The Undercover Economist Strikes Back

Recently managed to finally complete reading The Undercover Economist Strikes Back by Tim Harford. An excellent read for those who have any mild interest in economics irrespective of how basic that interest or understanding is. Fortunately i’m able to interact daily with a number of the concepts Tim discusses making my reader journey really pleasurable. The rich history and insight Tim adds to economic ideas and theories have rekindled my inherent interest in the complex systems which economics tries to massage into theory. The story behind the MONIAC colloquially referred to as ‘The Phillips Machine’ was of particular interest and an example of Tim’s extraordinary storytelling ability.

The Question and Answer style of the narrative I initially found distracting but after page 20 it grew on me and is possibly the best format to engage readers who have little or no understanding of economics. The style puts the reader in the driver seat and diligently leads us on a journey of discovery. Although Tim is sometimes compared to my favourite author Malcolm Gladwell, I think the comparison does an injustice to both of them. Their styles are inherently unique and I clearly enjoy both of their works.

Tim’s focus on making economic theory real and practical ensured I was continually engage with the material which is written in a conversational style. Had I read the book during my last year of high school and even my first year at varisty my understanding of economics and how it permeates our lives would have been better entrenched and led to better exam and assignment results.

The book is a treat to read and has made it onto my advise others to read list.

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UX≠CX

Although the difference between User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX) appears marginal they are in fact substantial.

Simplistically UX focuses on how somebody be it an employee or customer interacts with a thing. In most instances this will be a digital interface like a website (consumer focused) or a call center interface (employee focused). CX on the other hand looks at the customers total experience with the organisation not only its website and includes the often variable yet personal interaction between a customer and an employee. This also extends to the physical space in which this interaction occurs. As CX evolves and matures, large and or forward thinking organisations will increasingly add this capability to its skill set and area of focus. CX like an organisation’s Brand is everybody’s responsibility but does need a champion with sufficient gravitas and authority to tweak multiple team’s interactions across the company to positively impact CX. Often processes which impact customers are silo-ed within teams who will fiercely protect their turf!customer-service-skills-cloud

If you subscribe to the formula ∑Brand = sum of experiences, the notation that CX straddles across the organisation intuitively and realistically makes sense. Tom Bottorf provides an interesting perspective when highlighting the difference between UX & CX. He describes the outcome of great UX as answering the the question: “How can I leverage this device to create the best overall experience for my customer?” while for CX: “What can we do to build the best possible relationship between customers and our company?”. The difference in outcomes are massive when trying to answer those questions although they appear subtle when reading it the first time.

When incorporating great CX in the organisation’s DNA, incremental changes to processes and interactions probably will lead to more sustainable results over time rather than a slash and burn approach with the hope that a big bang implementation will kickstart and ensure employees think about customers differently. Here being bold and using elements of Scrum through trailing different short sprints of prototyped processes and allowing employees the freedom to deviate from standardised decision trees depending on the customer should allow the organisation to find an optimal service model in a shorter space of time while ensuring the journey to great CX is embraced across the organisation.

 Happy hunting.

My Design Indaba

I recently had the privilege of attending my first Design Indaba (DI). After years of hearing different opinions about the conference which is staged before the Design Indaba Expo where designers creations are displayed and available for purchase in the biggest hall the CTICC has to offer. I must say I was blown away and definitely will attend next year.

Source: Design Indaba

Source: Design Indaba

The conference offers a glimpse of truly creative people who do not work, they live their passion and it permeates every aspect of what and how they do everything. Creativity be it designing an orchard that is receptive to female hormones by changing stem colours or producing a multi-faceted international marketing campaign lives in each of the presenters. One has to step back and congratulate Ravi for having the vision and fortitude to grind through the struggles he must have faced while sculpting the DI into the collective energy of like-minded people it is today.

My favourite sessions were:

Robbie Brozin the founder of Nandos. I’ve seen him present/discuss the birth and continued success of Nandos probably 3 or 4 times and am always amazed at his dedication, ability to remain relevant and positive perspective of our South Africa.

Yoni Bloch who created the amazingly interactive platform Interlude. Story telling with this platform has taken a very unexpected trajectory and remains a marvel to engage with.

Dominic Wilcox seems to straddle the multiple worlds of tech, art and design simultaeuosly. Easily enhancing simple products we use daily into works of beauty which are practical. His blog is worth spending some time on and should get the creative juices flowing before you know it.

Joe Public shared their story, rising from absolutely nowhere to being one of the most innovative and creative agencies in South Africa. Another truly inspirational story highlighting hard work in the right direction with the right people on board are absolutely key to achieving sustainable success.

Quote to remember:

“If your’re not doing what you love then I think you are crazy” Stanley Hainsworth

YOUR 10 COMMANDMENTS

This list is by no means complete. Its a summary of key considerations when creating and implementing a social media campaign within a wider marketing strategy.

Focus on people not tech

Technology is a hygiene factor, a ticket to the game everybody can buy. Connecting with people’s hearts and leaving them emotionally positively disposed to you is the only sustainable currency. It seems intuitive and very obvious but for most brands it remains elusive. Apple have repeatedly made a success of launching products that are people centric hence the sustainability of its success and its ever increasing share price and market valuation.

Build conversations, not campaigns

Campaigns have a finite timeline be it weeks, months and even days, but conversations linger. They push, prod and permeate your thoughts.

Content is an enabler

Content should not be the objective. Ultimately it’s a means to an end, it’s the firelighter sparking a call to action and hopefully the beginning of a lingering conversation.

Add value

Make a difference! Sometimes its tangible but most often its an intangible a feel good factor which over time is reinforced into a hallow effect for you and your brand.

Listen

Campaigns are perceived as communication in one direction whereas a conversation requires a speaker and a listener. Listening is inherently complicated, as missing messaging nuances can easily derail a positive experience. Listening requires patience, a willingness to understand and add value.

Spread the word

Positive reinforcement and remaining relevant requires action and persistency. Across multiple social media platforms this can easily be achieved without making the messaging redundant, stale or appearing repetitive. Get family and friends to share your content, remember sharing is caring.

Be prepared (Alert, Assess, Act)

Given the always on nature of social media engagement, remaining connected at all times is essential. Using an aggregator like Hootsuite allows for easy and timeous reviews of timelines without flipping through a number of web pages.

Measure progress

For a defined objective set up key metrics to measure the success of the engagement. Set benchmarks for specific milestones and never stop measuring. There is never too little data.

Continual optimisation

Tweaking and finessing interactions as they unfold is one of the key benefits of using social media platforms. Social media can be highly interactive or as dreary as a newspaper, the greater the investment in generating a positive conversation the greater the long-term engagement.

Be in it for the long-term (relationships take time to build)

Much like beneficial offline personal relationships which are developed over time through consistency of interactions, online relationships are no different. The same principles apply but are often forgotten given the perceived anonymity. Focus on remaining relevant.

 Until next time, please send your comments and thoughts.

OUTLIERS

Let me first confess, I’m a Malcolm Gladwell groupie. I find his work interesting, thought-provoking and a joy to read. His ability to deconstruct complexities in a story like fashion keeps me glued to the pages.

That being said I recently found myself rereading Outliers which he published in 2008. It’s an enthralling journey reshaping the way we think about success.  It also introduces the 10,000 hour rule! YES a significant portion of success as we understand it is sheer hard work, intelligence, attitude and appetite but we tend to think very narrowly about it. We tend to discount the impact of our heritage, culture or even our birth year amongst other factors have on the successes we have achieved.

Success is very rarely is attained through a singular event, in most instances it’s the incremental environmental factors and decisions at the margin which over time add up to the major successes we accomplish.  Looking at my own life, had I not been born in 1979 I would not have been able to complete both junior and high school in a model C school which allowed non-white students to attend after the end of Apartheid. This opportunity to learn in a different environment I do believe contributed significantly to my thinking about the world and made my succesful introduction into a white dominated corporate South Africa easier.

When you have a chance get the book or audio version and start building your collection of Gladwell books!

Plan, Organise, Lead and Control

Given the plethora of tasks at hand on any given day, having a plan at hand is always helpful. Be it a daily task list or a year long marketing/campaign plan. This is especially true when unique or a “once in a generation” combination of events swarm together and disrupt the business as usual processes and activities. Think 911 or the oil price plummeting precipitously.

keepcalm-3-630x360

Having a plan, even a conceptual strategic version which is viewed occasionally does create focus and ensures re-alignment in times of extreme stress where deliverables are complex and requires a significant amount of focus with short turn around time frames.

It effectively allows one to Plan, Organise, Lead and Control. You might remember that from 1st year varisty studies and it’s a truth repeating itself daily. Creating a plan is daunting but consider the following when crafting your roadmap.

Objective: Clearly state the purpose of the plan in a document people can easily access. This should be succinct and excite the reader. Where possible distill the objective or messaging you are trying to convey into a word or a phrase no longer than 3. Less is more.

Stakeholders: Extracting and distilling stakeholder needs clearly in all likelihood will probably be the most frustrating part of constructing an executable plan. Removing ambiguity and agreeing on granular details are key to tick off as deliverables upfront.

Excel: Spreadsheets are one of the most underutilised business tools we have in our arsenal. Not only can you elevate your wordy plan by including budgets but these can be extended to modelling and forecasts with editable variables. Enhancing your Excel skills requires practice which will raise your confidence. Many online tutorials are available and Microsoft has a number of helpful hints.

Matrix: Using a Matrix approach allows for readers to sumamrise a year’s activity easily, key to this is understanding stakeholder needs on a granular level. As an example which Social Network platforms to engage: Facebook vs LinkedIn. These should be reflected in either the horizontal or vertical columns, the opposing category should be a time period either weeks or months. The Web is littered with templates to minimise your workload.

WIP: Your plan can’t be static, use it actively in meetings and discussions. It definitely should not be placed in the bottom draw only to be reviewed on an ad hoc basis.

Meetings: Your plan should form the basis of regular meetings to track progress and change activities as the market dynamics shift. In addition it forces participants and stakeholders to remain aligned and focuses energies on key outputs.

After a few iterations of trying different approaches in crafting and compiling your plan you will find a workable solution allowing for effecting Planning, Organising, Leading and Control. Good luck.

Keeping the X in UX & CX

User Experience (UX) and by extension Customer User Experience (CX) are cornerstones of everything we experience and as a learning discipline been with us for ages. It continues to remain mainstream as the ebb and flow of multiple product launches of wearables and more intuitive tech permeates our lives. Although some brands have traditionally settled for the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach. Hoping the average user will be satisfied, the instantaneous interaction users now have through social media platforms have changed this dynamic. It really is power to the people time!

I recently stumbled across a useful slide pack which is lengthy yet provides a punchy overview of the Importance Of Ux. The slide pack is from the Contribute Group and should definitely be followed @ContributeGroup.

UX will be an imperative component of everything we interact with especially online as this component of our lives continues to increase. Ultimately brand interaction will require continued evolution to ensure the MVP is exceeded.