Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘malcolm gladwell

Live @ IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit Madrid: Marriott’s Stephan Chase On Customer-Centricity

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It’s one thing to hear from our capable IBM execs at events like the IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit in Madrid.

Marriott’s vice president of consumer knowledge, Stephan Chase, explains to the gathered IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit crowd in Madrid on Tuesday afternoon the secret to Marriott’s customer-centric approach in the hospitality industry.

It’s a whole other thing to hear from our customers, and that’s precisely what we were able to do in our general session yesterday afternoon.

Stephan Chase, who is the vice president for customer knowledge at Marriott International, took the stage at the Hotel Auditorium to explain how Marriott has come to adjust to a more data-centric world.

Chase started his talk with an anecdote about the cards his staff left in restrooms to encourage people to re-use their towels, with the vantage point differing on the meaning of the data like Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai — the story you got back depended on who was retelling it!

But, ultimately, Chase observed, the so-called “preference cascade” effect kicked in.  The cascade being that phenomenon where an individual thinks they’re the only one thinking something, or the only ones in their social circle, when, in fact, they discover there are plenty of others are thinking the same thing.

And, hence, they all start to change their behavior.

Yes, as it came to mind in my own head, it’s all very Malcolm Gladwell “Tipping Point-ish.”

Chase went on to explain that this phenomenon brings to mind that in the modern age, and particularly for hotels, but also more generally, it’s become even more important that what you do is much more important than what you say.

Generation C will sniff out any inconsistency between the two, and it won’t matter what you write on the card or say in your commercial if your actual organizational behavior is not living up to your actions.

Chase then related a story about his grandmother, explaining she used to say that “we are all servants,” and that he didn’t understand what she meant until he’d worked for Marriott for a number of years, and recognizing that in the hospitality industry, he was in a service-oriented business where actions always spoke louder than words.

“When founder Bill Marriott created our first hotel in 1957, he had a saying,” Chase explained.  “Take care of the associate. And they’ll take care of the customer. And the customer will keep coming back.”

With that saying, Marriott went on to open some 3,700 hotels in 70 countries, and to this day, the company focuses on discovering and applying truth for the benefit of customer and company alike.

He explained there are three key factors in hospitality: Freedom of choice, transparent pricing and repeat and referral.  That is to say, there are plenty of hotels that will be price competitive, so the consumer has a lot of choice when it comes to hotels, and that there are very few monopolistic businesses.  In the hotel business in particular, the majority of their business are not with “one-time stayers,” but rather people who (hopefully) keep coming back.

Therefore, in our social-mediated world, “connected customers are the best customers: They have a broad set of experiences, provide valuable feedback, and are engaged in greater variety of channels,” whether that be via smartphone, landline Internet, or even phone.

Then, Chase shared a key insight of the Marriott customer base: “If you take a look at your customer base and you abstract out their future value, I bet you’d find something: The broader the set of purchases and channels they engage with, the greater their future value!”

Therefore, Marriott’s Smarter Commerce evolution has been to focus on engaging the “connected” consumer to drive increased demand by delivering relevant messages to them, providing appropriate and relevant service, and also by recognizing milestones in the relationship (through points award programs and the like).

“If you do a good job of it,” Chase observed, “the customer will be more likely to come back. Thinking about the outcome (coming back), as opposed to the method (the marketing or service), is what will help keep you focused.”

With that, Chase left the IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit audience with some actionable “to dos”:

1. Marketing should focus on WHAT to do — the IT organization should focus on HOW to do it

2. Focus on positive customer outcomes

3. Measure results, refine, and revise.

If you do those things, Chase concluded, you’ll realize some key lessons learned that will provide long-term customer connections and a roadmap for success that will fit your culture for years to come.

Making A List, Checking It Twice

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Dr. Atul Gawande's "Checklist Manifesto" makes a compelling argument for making that list and checking it twice, even in the most expert of white collar professions.

I’m a big fan of checklists.

I’ve been attempting to properly drink the Robert David Allen Getting Things Done Kool-Aid for a couple of  years now.

Inherently, I think knowledge workers like myself have to find improved ways of managing their time, projects, responsibilities, etc., and I’ve discovered that even the most basic and mundane checklist (whether or not you use GTD methodology) increases my productivity and helps me maintain my sanity.

At minimum, I feel as those it’s helpful in offsetting whatever Alzheimherish proclivities I may be developing.

But checklists aren’t just limited to personal productivity.  They’re also a great way to share and implement knowledge, often in the most dire and life-altering of circumstances.

Just ask Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, a 2009 tome on how checklists can assist even the most modern of professionals in its approach to providing a disciplined adherence to essential procedures “by ticking them off a list,” often preventing fatal mistakes and corner cutting.

As Publisher’s Weekly observed in its own review of the book, Gawande examined checklists across a wide range of industries, including aviation, construction, and investing, along with his own medical profession, and was able to demonstrate that even the most simply mandated checklists (hand washing in hospitals) dramatically reduced hospital-caused infections and other complications.

Though I’m all for the medical folks washing their hands to the extreme, particularly if I’m the one going under the knife, I’m even more excited to report that Dr. Gawande will be speaking at the upcoming IBM Information on Demand Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 24-28.

Dr. Gawande is a MacArthur fellow and a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, as well as a staff writer for The New Yorker. In his spare time, he’s also an assistant professor at Harvard Medical school and the Harvard School of Public Health.

In his own Amazon-published review of Gawande’s checklist approach to life, last year’s Information on Demand keynote speaker Malcolm Gladwell had this to say about the book:

Gawande begins by making a distinction between errors of ignorance (mistakes we make because we don’t know enough), and errors of ineptitude (mistakes we made because we don’t make proper use of what we know). Failure in the modern world, he writes, is really about the second of these errors, and he walks us through a series of examples from medicine showing how the routine tasks of surgeons have now become so incredibly complicated that mistakes of one kind or another are virtually inevitable: it’s just too easy for an otherwise competent doctor to miss a step, or forget to ask a key question or, in the stress and pressure of the moment, to fail to plan properly for every eventuality.

Gawande then visits with pilots and the people who build skyscrapers and comes back with a solution. Experts need checklists–literally–written guides that walk them through the key steps in any complex procedure. In the last section of the book, Gawande shows how his research team has taken this idea, developed a safe surgery checklist, and applied it around the world, with staggering success.

Even before I downloaded the first chapter of Gawande’s book on my iPad and started reading about the helpfulness of checklists, I’d already become an adherent.

Now, I would recommend you make your own list and include Dr. Gawande’s keynote talk at the top of yours for the 2010 Information on Demand conference.

In the meantime, you can learn more about Dr. Gawande via his “Annals of Medicine” column for The New Yorker here.

Written by turbotodd

September 29, 2010 at 6:00 am

Q&A With Malcolm Gladwell: Connecting Facebook, Jimi Hendrix, and Steve Jobs

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As I mentioned in a prior post, I had an opportunity to do a quick “walk and talk” interview with The New York Times best-selling author and New Yorker writer, Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell’s first book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference, changed the way many of us think about the way information is shared and disseminated, and how individuals influence one another and, in turn, the crowd.

In many ways, Gladwell was well ahead of his time in that this key book really pre-dated the advent of the widespread use of social media and media democratization, and what his New Yorker colleague James Surowiecki later came to term “crowdsourcing.”

In the few short minutes I had to speak with Malcolm as we walked over to his book signing, I asked him about this evolution and some of his other key “memes.”

Turbo: Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to speak with me, and great job on the keynote today.  You know, I saw from some background material about you that you had majored in history, and I was interested in finding how you came to write about social science.

Gladwell: I don’t even know, really.  There were so just many interesting insights from the social science world that never saw the light of day.  And as a writer you’re always attracted to areas where you can uncover things that people aren’t familiar with. And there was just so much so opportunity in social science, that that’s how I got interested in it.

Turbo: Looking back at The Tipping Point, and recognizing the year that it came out (2000), to my mind your work really pre-dated a lot of the things that have come about around social networking and crowdsourcing. I’m curious if you’ve gone back and really thought about the implications in the book, mavens and so on…how does that play out now online, if at all?

Gladwell: Interesting.  Two things, I think.  The online world, I think, amplifies the power of people, so a connector can become even more connected, a maven can be even more influential, a salesman can be more persuasive.  That’s part of what’s going on there.

But I don’t think the Internet automatically turns all of us into socially influential people.  I think the same patterns have just been imprinted on it or just been magnified.  But the other thing, I think, is that the paradox is now that it makes face-to-face encounters more important.

The scarce commodity now is the kind of thing you can only get in person. So to the extent that I was interested in very personal forms of influence, I think that message is even more crucial than ever. I mean, I think that in a world where anyone can communicate with you so easily, someone can get in the door and have a direct encounter with you, is going to have even more sway, and create a great competitive advantage.

Turbo: That’s great, thanks.  Getting back to the themes of the conference, your book Outliers seemed to me to rely more on data…I may be wrong…but for my money, it really seemed to demonstrate the value of hidden gems in data sets.  Kind of like what you were talking about today in the keynote. “We don’t know what we don’t know.”  So I’m curious how you came to identify the trends in the book of things like the birthdays of the hockey players and correlating their performance, and also the correlation of the famous IT executives’ birthdays (Steve Birthday, Bill Joy, etc.).

Gladwell: Well the IT thing was…I don’t know how I stumbled on that.  I just started talking to all these guys and was just struck by how they were all just about exactly the same age.  You know, I interviewed Bill Joy, and then I interviewed Bill Gates, and they were both about the same age. And then I realized, Steve Jobs is about the same age! And you know, then I did a search and you know, so many of them are!

And of course, there’s a logic behind it because I had stumbled across earlier, in the sociological literature, the importance of the 1830s, which was this magic decade for rich people. So I was looking for that kind of pattern.

You know, last night at dinner we were talking, and you could do the same thing with guitarists. All of the great rock ‘n’ roll guitarists…almost all of them, with one or two exceptions, like Jimi Hendrix…are white English males, born between the years…it’s like Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Richard Thompson…these guys, they’re all the same age, and they’re all from the same little country, right? So you can play these games endlessly, these pattern games.

(I got this last question in as we approached the book signing table, which already had a line around the corner.)

Turbo: So let’s end on this.  If Blink focuses more on the opportunity to listen to intuition more closely, and Outliers focuses on both data and the group contribution to success, where in the middle do we as humans meet?  Where is the sweet spot for both individual and collective progress?

Gladwell: Oh wow, that’s a huge question…We’re always talking about individuals, so I sort of leave that to others. I like to think much more about collective community processes.

Turbo: Okay, thanks a lot for your time.  Appreciate it.

Gladwell: Thank you.

Written by turbotodd

October 28, 2009 at 11:13 pm

Malcolm Gladwell IOD Keynote: Social Power is You

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This morning’s keynote session was superb across the board.

IBM Information Management VP of Asia Pacific, Mark Register, kicked off the day but putting the first few days in context, advising the crowd it was high time to focus on taking the learnings from days 1 and 2 and put them into practice and lead change as key individuals in their organizations to deliver on the promise of information management.

Merv Adrian, founder of IT Market Strategy, later joined to explain that now was the time for information management to take its place at the head of the queue.

It’s no accident that business intelligence once again tops Gartner’s CIO list of focus areas, Adrian explained.

But now it’s time to deliver on business expectations, and for the IT folks to get in the driver’s seat and forge that relationship with the LOB that’s been far too elusive for far too long.

To deliver on their expectations, we need to move beyond automation and move into a more transformative IT, one where information is the raw material, but the tools, processes and approaches we take deliver new and actionable intelligence based on that raw information.

Analytics should guide the priorities, and recorded, specific executable processes become the enabler.

Logic is moving closer to data, and big data drives new workloads: We’re collecting it, so why not use it?  And it’s the discovery tools that facilitate the stewardship of that insight.

Adrian also explained that the art of the possible has been radically changed by stream computing.  I

got a full debrief on stream last night from some IBM researchers that I’m still digesting, but I have to say I think he’s absolutely right.

Think of all the data out there available today, even on your drive to work, that if it were collected and analyzed in real-time, could prove extremely beneficial (our friends with the City of Stockholm are doing just that with their smarter traffic system, which has lowered emissions and traffic substantially).

After Adrian, Mark Register introduced the featured speaker of the morning, noted author Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell kicked things off by joking that it struck him ironic that IBM was hosting a business analytics conference in….Las Vegas.

What were the odds?

Gladwell went on to explain his big themes, that radical change happens far more quickly than you could ever imagine (instead of seeming to be dragged out into inevitable perpetuity).

He reminded us that radio took off as a medium once the “tipping point” was reached, the tipping point being the radio announcing of a key boxing match in New Jersey back in the early part of the 20th century.

Suddenly, there was a compelling reason for people to buy a radio, and it was David Sarnoff’s energy and enthusiasm, the sheer force of his persuasion and connectedness to key players in his community, that brought about a transformation that changed the world forever.

A boxing match.

Gladwell explained that key acts of transformation almost always start with a reframing of sorts.

Think seat belts.

When adults were encouraged to wear seat belts, nobody bit.  When they were reframed as a way to protect kids, their use took off like crazy.

The iPod: MP3 players existed before the iPod, but Steve Jobs reframed the iPod as a single, simple device with a simple interface and simple advertising.

The music world, and how we consumers consumed music, changed almost overnight.

In addressing the key concerns of this audience, he posed the question as to how you frame the discussion about information transformation in your organization?

He explained that they, the audience, are not bringing their organizations a big black box.  They are bringing them the democratization of intelligence.

How do you do that more effectively?  You do it the way David Sarnoff brought RCA that radio opportunity: by sheer force of will and persuasion.

Sarnoff was basically just some Jersey kid…RCA gave him no money, no resources.

But he was the kind of kid who know someone who knew someone who had a radio, and knew someone who know someone who knew some boxers…and everything got connected and a transformation reached its tipping point.

What did Sarnoff have?

Simple.

Social power, the most underestimated factor in any transformation.

A person who has it is able to win the respect of his peers because of a unique skill, of persuasion and personality.

A person not unlike Malcolm Gladwell.

(BLOGGER’S NOTE: I had the opportunity to conduct a 1-1 walk and talk interview with Malcolm just after his keynote.  Keep your eyes here on the Turbo blog to read that interview in the very near future!)

Written by turbotodd

October 28, 2009 at 6:52 pm

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