Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

Innovation: Get in the Batter’s Box

I love baseball. Everyone has a baseball story. You played baseball, watched a family member play or joined the game being played at the park or in the backyard. You’ve been to a game as either a participant or spectator. Tell me I’m wrong (if I am).

What is it about the game of baseball?

The most intriguing part of the game for me is a mix of the
on-the-field strategy and the statistics that govern the play. In particular I’ve always had a fascination with the batting average (another thing that, in one way or another everyone is familiar with). Don’t think so?

Ever heard or used the phrase “batting a thousand”?

Batting average (simply defined as the ratio of hits to at bats) measures how often (on average) a batter will get a hit. If a player has a batting average of .250 then, on average they will get a hit for every 4 times they visit the plate.

So why are we talking about baseball and batting averages? I thought I opened this to read about innovation.

Stick with me for just a minute. The two tie together.

Innovation has always been key to business, especially in times of economic turmoil. It’s also an idea with which we have a romantic fascination. Who doesn’t want to innovate? “We need to innovate more” is a battle cry of sorts that gets attention and inspires us to our feet while raising the pulse. I love the idea of innovating more and agree that it (innovation) must be a constant. We talk a lot about innovation, its importance, its impact. That’s the fun and easy part. The hard part, and where innovation falls apart is in the execution. We are called to arms, maybe we have some discussions around it, make some plans and then it stops. There’s too much ideation and not enough implementation.

Is it any wonder why innovation stops before it starts?

We want to innovate, we just don’t want to take the step to execute a change, we find it difficult to try. We want to raise our batting average, to get more hits (on average) we just don’t want to step in the batters box and face more pitches in order to raise that average.

There’s one way for a hitter to raise their batting average.

Take more swings.

Face more pitches, take more swings.

There is no way around it.

The same is true with innovation. It’s important to set the vision, call for innovation. It’s more important to try a bunch of stuff (stand in the batter’s box and swing). The result of those swings will be the true collaborative ideas that lead to your next innovation.

Baseball season starts in a couple of weeks. Salute your baseball story by thinking of a need, thinking of some solutions and commit to increasing your innovation batting average.

NEXT POST: How to spur innovative ideas into action.


It IS all about you

February 8, 2010 4 comments

I had the opportunity to attend PCMA Convening Leaders 2010 in Dallas last month. It was several days of new thinking and inspiration about the changing yet vital role of face to face meetings. While an entire month’s worth of blog posts could spill out of my observations from this event (I reserve the right even 1 month post), for this post I’ll focus in on the group that is playing a more important role in F2F meetings than every before.

The attendee.

Put your attendee hat on for a bit. We’ve all been to a trade show, corporate event or educational conference. In those hours of sessions, breakouts, networking events, boxed lunches & bar-hopping how many times have you thought to yourself:

“They should do ____________!” (Sidebar: every idea should end in an exclamation point. We need to get back to the passion we had when we were younger about ideas.)

  • Did you turn that idea into a suggestion? An e-mail? A tweet? Facebook fan page posting? Smoke signal? Carrier pigeon note? (you should have)
  • Did you blog about it? (you should)
  • Did you reach out to your social network and share your idea? (I hope so)

Now for the real question:

  • Did they listen?
  • Did they respond?
  • Did they sign you up to manage that part of the event next year?

Wait…what was that last part again?

Attendee as Contributor
Imagine, feedback, posted transparently, discussed openly and turned on it’s head to engage the attendee in making the event better by owning a part of the event.

Better yet, how do we turn our events into collaborative platforms and empower our attendees & exhibitors to take our event in completely different ways?

How do we truly turn the event over to the attendee?
I’m not sure the above question alone conveys the thought so I’ll add another thought to it. How do we turn our event into a platform on top of which the attendees can build the conference they want.

Event as a platform. Or to geek it up, “Event as a Service” (EaaS). Attendee as a developer, free to build on the event to explore new and different directions that make the event relevant to them at a given point in time with a given group of people (both in person and virtually). I get excited by the opportunity to use a platform (theme, direction, tool set & community) to create an experience that will offer exactly what I need, when I need it surrounded by the people who can help me understand and digest it.

And if I’m not getting that…I need only speak up and join in.

Can Events Do This?
I’d answer this with a quote from General Eric Shinseki (Ret. US Army)

If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.

Events are already doing this. Why? Because people are already doing this. Let’s not forget that the revolution that is causing this upheaval of top down everything is driven by people groping for new and different ways to connect and share.

Hmmmm…isn’t that a working definition of an event?

What’s so scary about this? (TRANSPARENT MOMENT: I really don’t understand)
I’ve asked that question a lot and the answers I get really come back to the concern for loss of control and inhearant change in this model. Yes it’s scary, but isn’t it more frightening to think about your attendees and exhibitor finding your event is no longer relevant simply because you refused to turn it over to them?

If we commit to combine the thought of looking from the outside in (customer vantage point) and support that view with a platform that encourages (can I say demands) social interactions on several levels, we’ve just created events that do more than inform or educate. We’ve created an infectious community.

See you on the platform.

Collaborative CRM – We ALL Owe it to the Customer

“It’s MY customer. It’s MY call.”

That was uttered recently in a meeting. The meeting was to discuss business process (a subject near and dear to my heart) and more specifically to view our sales business process through the eyes of the customer. I’ve led many such meetings in my career and was pleased that my current employer was ready to embark on this cause. Little did I know how deeply engrained our silos…our fiefdoms were.
The issue arose from a seemingly insignificant exercise. Each team (representatives from each division) was to answer the following questions:
  • What are the critical things you need to know about your customer to make decisions on next steps?
  • Why are these pieces of information critical?
  • How do these critial items enable you to best care for the customer
The idea was to then list these critical components to show how similar our needs were across all divisions. Like any sales organization, this one things that it (each division) is completely different than the others. And, after performing this exercise they found that, like any sales organization, they’re more alike than they are different. That realization created tension. For years (75+) this company treated it’s division as businesses built on the idea of how different, how unique they were. Now they were realizing how intertwined their services were.
We left that meeting with quality work completed (my vantage point) and a lot of uneasy feelings among team leaders. I felt like there’d been chinks strategically placed in the armour of space and time…that we were evolving. Time would be the next ingredient needed to continue this process.
The next thing that occurred was a customer meeting. One of our division sales people met with a customer and discovered in that meeting that another division had been talking to the customer. How dare they! It’s MY customer. I was in the meeting with the customer and a couple of things happened that disturbed me:
  • The salesperson immediately stopped listening
  • The customer found himself apologizing for contacting the other division

This customer needed the services provided by our other division. It was an upsell that the first division would get credit for yet all this guy could think about was how his colleague dare talk to HIS customer. In the car after the meeting we debriefed. When my sales colleage mentioned how angry he was about his cross division colleague talking to his customer I reminded him “it’s not YOUR customer. It’s OUR customer.”

I wonder what kind of service this customer would have received had we all put him at the center of our world. How much money was left on the table because we couldn’t get our collective act together. Does the customer feel like he’s working with a team focused on providing him an experience? (I asked and the answer is no…no doubt he’s now shopping us).

Are we focused on what belongs to us or on stewardship of our customer’s success.

Here’s to the latter. We aren’t given customer relationships for life. They are earned daily and we must be good stewards of that relationship with each interaction.

Here’s to becoming what our customer values.

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