Posts tagged ‘humility’
A good post today on Brand Savant about the myth of the “golden gut” – the belief that “truly creative products and brands don’t need to do research, because they are shepherded by visionary leaders.” Tom Webster notes that the new iPod line is the result of some very good market research.
Webster’s take in a nutshell:
… as romantic as the “golden gut” notion is, it just doesn’t hold up in practice. In fact, the Interwebs are littered with companies that were visionary, wildly creative and challenged the status quo to make something truly great – and failed. Our love of case study-worthy examples like Apple has a baked-in survivor bias that fails to recognize it isn’t only Apple’s creative design and user experience wizardry that has vaulted them to their current status – it’s marrying those sensibilities with an ability to ask the right questions, and decipher the answers.
It’s usually taken for granted that to get feedback, you have to bribe people. Every customer has a price, and if you pay it, you can find out how you’re doing. Fill out a survey and win an iPod (did you ever notice that everyone gives away iPods except Apple?).
The implication is that customers really don’t care about whether you fail or succeed — they have no intrinsic desire to be in a relationship with you.
Years ago, working with one of our multinational retail clients, we tested a different strategy. We approached customers with a sense of humility and partnership, and found out that they were eager to participate. In fact, we discovered an untapped reservoir of good will, and a desire to be heard and to engage with our client.
Just by sending the message in a personal way, keeping the survey relevant, and reminding them that we knew who they were, we got high participation rates. No bribes, no contests.
Naturally, you need to act on what you learn. But the point is, you strengthen your brand by listening. And you’ll find that the people who you listen to want you to succeed.
I’m not alone in thinking that Antennagate, as it’s being called, has been overplayed by the press. What’s interesting is not that the new iPhone has a flaw – anyone here ever encountered an imperfect device before? – but how Steve Jobs reacted to the news.
First he denied that there was a problem. Bad move, but not exactly unprecedented. Then he claimed it was a software problem – basically lying about how easy it was to fix. When no one swallowed that, he said, “So what? Everyone else has the same problem.” And uncomfortable glances shot across the room. Was Captain Queeg losing his grip right before our eyes?
Now he’s grudgingly agreed to supply free bumpers or cases to whiners.
Permit me a small irony. The joke going around – that Steve Jobs’s press conference didn’t work because he didn’t “hold it the right way” is on the money.
Jobs claims that a lot of people love to attack successful companies, but in fact, his company has had not only an amazingly loyal following, but an astounding amount of free publicity from an eager press. Apparently, he concluded that Apple was invincible, and so they failed to test their phone adequately, secure in the knowledge that their sales department were choking on pre-orders.
I’ve noted before that humility isn’t exactly a business buzzword, but it should be.
Had it occured to Jobs this time to step into the shoes of the user, as he so often has with brilliant success, this whole thing would have blown over by now. Humility – the understanding that you don’t have all the answers, that you can always learn from your customers and competitors – is a core value that no innovator can afford to abandon.
Last week I read a four-word phrase in Business week that knocked me over.
The article, by G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón, was called Knowing vs. Learning. The phrase that put me on the floor: Fearless humility exposes possibilities.
One of the organizations I work with has been trying to create a new model of innovation. Key departments in the organization are filled with what the article’s authors called “knowers” – people who think they know all they need to know, and who are fearful of trying new things. This is the classic problem that knowers create: focused as they are on not looking bad, they look for solutions that allow them to blame others when there’s a problem. The solutions will rarely be good ones. But entire organizations can run this way for years.
Creating a culture of “no” – we can’t do it unless we find someone else to blame – is stifling and deadly. Organizations grow and thrive when the culture allows them to learn and discover as they go. This requires humility -the willingness to admit that there is stuff that can be learned, that hasn’t been tried, or even discovered yet. That’s when unimagined possibilities appear.
The word “humility” is not always well-received in business circles, particularly among the knowers. Learners, however – those who are not afraid to admit they don’t know the answers – get it. And it was gratifying to read that a couple of authors in Business Week get it too.
Fearless humility exposes possibilities. That, in a nutshell, is the wisdom of leadership.
What do you do when your customers say your pizza tastes like cardboard? An example of an international brand that finally gets it.
I especially like the credit: “Inspired by our harshest critics.”