Collaboration / Design / Design Thinking / Ideas / innovation / strategy / Transformation / Value

It’s not the thing you fling, it’s the fling itself

Creativity, improvisation and great customer experience.

One of the first pieces of advice I recall being given, upon starting a new role with broad expectations and few resources, was, “Don’t try to boil the ocean.” It is the standout piece of bad advice that I have ever received. When you have nothing, it’s much more effective to be strategic than tactical. Think big and keep thinking. Keep lighting fires.

My non-ocean boiling adviser was really saying, “keep it small;” “don’t be creative;” “be pragmatic;” “don’t question where this is going.” Essentially, they were married to the internal structure and behavior that prevailed at the time and was carving out a path of survival between tactical lines that became irrelevant once the strategy evolved.

This story is relevant to customer experience because essentially the intentions and objectives of internal process are what define the eventual quality of the end product or service. (Badly hacked from Frank Chimero’s wonderful, The Shape of Design). Empathic customer relationships are real. We try hard to predict the next sale through big data and analytics, but let’s face it — we all like to be wowed, energized, sated by great design and the art of the possible; by open questions not closed ones. We have to attempt to boil oceans to connect dots that spark the broader imagination and keep us relevant. Ocean boiling teaches us to listen and create. Through it, we perceive the previously unknown and improvise to create new value.

People buy from people. People buy into an ideal or an essential value. Every single person making a purchasing choice cares about something on some level. Our role in Customer Experience is to make it easy to define that transaction and keep it simple; then go forth and empathize with our customers to find what other value they seek, that they might at some time source it from us. Whatever motivations brought the customer across the digital realm to our door, let’s hope we have some data that supports us making an authentic impression that motivates that customer to stay a little longer, browse among our partners at least and always seek to renew.

Creative confidence should be championed. Creativity and design generate more value. They are pro-active, assertive and lead to personal growth in any practice where user consideration is required before the product or service is deployed. Everyone has a sense of his or her ideal place in mind. Why not help them get there? We are literally talking about art and creativity and the challenge we often see in companies is too big a focus on “how” and “what” and not enough focus on “why” or “what if?”

In the episode, ‘Burning Down the House’, the ever-brilliant 1990s TV show Northern Exposure deals head on with the challenge of art and creativity.

I’ve been here now for some days,” says radio DJ, Chris in the Morning, the town’s de-facto explorer-in-chief, “groping my way along, trying to realize my vision here. I started concentrating so hard on my vision that I lost sight. I’ve come to find out that it’s not the vision, it’s not the vision at all. It’s the groping. It’s the groping, it’s the yearning, it’s the moving forward… I think Kierkegaard said it oh so well, “The self is only that which is in the process of becoming.” Art? Same thing. James Joyce had something to say about it too. “Welcome, Oh Life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience, and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscious of my race.” We’re here today to fling something that bubbled up from the collective unconsciousness of our community. The thing I learned folks, this is absolutely key: It’s not the thing you fling. It’s the fling itself. Let’s fling something, Cicely.”

Having pilfered the entire episode of its final scene, I’ll guide you here to see what Chris flung and how he got to that point. But amid all the creativity and philosophical musing, there’s something else really important in that passage: the thing he flung “bubbled up from the collective unconsciousness of the community.” Most of the time our customers will look at our offerings, our ‘community’, and assess for themselves the value they can derive from some quality that we create. Our intention and our brand should be to always design to that eventual objective and always be open to that improvisation. After all, our value’s often not the ‘fixed’ thing we fling; it’s the fling itself.

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