The making of a Service Design Hero

Alberto, what do you think about the current war for talent?” a good friend asked to me.

Wow, that’s a big topic and I’m afraid although I have hired, trained and coached many talented teams in my life, I would only have a partial view on it. So, what I proposed him instead, was that I would approach his question from within my area of expertise:

1.   I would start a series describing the skills and mindset needed for several roles where I have expertise on. The first post was about becoming a “Marketing Hero”. Today I’ll be touching on what’s needed to be a great “Service Designer”, and soon I’ll be reflecting on how to become an excellent “Product Manager”.

2.   I would then try to close the loop by describing how a team of Marketers, Service Designers and Product Managers would address the global talent issue if they were responsible for it.

So, let’s talk today about “Service Design”:

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Service Design sits within the fundamental architecture of a company

Service Design is not a function, a role or a department. It is ultimately a collective team sport where small decisions taken by many stakeholders within a company result in an experience for customers interacting with that corporation.

Eventually, in any organization, you will see there is a “Customer Experience” unit, or a “Service Design” team. Although they will play a fundamental role in shaping how a product or service is delivered to customers, the real experience that they will enjoy or suffer will very much depend on a wider stakeholders footprint. From the training that front line agents interacting with customers had, to how the payment process was wired or how human resources hired employees, all those activities will have a fundamental influence on the service the customer experiences.

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So, what is exactly Service Design?

A service is something that your company provides to a customer to deliver value. It very often includes a core product/service which is the fundamental element of the value proposition, but has many “satellite value drivers” as great usability, streamlined payment options, excellent delivery, outstanding customer care support, fabulous onboarding, …

A first challenge that companies face when crafting a new service proposal is that they need to reflect on a few topics:

·     Who are the customers (customer base)?

·     What are the core needs from those customers (pains/gains)?

·     How those customers would like to engage with my service (channels)?

On top of that, services are made of things that customers experiment themselves, but they are also supported by a huge amount of processes that are just below the tip of the iceberg.

In this circumstances, Service Designers are the professionals at the cornerstone of service definition, from the pure customer experience perspective as well as how the company craft such a value proposition and deliver it to the customer in an efficient and effective way.

Service Design is responsible for the overall end-to-end experience that customers have over time, where bites of value are delivered along their journey.

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You never start with an empty white sheet

Unless you are launching a company from scratch, chances are high that Service Design practice must be adaptative, playing with the existing assets and processes that the company already has.

Whenever we start thinking about how to deliver as product or service, several decisions have been made already in the company, from the organizational chart, to budget allocation or strategic initiatives definition or the culture style. All of them have a massive influence in which services can be delivered, how they are offered, and the value customers can get out of them.

Although this is quite frustrating for inexperience service designers, having some kind of restrictions very often is a nudge to creativity and great service designers embrace them as an advantage.

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What are the building blocks of a Service?

There are five elements that define a service:

1. The “Core” Service: this is what we as a company offer, the technical characteristics of our service, the price and commercial conditions, the range,… In my view, it has three fundamental elements that a great Service Designer should address:

·     Value proposition: how our service relates to addressing the pains that the customer has or the uplift in the gains that the customer can get by using our service. (e.g. in an airline it would be for example the flight schedule or the seat comfort).

·     Quality / Reliability: how solid our service performs, how strong our reputation is, why customers should work with us. (e.g. in an airline, the punctuality).

·     Customization: how customers can embrace our service, plugging it within an existing routine, customize it to make the most out of it. (e.g. in an airline, the flexibility to change the flight).

2.   The “Delivery”: this is about how our service arrives to the customer, and very often has a more relevant impact than the core service itself.

·     Speed: how effective we are delivering the service where and when the customer needs it. (e.g. in an airline, how streamlined the checkin at the airport is).

·     Usability / Accessibility: how easy it is for customers to interact with our company and get access to our services (e.g. in an airline, how easy it is to book a flight in the website).

·     Friendliness: how we let customers feel when exposed to our services (e.g. in an airline, how responsive customer-facing staff is).

3.   The “Processes”: services do not happen “out of the blue”. There is a massive work to be done around creating an operative model that supports the value delivery.

·     Technology: which technological tools we use to operate the service (e.g. in an airline, the booking management tool).

·     Governance: how different departments interact along the customer journey (e.g. in an airline, how Handling suppliers and Ground operations work together).

·     Data: how customer information is shared among different business units to support a consistent experience (e.g. in an airline, the Customer Relationship Management CRM tool).

4.   The “Support”: no matter how strong the service design is, disruption will happen sooner than later. Internally generated disruptions are normally easier to control and manage (e.g. internal systems degradation), but there are hundreds of potential external phenomena that can impact how our service operates (e.g. weather, regulatory changes…).

·     Channels: which channels are we offering to our customers for attending them when in a disruption (e.g. in an airline, call centers, chatbots, online formularies, agents at the airport…).

·     Response time: how fast we are reacting to the disruption and offering an alternative to our customers (e.g. in an airline, accommodating customers in an alternative flight).

·     Empowerment: how easy can customers adapt the service to the new environmental conditions (e.g. in an airline, self-management tools to choose alternatives).

5.   The “Ecosystem”: a company never operates in isolation. Competition and collaboration are the bread and butter of business, and that is great because it requires Service Designers to never stop innovating and envisioning what’s next.

·     Competitors: not only the most obvious ones delivering similar services but also alternative ones competing for the same “share of wallet” (e.g. in an airline, other carriers or high-speed train providers).

·     Partners: other corporations delivering services in adjacent territories from the customer point of view that could help us to craft superior services by merging complimentary value propositions (e.g. in an airline, hotel accommodation providers).

·     Suppliers: other companies providing services that we can integrate within our core service definition (e.g. in an airline, inflight entertainment suppliers).

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What tools do Service Designers use?

There are hundreds of tools that Service Designers can use, and I believe the most talented ones are great choosing from the whole toolkit, those tools that are more effective for the purpose. Although the service design process is iterative, there are some fundamental steps that are great to follow. The tools used for each step are slightly different, but ultimately oriented to designing the right things and designing things right:

·     Researchingcard sorting (organize content in a way that suits users’ mental models), empathy map (share key assumptions around user attitudes and behaviors), journey map (describe how the user interact with the service, throughout its touchpoints), personas (narrate the different types of users, based on clusters of behaviors and needs), stakeholders maps (identify the role of each stakeholder, and relation dynamics).

·     Ideationexperience principles (identify a set of guiding principles to inspire the design of a specific service experience), brainstorming (first diverge and generate as many idea as you can, then converge around solid concepts), evaluation matrix (prioritize ideas based on the most relevant success criteria for the project).

·     Prototypinguser scenarios (explain the envisioned experience by narrating a relevant story of use), user stories (detail the features that need to be developed in the form of user interactions), rough prototyping (quickly mock-up ideas using simple assets and materials, already available on the spot).

·     Implementationbusiness model canvas (plan and understand in advance the business model and constraints of the service you are designing), value proposition canvas (describe the value offered by the service in simple words), service blueprint (map out the entire process of service delivery, above and below the line of visibility), service roadmap (plan the service execution over time, from a minimum set of functionalities to delivering the full experience), success metrics (define a set of KPI to measure the project outcomes and service success).

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So what skillset is needed to become an outstanding Service Designer?

Well, we have covered what Service Design is, the building blocks of Service and the toolkit that designers should master. But what makes a great designer, orchestrating all of it together?

They need the capabilities to navigate the organization, diagnose the parts that are blocking a service meeting user needs, and collaboratively craft a strategy alongside domain experts on how to improve this and execute it fully.

Depending on their role within the organization (individual contributors, team leaders), the balance between different skills may vary. I would say although individuals could be spiky, teams should be well-rounded.

I will divide the skillset in four different clusters:

·     Cognitive skills: The ability to leverage user feedback in all its forms (from casual conversations to formal research) to understand how customers engage with the service, make better decisions and drive meaningful outcomes to the business. Define an overall vision of the service that connects to the strategy of the company and deliver a clear roadmap of highly prioritized features that deliver against that vision.

( System thinker / Process orientation /  Research pro / Financial literacy / User Centered Design / UX Fundamentals / UI Fundamentals / Problem Solving / Experimentation / Strategic vision / Bias free )

·     Social skills: The ability to connect with customer needs, empathizing with their pains and gains and translating them into actionable and high impact service features. Proactively identify stakeholders and work with them building services that deliver meaningful business outcomes. Manage and mentor direct reports with the goal of enabling them to continuously improve against service design competencies.

( Facilitation / Empathy with users / Story telling / Stakeholders management / Mobilization across the organization / Team building )

·     Technological skills:  The ability to understand how technology can support crafting services with a strong and positive customer footprint while they improve overall operations within the company. Embrace Data as a key element of service continuous improvement.

( Technology acumen / Data literacy / Agile software development knowledge )

·     Self-Management skills: The ability to understand and contribute to the overall business strategy, making the most out of the company assets and position Service Design as a fundamental workstream to survive under high volatility and ambiguity.

( Citizen of the world / Massive curiosity / Fast decision making / Growth mindset / Comfort with extreme ambiguity / Resilience / Results driven / Business outcome ownership )

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Putting it all together

Well, who said that Service Design was easy? It is rare that you can find everything above in any single individual. I was lucky enough to work with a number of them during the last years, and when it happens, the progress made in an organization towards customer centricity is massive.

If you are lucky and find one of these “unicorns” ever, try as much as possible to keep it, support the development and create a cultural safe environment for them to flourish. Your customers will very much appreciate it 😉

Airline Innovation Talk with Alberto Terol Conthe, Head of Customer Experience Design and Development at Iberia

( This is a transcript of the podcast from Diggintravel, by Iztok Franko https://diggintravel.com/airline-innovation-talks-iberia/ )

“What does windsurfing have to do with Marketing and Innovation?”

My friend Iztok Franko started his last podcast with quite an eclectic and inspiring question.

I had a great experience talking to him about my vision as a #Marketing#Strategy and #Innovation proffesional.

If you want to listen to it, here is the link: https://lnkd.in/guENe96M

Some frameworks that we were discussing were:

* Effectiveness / Efficiency
* Real / Win / Worth
* Design the right things / Design things right
* Value creation / Value delivery
* Experimentation / Exploitation

Thanks a lot, Iztok, for challenging me with such though provoking questions

*******************************

“Iztok, I love your new podcast series. You had an airline digital talk. Then you did an airline data talk. What’s next?”

This is what somebody asked me recently on LinkedIn. For me, the next step was obvious: next in line was an airline innovation talk.

Why an airline innovation talk? Because recently when I was thinking about innovative solutions, I started to think, where does innovation really happen? Can you point a finger at one department, one area in a company? Are innovation departments the solution?

In my opinion, innovation happens when you combine insights from different areas and different people: data and analytics, digital experience, UX/UI, experimentation, customer research, customer service, product design, etc. To do innovative things, one needs to know all these areas and understand how they fit together. You need to know how to leverage insights from these areas to understand your customer’s pain points and build innovative solutions to address those needs. And this is what marketing should be all about: how to provide value for your customers.

As I was thinking about all these things, I remembered a great post about marketing and innovation I read a while ago. The article was titled “Marketing Hero“, and it was written by Alberto Terol Conthe. So, the guest for our airline innovation talk was a no-brainer.

Airline Innovation Talk with Alberto Terol Conthe, Head of Customer Experience Design and Development at Iberia

Marketing (Value) + Innovation (Creation)  = Value Creation

Alberto opened his article with one of my favorite quotes by Peter Drucker: “Business has only two basic functions, marketing and innovation.” So, my first question for him was, how do marketing and innovation fit together?

I always have thought that they are all together. I’m a marketeer. I started as a marketeer at 3M. Previously I was working in Accenture consultancy as well. But I would say my main business school was marketing, and then moving into innovation, I think they are very close fields. I tend to think marketing is about value, is about understanding customer needs. It is part of the discovery, the research, and understanding the pains and gains of the customer, and innovation is more about creation – bringing some new ways of doing things and new processes and new technologies.

If you put them all together – value creation, marketing, and innovation – they go so well together. It’s turning an idea based on some customer pain or gain into a solution and executing it and providing value from the customer perspective. So they go together. And I think the skills of good marketeers and good innovative people are quite similar. They are around curiosity, questioning everything, bringing the what and the how and the when and the why to every conversation.

Alberto mentioned that execution is an important element of marketing. Recognizing your customer pain points and figuring out innovative solutions is not enough.

I think a fundamental element, as well, of marketing and innovation is the execution. I have had a lot of discussions with certain designers and people from innovation like, “We created this beautiful PPT, and now it’s a matter of the execution team to execute.” My point is that unless a product or a service is crafted and then deployed into the market and it’s being consumed by a customer, there is no success at all. It’s just an idea.

In Successful Companies, Innovation Sits Very Close to the Business

The way Alberto talked about marketing and innovation made a lot of sense to me. But what I see in most companies, especially the big ones, is that marketing is still mostly about advertising – or, in the digital marketing case, it’s mostly about taking care of the website, ecommerce, and digital advertising. Why do we often see a separate innovation department?

I think marketing is very wide. My background is product marketing. You mentioned all the branding and channel management and stuff, and that’s part of marketing. But maybe what I would compare more between marketing and innovation is product management. There, I think it’s very close to each other.

Another example I would bring to you is that I think innovation teams in large companies sometimes are located in the HR people area because of all the change management needed and all the transformation efforts and so on. I think sometimes, very frequently – and I think nowadays even more frequently – they belong to the IT and technical organization, because it’s very much leveraging technology.

Alberto has recognized a pattern when it comes to innovative companies:

The examples I have seen as more successful normally are those in which these companies put the innovation function – the initial innovation function, because I think it has to embrace the whole organization – but let’s say the team mobilizing innovation from the very beginning sits very close to the business. Therefore, again, I see the link between marketing – which for me is value creation and value delivery, which is basically business – very much related to innovation.

Doing The Right Things Vs. Doing Things Right

One other part of Alberto’s article that I really liked was the distinction between two key areas of marketing. One is execution; Alberto calls it “doing things right.” The other part is more about forward-thinking, strategic foresight, and business modeling, and that’s what he calls “doing the right things.”

That’s a sentence [distinction] that we use very much in our service design team. I think both steps are needed. It reminds me a little bit of the Double Diamond in service design, the divergence and then the convergence. I think these two elements – designing the right thing, for me it belongs more to marketing. It’s discovering the underlying customer need, the pain, the job to be done, and so on. It’s designing the right thing.

Airline innovation and marketing framework

Source: Alberto Terol Conthe (LinkedIn)

When it comes to figuring out what the right thing is, Alberto mentioned an interesting “Real, Win, Worth” framework.

In 3M we had a heuristic that we used very frequently in designing the right thing, which is Real, Win, Worth. Every time we wanted to address if an opportunity was worth it for 3M, we would first envision if it was real, if there was a market, if there was a customer pain or need to be addressed. Is this opportunity real? The second one was, can we win? Do we have the capabilities in our company to achieve a successful business out of this opportunity? And the third one would be worth. Is it worth it, or would it be so costly or I would have to hire talent that I don’t have? Okay, so there’s opportunity, we could potentially win it, but it’s not worth it. Or it would not support our strategy or whatever. So for me, that’s the designing the right thing – deciding what you’re going to design and what’s out of scope as well, which is also very important.

And then we moved into designing things right. There is more the world of service design, designing a product and service that matches those needs that you have discovered in the designing the right thing. It has much more to do with UX, UI, choosing the right platform for delivering that product or service, choosing the right partners. It’s more the delivery part of the value. You can be very strong in value creation, but you can be very poor in value delivery. Again, execution becomes fundamental in the second part. We always, as service designers, try to keep both areas balanced – designing the right things, choosing the right fights to fight, but then deciding something that was worth it for the customer and appealing.

Top-Down or Bottom-Up?

To me, this concept of doing the right things and doing things right was really interesting. My background, my experience, and also our Diggintravel Airline Digital Optimization research is more about doing things right – how to be agile, how to do growth marketing, how to do digital optimization and conversion optimization. But if you do systematic digital optimization right, with agile loops of analyzing customer needs, managing data, doing structured analytics, trying to find solutions and designing digital products to address those needs, you’re basically moving up to doing the right thing. So, I asked Alberto: how are these things connected?

It’s iterative. You could eventually start defining an arena that you want to fight for. That’s the design the right thing. Then you move into design things right, and then you discover that it’s impossible to deliver value in that field. Then you may decide to reassess if you are fighting for the right opportunity, or you could move into an adjacent opportunity or so on.

I think it’s an iterative process, and moreover, I think when you launch a product – and this is something we very often forget as service designers; we forget about the product when it’s being delivered. I think especially in those first weeks and months and even years after the launch, they should be in hyper-care, and we should be reconsidering every time, every week, following the KPIs, the metrics, and improving the product.

Alberto recognizes the value of applying the principles of experimentation and being agile to the overall business model and overall products, not just the digital side.

I had once a boss that always came with the question, “Are you 100% sure that this product will be successful?” I said, “Come on, I’m not, but this is the Pareto principle. I’m pretty sure that’s the case. I would say I’m 80% confident that it’s the right product for the right market segment. But let’s launch and let’s learn on the go and adjust and adapt.” So I’m very fond of experimentation and agile launching of new products. Otherwise, it’s paralysis by analysis.

Finding new solutions versus optimizing existing ones

A systematic loop of digital optimization is great for incremental improvement, but you have to know whether you’re optimizing the right things.

I think the other element – because you start with A/B testing and improving and these incremental improvements – the reason I was mentioning that designing the right thing is so important is because very often, especially these days, there’s obsession with efficiency. “We have to deliver efficiency gains.” My point is that there’s nothing so useless as doing something very efficiently which is not usable at all, or that we shouldn’t have done at all. We can be executing something beautifully, it’s very efficient, but there is no customer need or there is no market to be addressed. I think therefore we need to keep balance on both aspects.

But experimentation, rapid prototyping and so on – in fact, we had a discussion earlier this week about prototyping. We were discussing research and we want customer research in which we would envision what customers want for a specific product segment. My point was that customers would never come with a solution. That’s the job of the product owner, of the marketeer. Eventually, by prototyping and showing them some mockups, we can show them, “This is the size and the color and the shape that this would have. Are we working in the right direction, or is this something that doesn’t resonate with you at all?” I think all this rapid experimentation makes perfect sense with any product launch.

Connection between design thinking and experimentation

Source: Visual Summary of “Testing Business Ideas” by David J Bland and Alex Osterwalder

Innovation Is More About Attitude and Culture Than It Is About Skills

One of the key insights Alberto shared in our airline innovation talk was in regard to his key learnings. The first thing he mentioned was attitude:

I thought that innovation was more about skills. I think over the years, I’m discovering that it’s far more about attitude. That’s the approach when I’ve been hiring marketeers in 3M, or now service designers at Iberia: bringing people with curiosity, with this sense of observation, with customer obsession – and when I say customer obsession, it’s spending a lot of hours with customers, interacting with them. Not focus groups, which is a controlled environment, but observing customers dealing with our products and services.

Then Alberto mentioned another interesting aspect of innovation and culture.

I would say another totally different topic which is relevant for progressing with innovation in companies is how managers get measured. Maybe in the vision statement in a company, it says that “we would like to be the most innovative.” Okay, let’s go into the KPIs that managers are using. Are they being measured by the business as usual or by exploring the next big thing? Very often, that tells you the culture of innovation which is happening in the company.

I mentioned culture. For example, something I loved about the American approach to innovation – and I experienced that in 3M, but I’ve been talking with friends from HP, Salesforce – I think in American corporations, there’s emotional safety within the teams for putting some time for exploring and trying to discover things out of business as usual. The famous rule of the 15%. There are many different mechanisms for making the teams work on something which is enriching the total knowledge within the company, and they can openly share their findings, and mistakes are allowed and so on. That cultural aspect is fundamental as well.

How flying drones will boost your curious mind

“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world”

John Le Carre

I was waking up every day at 6:00 am during my holidays. It was just the right time to ride my bike to some beautiful small beaches in the cozy coast of Alicante and experience a stunning sunrise. I was completely alone, and I could fly my drone to capture some beautiful vertical shots of the coast line, where blue and orange merge with each other.

I could not explain the reason behind my proactive daily exercise of “sleep deprivation”. Why I would sacrifice resting in the bed for such a physically exhausting experience?

While talking about it with a great mentor and friend, he answered to me straight forward: “you do it because that is your nature, you always love to see the world from a different angle and then spread the word about what you have observed”.

Ups, I never thought about my passion for aerial photography in such way, but moreover, I had never reflected before on that to be the reason and the fundamental link between the main areas of expertise during my professional career: Marketing, Strategic Planning, Innovation, and Customer Experience.

But my mentor had no doubt: that was the backbone of what I have been doing along the years: observing, empathizing, modelling and taking action. And everything started with a sense for deep observation, whether it was analyzing a market, a technology, a customer or a competitor.

Isn’t it that what Marketing, Innovation and Customer Experience is all about?

September – Personal goal setting time

Summer is normally the best moment for personal deep-thinking. I don’t believe leveraging on January as a kick-off opportunity for making commitments make sense for me, as September seems to be a more natural period for it.

While internal personal goals definition is great, I was thinking about making a public commitment this time. Just as Hernán Cortés did by destroying the ships when arriving in America so chances of coming back were reduced, making public commitments acts as a powerful nudge to act on them.

I found the metaphor of “drone flying” for sound observation of the world around so powerful, that I’m making it my personal motto for the 2021/2022 season:

During 2021/2022 season, I will be “flying drones” to observe the world from a radical different angle

And that “flying drones” approach will mean everything that:

  • Helps acquiring new knowledge and represents a significant upskilling opportunity.
  • Supports meeting new people and discuss about Innovation and Product Management from a totally different perspective.
  • Broadens the view of the world and the relevant social and economical changes that are happening these days and those to come.

So there we go, these are some of my 2021/2022 goals… 😉

  • Skilling – Become a certified drone pilot

First things first. Beyond the metaphor, real drone flying is amazing. While I have made a good progress this year and I got my official AESA pilot ID, I want to progress by getting the license to fly bigger beasts above 250gr. That would permit accessing new territories and keep on observing the world up to 120 meters.

  • Boosting creativity – Learn a new instrument

Being a father, I’m amazed with the curiosity that kids have with everything. The beauty of learning something new from zero is just phenomenal. Last year I tried to play piano for the very first time during the lockdown. While becoming a new Mozart is far away from my aspirations, just being able to play some easy pop songs would be great. Observing the notes, understanding how they interact among each other as chords, and creating some music out of it produces so much pleasure.

  • Upgrading my professional toolkit – Embrace “no code”

Although I personally do not physically create digital products, I’m responsible for the conceptualization, launch and operation of many of them. Proven that I don’t have a coding background and I’m not a developer, embracing the possibilities that “no code” brings will very much help conceptualizing and prototyping new digital services without costly and time-consuming processes. There are a couple of interesting programs to get to know “non-code” that I’m exploring right now.

  • Establishing new connections – Meet relevant people from other industries

What you eat has a fundamental effect on how you feel. The same applies to feeding you brain by meeting relevant people and have sound conversations. The quality of your perception of the world is highly correlated with the quality of the conversations you have with bright and optimistic people around. It is my intention to have at least 1-2 powerful conversations a week and so far, I’m being quite successful.

So here is the plan. After making this public commitment, I will be summarizing the progress done by September 2022. For sure these plans will get somehow derailed, but that will be OK as the other projects colliding with this initial plan help me progressing with the ultimate goal: getting better at observing, empathizing, modelling and taking action.

Let me know should you like to fly together…

There is no way to fix a broken mirror

“The increase of disorder or entropy is what distinguishes the past from the future, giving a direction to time.”

— Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

I can see it happening every day. People waiting and expecting that sooner than later the pre-Covid situation will come back. They talk about “the new normality”, “coming back to the office”, “coming back to the old good days”,…

I have important news from them: that won’t be the case. Period.

And it won’t be the case for a very powerful reason. It is not my very personal view or a subjective criterion.

The reason why the past situation won’t be back is just that it would be against the laws of Nature, against the fundamental principles of Physics, against what has happened every time a deep disruptive event has introduced chaos in a complex system.

If a mirror is broken, it is absolutely impossible to recover it to the previous status. You can glue it or use it for making a beautiful ornamental device, but it won’t be the same mirror anymore.

It is the Entropy, my friend

The law of entropy increase was first born out of thermodynamics and was discovered when studying the efficiency of perpetual motion machines and heat engines.

The second law of thermodynamics states that “as one goes forward in time, the net entropy (degree of disorder) of any isolated or closed system will always increase (or at least stay the same).

Well, but in the business world, Physics don’t apply…

You think so? OK, just please tell me any mayor industry disruption that ended into a situation close to the original one (same market dynamics, same competitors, same customer behavior,…). I bet you won’t come with any example, because that simply does not happen.

Physics do apply to every process in the world, and business is not any different. In fact, I believe a key element of business success has very much to do with how team leaders manage energy

OK, so as the future will be a disaster, I just give up

No way!!!. I haven’t said the future will be terrible, I just said that it will be different, by definition. So, the sooner we all stop moaning and focus on observing how this complex system is evolving and how to capture the bright opportunities to come, the better.

Time to mentally reset

It is over. Your bright past business is gone. Those customers won’t be back, those prices won’t be the same. The full ecosystem has changed massively and there is much more disorder. But grief and mourning won’t help us building the brilliant future ahead.

It is time for us to rethink the industries in which we are competing and the value proposition that we deliver. For example, in the airlines world where I work:

  • Classic approach (the aircraft being in the center of the strategy):
    • Competing in the “60 tons aluminum tubes transportation from A to B” business
  • Potential new approaches (the customer being in the center of the strategy)
    • Competing in the “time saving” industry
    • Competing in the “experiential” industry

You competitors will change according to the industry in which you define you will be competing. In the first case, you would compete against other aircraft operators, while in the second you would compete against players in the videoconferencing world, or in the media industry. We need to understand in which industries does our brand have legitimacy to pretend to occupy a space in the customer top of mind, and be brave and go for it.

But it is not fair

I don’t know if it is fair or not, or how much effort you made building what you had before. We should defer judgement. It is not about what we think it should happen if the world was “fair” but embracing what will happen. Nature does not care about what you did in the past but acts on the situation as from now and builds from here to the future according to its fundamental laws.

Why I’m so optimistic

There is a human tendency towards believing that what happens to us now is the most relevant phenomena that has ever happened to the human kind. But that’s always far from being true. The world used to be a much more terrible place. We have now strong assets that we can fully utilize to build from where we are. Never the human kind has had better access to education, to medical care, to technology.

Businesses have also access to an enormous and worldwide pool of talent and customers, and any new challenge opens the opportunity to new products and services to be delivered.

Next time I want to be prepared

Let’s learn something from what we have just went through. For example, I have personally decided to heavily invest in:

  • Building an “anti-fragile” life. Instead of a rigid architecture that may suffer when the next storm will hit (and it will), a flexible backbone for your personal life will help pivoting if necessary. For example, avoiding leverage heavily on non-liquid assets or teaching your kids languages so they could eventually start a new life anywhere.
  • Personal development. Relevant knowledge fields are endless, and very accessible. For example, I want to be self-sufficient when conceptualizing new digital products and services so I’m considering training myself on “no code” software development.
  • Ecosystems. I’m convinced about the fundamental power of networks and ecosystems in every aspect of life in the years to come. Competitors will suddenly become co-opetitors, industries will merge to deliver new unique value propositions. The definition of what a country or a company or any other institution as aggregators of human volition will be blurred. Associations between individuals will be much more related to achieving a certain goal.
  • Working on the variables under control and explore scenarios. As an engineer, I never forget that for controlling a complex system, your focus must be on input variables under your control. All the others should be understood and observed, but if there is not much you can do about them, they shouldn’t occupy much mental bandwidth. At the same time, spending some time on “futures thinking” can help you understand potential outcomes of current course of action. The future will never be as you imagined, but preparing for several future situations will very much help you to act rapidly as circumstances will change.

Life is too important to adopt an attitude of “wait and see”. We normally have more levers to press than we think, and it is by far so much interesting. Let’s recover the control of our “aircraft”. Let’s do it, and let’s do it now.

Food for thought:

¿Y si dejamos el remo y empezamos a navegar a vela?

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

INTENSIDAD, DIRECCIÓN Y SENTIDO

Recuerdo como si fuera ayer, las clases de Mecánica en la Escuela de Industriales de Madrid. Aquel año, lo pasamos prácticamente entero analizando vectores. Un vector es un ente matemático que se representa mediante un segmento de recta, orientado dentro del espacio euclidiano tridimensional. El vector tiene 3 elementos: módulo (intensidad de la magnitud que representa), dirección y sentido. Se utiliza para representar por ejemplo fuerzas o velocidades.

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Hoy me venían a la cabeza estos recuerdos, observando una embarcación de remo en el Lago de la Casa de Campo de Madrid. En ella, 8 remeros impulsaban hacia delante el bote, mientras que un timonel observaba en la popa y emitía sonoras indicaciones.

Mi amigo Martín, nacido en San Sebastián y gran aficionado al remo, me dice que no me confunda, que “el timonel también rema, pero a su manera”. Yo diría que el esfuerzo de los 8 a proa, no era el mismo en aquel con expresión relajada a popa (pero te animo, querido lector, a que lo judgues por ti mismo en la foto) 😉

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Las embarcaciones de remo tienen una eslora (longitud) descomunal con respecto a su manga (anchura). Eso les permite alcanzar grandes velocidades, pero dificulta mucho su maniobrabilidad. Es un tipo de bote muy eficiente en navegación en línea recta, pero muy complicado a la hora de modificar el rumbo (no ya solo por su dimensión longitudinal, sino por el hecho de tener que coordinar el esfuerzo de remo).

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El origen de la navegación a remo es incierto, pero ya en el antiguo Egipto y en el imperio Griego se utilizaban estas embarcaciones. Prácticamente en paralelo, se desarrolló la navegación a vela. Inicialmente muy precaria (sus velas cuadradas dificultaban la ceñida contra el viento), pronto avanzó gracias al desarrollo de la vela triangular o “vela latina”, que permitía aproximarse en un ángulo cercano a los 45º con respecto al viento.

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¿HEMOS PERDIDO UNA OPORTUNIDAD ÚNICA?

Creo que uno de los aspectos más dañinos de la pandemia de Covid en las organizaciones, es que nos ha convertido en embarcaciones de remo. Llevamos más de año y medio remando con una intensidad nunca vista. Las circunstancias de la pandemia, las restricciones, o las instrucciones de las cúpulas directivas, han fijado la dirección y el sentido del vector, y el único parámetro sobre el que los empleados actúan es el “módulo” (intensidad del trabajo). Los equipos caen en el peligro de llegar de forma muy eficiente y lineal a un destino perfectamente inútil, habiendo perdido la ocasión de explorar muchas otras oportunidades por el camino.

Probablemente en el momento histórico en el que las organizaciones necesitábamos mayor capacidad para maniobrar (“pivotar” en términos de negocio), las restricciones externas e internas han sido mayores que nunca. Entre las externas destacaría las prohibiciones, la regulación y la falta de acuerdos en las industrias. Entre las internas, la congelación de las iniciativas, la contención del gasto y el miedo.

Teníamos que habernos puesto a navegar a vela, y sin embargo el mundo de la política y la empresa se abrazó al remo.

TODO GRAN SUPER-PODER, CONLLEVA UNA GRAN RESPONSABILIDAD

La aparente libertad de navegar a vela es sin embargo muy exigente. La facilidad de poder modificar el rumbo conlleva la responsabilidad de tomar la decisión acertada. Al haber descargado la potencia motora en la intensidad del viento, todo el esfuerzo cognitivo se centra en interpretar el estado del mar, elaborar una serie de hipótesis y trazar e ir corrigiendo rumbos para poder maximizar la propulsión a partir de las condiciones del viento.

Una vez eliminada la “linealidad” del remo, la navegación a vela permite jugar en todas las dimensiones del plano.

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Ya no es cuestión de ejecutar “hojas de ruta” ajenas, ya que no hay timonel que marque la dirección del bote, sino que existe la responsabilidad individual de dirigir la embarcación. El impulso de la embarcación ya no es directamente proporcional a la fuerza con la que rememos, sino que dependerá de lo buenas o malas que sean nuestras decisiones en el campo de regatas a la hora de aprovechar el viento.

¿Y AHORA QUÉ?

A medida que avanza la vacunación y ahora que el Banco Mundial anuncia un crecimiento global de la economía del 4% en 2021 y que poco todas las industrias muestras indicadores positivos, creo que hay asuntos que estamos cerrando en falso, y que antes o después nos volverán como un boomerang de nuevo:

·      El viejo estilo de gestión de “ordeno y mando” podía haber dado paso a otra forma de relacionarnos en las organizaciones, y sin embargo sospecho que hemos perdido una oportunidad histórica. Nos atascamos en pequeños debates estériles sobre si hay que volver o no a la oficina, y no nos hacemos planteamientos más profundos sobre el modelo de trabajo, la responsabilidad y la confianza.

·      El tradicional enfoque del alineamiento alrededor de una única visión corporativa, probablemente ya no sea válido en un mundo en el que no podemos elegir como empresa el apostar por una sola palanca de cambio, sino que debemos de ser capaces de tener un discurso en un amplio abanico de dimensiones del plano (producto/servicio, modelos de negocio, modelo de relación con clientes, estrategia de sostenibilidad, hoja de ruta en tecnología, ecosistema e innovación abierta,…).

¿POR QUÉ ENSEÑO NAVEGACIÓN A MIS HIJOS?

Ningún hito relevante en la vida es lineal, ningún modelo de gestión moderno se debería asemejar a una trainera y ningún favor hacemos a nuestros hijos si no les entrenamos en el manejo de situaciones complejas en las que ellos son los que deben de orientar las velas.

A los niños les apasionan las historias, y estos días les recordaba que hace ahora 500 años 239 hombres circunnavegaban a vela por primera vez el mundo conocido, capitaneados primero por Fernando de Magallanes, y posteriormente por Juan Sebastián Elcano. Dicha expedición confirmaba la esfericidad de nuestro planeta, y sentaba las bases para un mundo absolutamente globalizado. Lejos de ser un viaje lineal, aquella navegación a vela constituyó probablemente una de las gestas más complejas de la historia de la humanidad.

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Transmitirles ese interés por la navegación, por abrazar la brújula y abandonar el mapa, es uno de los objetivos de cada verano en nuestra particular incursión en la Bahía de Jávea. Una vez acabado el colegio, el aula deja paso al mar.

Porque el Covid acabará, pero llegarán otros retos mayores para ellos. Y en ese punto, espero que desplieguen la mayor, y cacen el foque, y se acuerden de lo que con más o menos fortuna les trataba de transmitir su padre navegando en un pequeño velero.

Sales Velocity and your Innovation Funnel

“Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use”

Charles Schulz

I remember back in my MBA days when our IE Business School professor Rafael Pampillón insisted in the enormous difference between “flow variables” and “stock variables” in Macroeconomy.

While “flow variable” is a variable whose value depends on a period of time rather than an instant (example being the gross domestic product), a “stock variable” is a variable whose value depends on an instant rather than on a period of time (example being foreign debts).

Managers and Executives frequently confuse the two different variables. A quite relevant difference is that while you can “pile” stock variables, flow variables are gone as you enter into a new accounting period of time.

In the sales world, every January you start from scratch. Well, you can argue that you have invested in creating relationships and some assets that eventually will let you grow the next year faster, but the truth is that you need to “pile” again your new sales quota in order to hit your numbers.

Old school sales managers kept some deals “disguised” in December in order to bring them up new and shiny when the new sales year started in January, which was something quite disturbing for me in my early days as a Marketing Manager at 3M, as I was used to go full speed and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t want to play big in December.

So the question is: “how can you try to avoid the artificial interruption of sales cycles and measure results not based on quota attainment during a specific period but based on the health of the opportunities pipeline?” or in other words, how can you use smart flow variables to “stock” sales capabilities?

Back in the Sales world when I was managing a B2B business at 3M, we introduced the concept “Sales Velocity” in our sales enablement tools for sales reps. It was very relevant, as it allowed sales managers to understand the speed at which they were creating new business for 3M.

Sales Velocity is defined as:

And it measures the speed at which you are creating new business and therefore the health of your pipeline. More important, it shows how to drive that pipeline by:

  • Increasing the number of active leads
  • Increasing the average deal size
  • Improving the conversion rate
  • Reducing the conversion time

Now in my current role as Incremental Innovation Lead for Iberia Airlines, I tend to see Sales and Innovation pipelines in quite a similar way. Innovation requires betting on a number of initiatives with the hope they will be successful and fundamentally change the business, which is not far from the Sales Rep. taking care and nurturing his key accounts.

So why are Innovation areas frequently not able to traction real impact initiatives?. Well, let’s go back to the “Sales Velocity” concept and let’s make an analogy with the Innovation world:

ACTIVE LEADS = INNOVATION INNITIATIVES

Are you capable of covering the number of Innovation initiatives that are needed based on your teams bandwidth? Are you able to traction Innovation initiatives across every area within the company or you just left some of them unexplored because they are just impossible to cover with the team you have?

DEAL SIZE = BUSINESS CASE

Are you betting on the right projects or are you focusing on those that you fall in love with although they can’t deliver a significant economic impact? Are you supporting those areas in the company that “shout louder” to capture your attention or do you have a strategic process to cherry pick those which make real sense for the corporation?

CONVERSION RATE = IMPLEMENTATION CAPABILITIES

Do you have the right IT capabilities to deliver on the business commitment that you make? Are the systems prepared for the integrations which are needed? Do you have the budget, the Capex, the Opex to support those implementations?

CONVERSION TIME = TIME TO MARKET

Are your internal processes fast enough to deliver according to market needs or are you always one step behind? Are you lost in bureaucracy or are your Innovation squads empowered for fast decision making?

Speed is very often confronted with Control, supported by the famous quote from Mario Andretti “if everything seems under control, you are not going fast enough”, and adopted by Silicon Valley executives for a number of years (“move fast and break things” by Zuckerberg). But that is a very limited vision of speed.

When the right processes to orchestrate Sales Funnels or Innovation Pipelines are implemented, Speed and Control can go together, and that is in my view, the only sustainable way to be in business. Be in charge of your Innovation Funnel and the rest will follow…

Un caballo en el espacio

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” Peter F. Drucker

La historia de la Carrera Espacial está llena de anécdotas simpáticas en el ámbito de la gestión de la Innovación. Una de las que más me gusta es la de la anchura de los cohetes secundarios de los transbordadores espaciales, y que ilustra perfectamente como el desarrollo de nuevos productos y servicios es a menudo esclavo de decisiones tomadas con mucha anterioridad y que condicionan absolutamente el diseño.

El conjunto de un transbordador espacial está formado por una lanzadera (el habitáculo donde viajan los astronautas y la carga), un depósito de combustible principal, y dos cohetes secundarios que lo impulsan en el momento inicial del lanzamiento. Estos cohetes secundarios eran fabricados en sus orígenes por la empresa Thiokol, en el estado de Utah, y debían viajar por carretera hasta Cabo Cañaveral.

La carretera que une Utah con Florida atraviesa una serie de túneles en las Montañas Rocosas, construidos en la época de la expansión del ferrocarril en Estados Unidos durante la segunda mitad del siglo XIX. Durante la construcción de estas vías férreas, se tomó como referencia el ancho estándar del ferrocarril británico, que era de 4 pies y 8,5 pulgadas de ancho. A su vez, esta anchura venía heredada de los diseños de Stephenson basados en los carros empleados en la minería inglesa, que iban de los 1,4 a los 1,5 metros aproximadamente de ancho. ¿Y de dónde venía esa anchura empleada en las explotaciones mineras? Pues de los primeros diseños romanos y antes griegos, que ya en el siglo VI a.C. empleaban vagones para extraer el mineral en Corinto.

¿Y por qué las civilizaciones romana y antes griega utilizaron esa medida estándar? Como en casi todos los diseños primitivos, la usabilidad jugaba un papel clave, y en el momento en el que se juntaron dos animales de carga mediante un yugo para poder arrastrar un carro, quedó fijada la anchura estándar de todos los medios de transporte futuros. Los 1,4 metros de separación, garantizaban que las ruedas de los carros rodaran por el exterior de las pisadas de los animales evitando su desestabilización, y al mismo tiempo eran lo suficientemente estrechos como para no dificultar el cruce en los caminos.

Así es, la anchura de la grupa de dos caballos o dos bueyes marcaría para siempre el diseño de las vías de transporte de mercancías, incluyendo el ancho de los cohetes secundarios de los transbordadores espaciales que debían de ser transportados de Utah a Florida. Es curioso pensar en cientos de ingenieros de la NASA diseñando los vehículos más sofisticados que nos llevarían como civilización al espacio, y que uno de los condicionantes fundamentales de su diseño fuera lo que miden dos animales de carga puestos uno junto al otro.

Reflexionaba sobre este y otros asuntos en relación a las medidas que los gobiernos están tomando para enfrentar la segunda ola de contagios del COVID19 y cómo en vez de aprender de la primera ola y tomar decisiones diferentes y más adecuadas a la sociedad de la información en la que vivimos, retomamos el viajo camino del confinamiento total, que es más propio de la época de la peste medieval que de la época en la que vivimos. En vez de diseñar nuevas vías, retomamos la “calzada romana” que ya transitamos en los meses de Marzo a Mayo.

Aquellos que nos dedicamos en cuerpo y alma a la innovación, debemos estar atentos y no caer en esa tendencia tan humana a recorrer las mismas carreteras que ya hicimos en el pasado y en otras circunstancias.

A este fenómeno de basar decisiones actuales en decisiones anteriores en el curso de la historia se le denomina Path dependece y tiene que ver con la influencia que tiene en la toma de decisiones actuales, la experiencia previa y cómo fue la toma de decisiones en otras circunstancias (que incluso pueden haber dejado de ser relevantes).

Un ejemplo clásico de esta dependencia estudiado en todas las escuelas de negocio, fue el desarrollo del videocassette en los años 70. Dos efectos fundamentales diferentes del criterio de la excelencia del producto impulsaron que la industria adoptara el estándar VHS frente al BETA, cuya tecnología era superior (calidad de imagen, sonido y velocidad de grabación):

Network effect: la apuesta de JVC por licenciar el estándar VHS a cualquier fabricante de reproductores de vídeo, unido a su inferior precio, permitió una velocidad de adopción más rápida que el estándar BETA impulsado por Sony. Esa expansión generaba una serie de externalidades positivas para el usuario al comprar un reproductor VHS, ya que podía intercambiar películas con más amigos y encontraba mayor facilidad para alquilarlas en el vídeoclub. Ese “efecto red” derivado de la estrategia comercial de JVC, probablemente fue el factor desencadenante de esa “path dependence” que supuso finalmente la desaparición de BETA (de poseer el 100% del mercado en 1975 a ser discontinuado en 1988).

Bandwagon effect: los fabricantes de reproductores de vídeo se fueron “sumando al carro” de VHS tomando la decisión en cascada de adoptar esa tecnología sabiéndola “caballo ganador”. Desde el punto de vista de la psicología cognitiva, resulta mucho más sencillo tomar una decisión que se observa que han tomado otros antes, incluso aunque se dude de que sea la correcta (“¿dónde va Vicente?, donde va la gente”).

Algunos autores hablan de una tercera palanca, que fue la decisión de Sony de no licenciar su solución BETA a empresas de la industria de la pornografía, limitando la adopción de su formato (este última palanca, vamos a dejarla en el terreno de la leyenda 😉 ).

Volviendo al ámbito de la Innovación, esta “Path dependency” y sus palancas “Network effect” y “Bandwagon effect” condicionan muchos fenómenos, suponiendo grandes barreras al desarrollo de nuevos productos y servicios, como por ejemplo:

ADOPCIÓN DE TECNOLOGÍA NO ÓPTIMA: Casos como el de VHS hay muchos, por ejemplo la estandarización del teclado “QWERTY” en nuestros ordenadores, que lejos de ser el más rápido, su diseño buscaba proactivamente que fuera más lento para evitar que las máquinas de escribir se atascaran.

PERSISTENCIA DE TECNOLOGÍA LEGACY: Grandes sistemas de información que en su día cumplieron una misión crítica, quedan obsoletos y aun así no son reemplazados sino “parcheados” con n-cientos evolutivos. Las barreras de salida de esos sistemas son tan grandes que nunca se encuentra la oportunidad adecuada para adoptar una política “zero base” y construir un sistema adecuado a las circunstancias actuales. Además, cada vez la decisión de salir de esa espiral descendente es más compleja, porque como dicen los americanos ya se ha “arrojado mucho dinero bueno sobre dinero malo” y ningún ejecutivo quiere reconocer que esos costes hundidos no deberían condicionar la decisión a tomar a fecha de hoy.

“FEATURITIS” y “EFECTO RATCHET: Ocurre cuando un responsable de producto no es capaz de ir eliminando “features” (funcionalidad) a su producto a medida que va incorporando otras nuevas, con el temor de que algún usuario se sienta decepcionado por esa utilidad que algún día pudo darle. A veces ocurre porque el responsable del lanzamiento cae presa de los intereses de diferentes áreas corporativas y trata de elaborar un producto que satisfaga a todos, con el resultado de que no satisface a ninguno. Al final, el producto es una especie de Frankenstein o “feature creep” que limita la usabilidad y lo desposiciona en el mercado. Incluir esa funcionalidad pudo ser lo adecuado en el pasado, pero con cada nuevo lanzamiento habría que replantearse si lo sigue siendo (lo que se conoce como “pruning”).

Sin embargo, a veces los efectos de esa “cadena de decisiones” pasadas tiene efectos muy positivos en el ámbito de la Innovación:

ATRACCIÓN DEL TALENTO: Al diseñador de productos y servicios brillante, le interesará trabajar en proyectos y organizaciones con equipos potentes en los que pueda aprender. Tomar por lo tanto decisiones de contratación de “high-flyers” en los inicios puede suponer crear un polo de atracción de talento posterior muy relevante, como ocurre en la actualidad con proyectos de emprendimiento. El halo de excelencia de esos primeros fichajes atrae como moscas a la miel a profesionales de primer órden, aunque el éxito de esa start-up genere mucha incertidumbre. Un efecto similar sucede en la creación de polos de tecnología como Silicon Valley alrededor de la Universidad de Standford.

MARIPOSAS DE LA INNOVACIÓN: Las “Innovation Butterflyes” ocurren, conforme a la teoría del “efecto mariposa”, cuando decisiones iniciales desencadenan resultados inesperados en cadena. Algunas compañías como 3M han explotado el potencial de estas “mariposas” con magníficos resultados, pivotando tecnologías que inicialmente surgieron en un mercado y resolviendo dolores de clientes en otras industrias. Estos fenómenos se entienden mal con corrientes de gestión basadas en el control y en la planificación financiera, donde cada mínimo esfuerzo en innovación debe ir encaminado a un retorno concreto, medible y cierto por adelantado.

Personalmente me aplico un principio en la gestión en áreas de innovación que me permite reflexionar y en su caso escapar del “Path dependence” y consiste en aplicarse lo que el genial Mark Twain pregonaba: “Cada vez que te encuentres del lado de la mayoría, es tiempo de hacer una pausa y reflexionar”. Me permite salir de la corriente de pensamiento dominante y no caer en el “pensamiento grupal”, aunque ya te adelanto amigo lector, que a menudo genera profundo desgaste y grandes decepciones. Ser un libre pensador no es cómodo, pero ¿quién dijo que innovar fuera fácil?

Miedo (COVID edition)

Miedo

“El que teme sufrir, ya sufre el temor”

Proverbio Chino

Alex Honnold pasa 12 horas al día mirando cara a cara a la muerte. El que probablemente sea el mejor escalador mundial en la modalidad “solo integral” (sin anclajes ni cuerdas que le sujeten en caso de caída), lleva escalando toda su vida en el valle de Yosemite.

Alex tiene una fijación especial con El Capitán, la inmensa vertical de granito de 900m. de altura que domina el valle y que tantas veces fue inmortalizada por Ansel Adam (uno de los padres de la fotografía moderna en blanco y negro en Norteamérica). Escala sus paredes sin ningún tipo de seguridad, buscando de forma incansable la perfección técnica que le permite ascender la mole en apenas 4 horas (video).

Los investigadores no dan crédito al observar el comportamiento de Honnold, que parece no tener miedo a enfrentarse al vacío y a una muerte segura en caso de que cometa cualquier fallo en alguna de sus ascensiones.

Intrigados, los científicos de la Universidad de Carolina del Sur le han sometido a diversos experimentos mediante resonancia magnética para comprobar el grado de excitación de su amígdala (la parte del sistema límbico cerebral encargada de la gestión de las reacciones emocionales) frente a imágenes de extrema violencia o que revolverían el estómago del común de los mortales. El resultado es que apenas observan actividad en ella. Alex parece haber eliminado el miedo de sus emociones, o al menos es capaz de controlarlo de una manera asombrosa.

El consumidor medio dista mucho de gestionar sus emociones como el joven escalador californiano. El miedo es un mecanismo biológico de supervivencia y defensa que permite a los animales reaccionar con rapidez frente a una amenaza, lo que se denomina el instinto de “fight or flight”. Con pocas excepciones, nos afecta a todos los individuos de forma más o menos regular.

En el mundo del Marketing la palanca del miedo ha sido y es frecuentemente utilizada para movilizar al consumidor hacia la compra. Parafraseando al genial Don Draper de la serie Mad Men“La publicidad se basa en una cosa: la felicidad. ¿Y sabes en lo que consiste la felicidad?… en la ausencia de miedo”.

De este modo, la propuesta de valor de muchos productos y servicios se basa en ejecutar con maestría el siguiente “ciclo del miedo”:

  1. Identificar un miedo en el consumidor, bien sea concreto (ej: una enfermedad) o más inespecífico (ej: incertidumbre económica).
  2. Explicitar ese miedo, hacerlo visible, de forma que se acentúe su impacto.
  3. Ofrecer un remedio que evite la situación que atemoriza al consumidor, que aplaque ese miedo.

Observa a tú alrededor y verás multitud de productos cuya propuesta de valor se apalanca en el miedo:

  • El miedo al fracaso que me puede producir el que mi hijo se avergüence del coche que tiene su padre (ej: “el coche de mi Papá tiene wifi”). ( video )
  • El efecto FOMO (“Fear of missing out”) asociado al desarrollo tecnológico y a las redes sociales, que consiste en el miedo a no enterarme de lo que está sucediendo a mi alrededor, de estarme perdiendo algo interesante. Muy explotado en época de rebajas o grandes promociones.

La llegada del COVID19 a nuestras vidas nos enfrenta de nuevo a numerosos miedos, tan poderosos, que han resultado suficientes para que los ciudadanos hayamos aceptado mansamente el mayor retroceso de las libertades civiles de nuestra historia reciente (derecho a la libre circulación, derecho de reunión, derecho a la libertad de empresa,…). En ocasiones el miedo viene derivado de la posibilidad de contagio, en otras del riesgo de sanción económica, pero en ambos casos nos atenaza recluyéndonos en nuestros hogares.

Desactivando el miedo en la mente del consumidor

“Motivation is the art of getting other people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”

Dwight Eisenhower

Si tuviéramos la “varita mágica” que nos permitiera acceder a los mecanismos y resortes que desencadenan el deseo del consumidor por nuestros productos, el trabajo de un responsable de Producto sería mucho más sencillo.

Si bien no existen “varitas mágicas”, la Psicología y la Neurociencia nos ofrecen diversos modelos que nos ayudan a comprender, no ya solo el comportamiento de los consumidores, sino el de los individuos en sociedad. Y en este caso la palanca que debemos desactivar para que se ponga en marcha el consumo tras el COVID19 es la del miedo (sí, esa que como comentábamos anteriormente los responsables de Marketing son maestros en activar).

El problema es que no podemos extirpar la amígdala de nuestros clientes y convertirlos en una suerte de Alex Honnold. Así que nos queda el desarrollar una estrategia más sofisticada.

El neurólogo Portugués António Damásio ha caracterizado las emociones que guían nuestro comportamiento: Tristeza, Vergüenza, Disgusto, Furia, Miedo, Sorpresa, Excitación, Alegría, Amor, Confianza. La escala se mueve desde aquellas que están dirigidas a facilitar el escape del peligro, hasta las que se relacionan con el apego. Evolutivamente estamos diseñados para evitar el riesgo y por ello son tan potentes las emociones enfocadas a escapar de situaciones potencialmente peligrosas.

Además, debemos de ser capaces de entender que en los procesos mentales de actuación y toma de decisiones, funcionan tres planos o “cerebros”:

  • El “cerebro reptiliano” sería aquella parte más primitiva que se encarga de mantener las funciones vitales y de los impulsos más básicos (ej: miedo, deseo sexual,…).
  • El “cerebro límbico”, que supone el segundo salto evolutivo, controlando las emociones, recuerdos y permitiéndonos interactuar con el entorno.
  • El “neocórtex”, que controla los procesos racionales y de gestión consciente: el pensamiento, las decisiones más meditadas, la gestión de las capacidades cognitivas.

En nuestro afán por desactivar el miedo del cerebro reptiliano, las empresas caemos frecuentemente en el error de tocar palancas que apelan en exclusiva al neocórtex. El problema es que el miedo es un impulso primitivo, no racional, y apelar sólo a las capacidades cognitivas más sofisticadas, resulta inútil.

Nadie quiere ser el “primer pingüino” en saltar al agua

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear”

Nelson Mandela

En estas circunstancias, las empresas nos miramos por el rabillo del ojo, en un movimiento que me recuerda a la estrategia de los pingüinos. Estos simpáticos animalillos, viven en colonias de miles de individuos protegiéndose de las inclemencias del invierno austral.

En un momento dado, los pingüinos están ávidos por saltar al agua y pescar alimento, pero son conscientes del peligro que supone la presencia de orcas. Todos los pingüinos se apelotonan al borde de la plataforma de hielo y no es hasta que uno de ellos salta al agua y evalúa la ausencia de peligro, que los demás le siguen.

Tras una primera fase de crisis profunda, las empresas estamos como pingüinos, expectantes sobre en qué momento construir un discurso sobre palancas de esperanza y crecimiento.

¿Y cómo hacerlo para que en el momento de “saltar al agua” lo hagamos con las máximas precauciones y seamos capaces de desactivar el miedo del consumidor?

Imagino que dependerá de la industria y de las circunstancias, pero en todo caso yo recomendaría utilizar las tres palancas Aristotélicas de la persuasión:

  • Ethos (Autoridad, Credibilidad, Competencia): apelar a la trayectoria empresarial, al prestigio acumulado mediante años de intachable hoja de servicios contrastados.
  • Logos (Razón): apelar a estudios científicos que demuestren que el miedo del cliente es infundado, señalizar de forma visible que el peligro no existe (ej: medidas de protección).
  • Pathos (Emoción, Sentimiento): probablemente la más compleja de todas pero la que cala más profundamente en la mente del consumidor. Se puede construir a partir de historias, anécdotas, metáforas, ejemplos, testimoniales,… Que los consumidores entiendan que no son “el primer pingüino en saltar al agua”.

Tiempos apasionantes sin duda para los que nos dedicamos al desarrollo de productos y servicios, que debemos construir nuestra propuesta de valor no sobre sofisticados argumentos racionales, sino sobre profundas emociones muy primarias como el miedo…

…ese, del que Alex Honnold carece.

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“Nota: esta constituye la tercera de una serie de reflexiones personales que iré compartiendo en próximas semanas sobre el impacto del COVID19 en las organizaciones”

Primera: De Magritte, el COVID19 y el Método Científico

Segunda: Metiéndonos en un jardín (COVID edition)

Metiéndonos en un jardín (COVID edition)

Jardín Inglés en Múnich

“If you put fences around people you get sheep.”

William McKnight, promotor de los principios de gestión de 3M en los años 50

Hace unos días leía el magnífico relato de Miguel Arias de Telefónica sobre la gestión de la creación de la app para autodiagnóstico del COVID19 CoronaMadrid. Antes había tenido la suerte de hablar con Danny Saltaren de Mendesaltaren que contaba la experiencia de forma parecida.

Escuchando a uno y otro, no puedo sino tener sana envidia acerca de su vivencia gestionando en tiempo récord la creación de una herramienta que ha sido crítica para la descongestión del call center de la Comunidad de Madrid en las primeras semanas de la pandemia de COVID19.

Los principios del éxito de la gestión de su trabajo podrían resumirse en:

  • Foco absoluto en la consecución de un producto muy definido en un marco temporal muy concreto.
  • Equipo de alto rendimiento, con un talento descomunal.
  • Trabajo en un entorno que no tiene miedo al error, a las críticas, a estar en modo “beta” permanente asumiendo que trabaja en un entorno complejo y de absoluta incertidumbre.

Su historia me recordaba los principios fundacionales del estilo de gestión de 3M, entre los cuales la experimentación siempre ha sido uno de sus activos fundamentales. La prueba y error como motor de la creación, en un entorno con toma de decisiones descentralizada.

Estos días de confinamiento llevan a numerosas reflexiones, y al hilo de la experiencia de CoronaMadrid, me paraba a pensar en diferentes estilos de liderazgo y su eficacia en esta época de incertidumbre absoluta. Pensaba en la metáfora de la diferencia entre un jardín francés y un jardín inglés.

El jardín francés surge en el Renacimiento y se caracteriza por un cuidadoso diseño en el que predomina la simetría y el orden, trazado con escuadra y cartabón. Todo se gestiona a través del control, no dejando nada al azar, ejecutando con precisión hasta el último detalle. Si has estado en el parterre del Retiro en Madrid o en el Palacio de Versalles, sabes de lo que te estoy hablando.

Frente a esa concepción renacentista surgió el jardín inglés, muy influido por las corrientes del Romanticismo, y que trata de integrarse con la naturaleza caracterizándose por permitir el libre desarrollo de la flora y las formas irregulares. Juega habitualmente con la orografía del terreno, tratando de no domesticar demasiado el entorno natural.

A los paisajistas ingleses les resultaba una aberración el forzar la acción de la naturaleza, al mismo tiempo que con su concepción menos intervencionista rechazaban el régimen absoluto de sus vecinos franceses. Preferían definir unos principios fundacionales y dejar hacer a la naturaleza.

CoronaMadrid es un ejemplo de “jardín inglés”. Para poder salir en producción en un tiempo récord ha debido adaptarse a los condicionantes del “terreno” (políticos, tecnológicos, legales,…). De haber optado por una estrategia de “jardín francés” probablemente todavía estarían discutiendo sobre la gobernanza, el protocolo, las funcionalidades,…

La llegada del COVID19 nos ha expuesto a la realidad de los “sistemas complejos” que tan bien explicaba hace unos días Samuel Gil en su post en Suma Positiva. Son sistemas conectados, dinámicos, interdependientes, adaptativos, emergentes, retroalimentados,… En estos sistemas es muy complejo predecir su evolución y el llegar a controlarlos es una aspiración tan legítima como fútil.

Frente a estos fenómenos caben dos aproximaciones, la del “jardín francés”, tratando de “meterlos en vereda”, o la del “jardín inglés”, buscando comprender su esencia y gestionarlos dotándolos de grados de libertad adicionales.

¿Y tú, cuál eliges?

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“Nota: esta constituye la segunda de una serie de reflexiones personales que iré compartiendo en próximas semanas sobre el impacto del COVID19 en las organizaciones”