this digital age were to provide the greatest opportunity for connecting the dots within your organisation, to deliver real solutions and values, to both employees and customers? What would happen then?
- Imagine if your marketing team no longer saw the IT department as the dark side. What if they could view your IT department as a real partner to provide an infrastructure and collaborative framework creating values, for both your employees and customers? What would happen then?
- Imagine you could connect your employee experience with your customer experience, thereby creating true “new work” and seeing your employees enjoying delivering these services to your customers? What would happen if leaders could appreciate the value others bring to their organisation making themselves and others better? Every single day? In my eyes, this mindset describes the paradigm shift Adobe itself went through in recent years. Moving from Photoshop and PDF Reader-single solutions towards an organisation that empowers others to deliver the experience. Imagine what kind of massive commitment would be needed to drive a transformation on two levels—for yourself as well as empowering others to do so.
- Imagine if the idea of “getting rejected” by your customer would not mean the end of the story, but rather provided you with the opportunity to rethink and relearn the relationship from a different perspective? To understand the challenges even more deeply, and create real impact in your company’s relationship with them?
- Imagine if the era for IT, marketing, and PR as separate business units with separate goals and purposes were over. What would happen if each of these were to simply look towards the same current objective to contribute the best they can, while having an eye open for the other one?
Living in the “Age of the Customer” with all of its amazing digital tools provides us with massive opportunities to connect humans with each other, to upscale experiences. These opportunities are a call to action for leaders in organisations, as they now have the keys and responsibility for bringing back gratitude, respect, dignity, and grace to both relationships—the relationship between customer and brand, as well as the relationship between organisations and employees. One to one. Human centric. You have to start with the customer and work back to innovative customer experience and new work. The momentum of human centricity happens. Now.
This article was original published on Huffington Post