We are guilty of it. And fall prey to it as well. And in our perennial desire to conform, comply, adhere, fit in and all of that, ensure that we use the same lexicon that have become common place.
You don’t need to be talking about a mega merger or acquisition to throw the word ‘ synergy ‘ about loosely, only to be caught by an unsuspecting tribe of colleagues and business partners. Way back in the 1600’s when the word synergy first came to prominence, the meaning it meant to echo was ‘ human will meets divine grace ‘- that was an understandable intersection. Over time(and this is what happens to a lot of the ‘ jargon ‘ where the meaning gets changed or diluted), synergy seems to be a completely different animal. Leaving you wondering if you are in sync at all!
Lets perch tent on another jargon speak: ‘ Touch Base ‘. I am not sure if it is very evident that the coinage emanated from American Baseball, but that is the fact of the matter.In baseball, players must touch each of four bases in order to score a run. The prevailing hypothesis is that the phrase “touch base” is a reference to this sport. Touch base means to make contact with someone. Though the sport is nowhere close to being played outside the Americas, the jargon has transcended boundaries. And if you were to read between the lines, the phrase ‘ touch base ‘ would unravel suspicious interpretations. After all, we are at the height of the #MeToo movement. Now we will touch base on another phrase.
‘ Out of the box ‘. The game where connecting the nine dots using no more than 4 straight lines was the origin of this. And to do that you had to go out of the box, extend the line beyond the grid to make sure the connection happens. You couldn’t achieve it by being inside the box. It’s altogether another matter that the phrase itself has become so common place that routine and the mundane have also been crowned as ‘ out of the box ‘ and people are comfortably getting away with it. Another example of a jargon losing meaning or getting diluted in value over time.
Perhaps the flexibility and the fluidity of the English language inspires such lexicon. And over time(through imperialism and colonisation), English is the most used business language ( bidding au revoir to Latin and French).
And charity begins at home. In our meetings at ISD Global its very common to hear words like ‘ recalibrate ‘ ( yours truly is the guilty party here) and we are no way close to discussing anything about a vernier calliper or the way it measures.
There are other ‘ low hanging fruit ‘(yes that’s another one) in the basket among several others and we can leave it to the power of euphemisms and metaphors to play its part to get to be ‘ on the same page ‘ and then ‘ sing from the same hymn sheet ‘.
The linguist will never languish!
Visible not in the conventional sense of the term. Visible here means the value that can be derived by keeping your processes and efforts(emotional labour included) being made clear and visible to your customer universe. Seeing is believing the saying goes.
Imagine you are at your favourite restaurant. And ordered their to die for stake. 30 minutes (with nothing at stake and meaningless multiple up and down scrolling on the smartphone later), you see the restaurant attendant bring your order swinging in through the kitchen doors and sashaying to your table and placing it on your table. Voila! You are a sizzling hot stakeholder now.
Now, lets visit the same situation wherein once you have placed your order for your favourite stake, you get to see what is happening in the kitchen and the team of chefs and kitchen staff doing what they need to get your stake ready. You see the intensity, the passion, the precision, the effort and the collaborative energy that is being invested to get your order to the table. You recognise the emotional labour that has gone into the making and delivering of your order.
So what is the prognosis from the above two scenarios. In situation one, you the customer has no idea of what is happening behind the scenes. Your order comes in and there is almost a sense of deja vu- ” I expected this “. You are not according any additional value to the experience. On the contrary, the opaqueness of the experience, takes away the true potential value proposition.
What happens in situation two? As you see what is happening behind the scenes, the labour , the effort, the commitment that is going into your order being processed, subliminally you begin to value the experience far better. Respect for the brand grows. Not just that. In the context of the team that put the order together, they begin to take greater pride in what they are doing as their effort is being showcased to the end user and the chain reaction of getting better continues.
When CEO Teruo Yabe came aboard Tessei( the Facilities Management company that cleans Japan’s Bullet Trains), the perception of the company was at an all time low. The work was considered 3D: dirty, difficult, dangerous. Yabe wanted to change this into the 3K : it stands for “kansha,” “kangeki” and “kando” (gratitude, drama and strong impressions). How did he do it? Read on..
Firstly, he changed the colours of the workers uniforms from a pale blue to flaming red. Attract attention, yes! On any day, in Tokyo Central Station, a work unit clad in the red uniforms of Tessei Co line up with military precision. A bullet train on the Tohoku shinkansen pulls in, and the workers, at the given signal, step aboard and hastily go about their work. They have a total of 12 minutes(gap between train pulling in and departing) of which 5 minutes must be set aside for passengers disembarking. So, effectively time available to them is just 7 minutes to complete their tasks.
Normally (to quote the Shukan Post), two to three workers are assigned to a first-class car, as opposed to one to clean up a regular car. In addition to checking for items left behind on the overhead racks and seats, they must flip the 100 seat backs in each car to make them face the front of the train, and while doing this, they scan the aisles and floor for any refuse, a task generally performed in roughly one minute, 30 seconds.
They then proceed to wipe off the table tops in front of each seat and adjust the window blinds. If any of the white covers on seat backs appear begrimed, these are exchanged for clean ones.
At the two-minute warning, they turn their attention to emptying the waste receptacles between cars. They also team up with other staff, whose task is to tend to the lavatories and washrooms. After a final check of all assigned jobs on their list, they assemble outside on the platform and bow in unison toward the passengers awaiting boarding.
1000 seat train, 22 team members, 7 minutes turnaround. Visible : Very. The CNN Crew called it the ‘ 7 Minute Miracle ‘. Their efforts have even inspired a bestselling book, “Shinkansen osoji no tenshi-tachi” (Shinkansen’s cleanup angels) by Isao Endo (published by Asa Shuppan).
Now, lets move onto another brand that hopped onto the visibility bandwagaon. Domino’s Pizza. About 10 or so years ago, Domino’s decided that they will throw open to their customers an interface(Dominos Tracker) wherein they are able to track what is happening to their order right from order received, dough prepared, toppings gathered, gone inside the oven, packed and on the way to delivered. The image quotient for the brand skyrocketed. Not surprising that this has become case studies in many business schools.
As I write this, I am tempted to share what we should have done when at ISD Global(the Dubai based branding agency where I work) delivered the ExceLENS Awards for Photography( sponsored by Toshiba) a couple of weeks ago. Over 10 weeks, a talented, passionate, committed ISD Global team of more than 10 members(apart from a number of equally committed external partners) clocked really long hours to make the event a resounding success. Am trying to make a case for visibility which helps improve and transform experiences, outcomes and business objectives for all stakeholders.
Till the next, VISIBLY Yours!
Time to Re Imagine Business! And the time is now. As they say, ” The future is already here, but it is a tad unevenly distributed ‘.
It’s a new world of business. So, isn’t it time to ring out the old and bring in the new? A new mandate has to enter the fray.
Can we shake free of the past? Including(yes definitely) past successes! Can we re imagine an entirely new way of doing business?
Could we stop using these two traditional phrases( I will tell you why):
” Push the envelope “
” Think outside the box “
The problem with both the above(other than their gross overuse) is:
Both suggest that there is an intact envelope or a sturdy box from whose known (and identified borders) we can step out from. But remember:
The envelope is already torn and crumpled..and
The box has been run over by a speeding trailer truck.
So, the task at hand is to:
Think “Weird“, however weird it may sound..be wired for it!
(Re)think ” excellence “
Re-Imagine ” leadership “
Get strange. Did you know that the No 1 source of innovation is ‘ pissed off ‘ people ? People who just cannot tolerate the mundane, the silly, the mediocre that is happening around them. That’s the origin of the best innovation you can ever lay your hands on. So, go ahead and seek pissed off people! HR, are you listening?
Fire the planners. Hire the freaks.
An “excessive cult of the consumer“- ” customer driven” also means being slave to demographics, market research and focus groups. So, ‘listening to customers ‘ might just be the No 1 sin in marketing...
Turn the cliched phrase on its head. ‘The customer is always right‘ to ‘ The customer is always late ‘-
Who wanted Post It Notes? Nobody for a dozen years till 3M ‘ wrote ‘ history and we still keep ‘posting’.
Who wanted Fax Machines? Nobody for the longest time till a ‘ critical mass ‘ of users came along.
Who wanted CDs? Nobody or atleast none of us who had just been through the transformation from phonograph records to tapes. Then the kids started using CDs and the awesome quality of sound made us go Ka-boom!
In the words of Doug Atkin, a partner at Merkley Newman Harty: ” These days you can’t succeed as a company if you’re consumer led-because in a world of constant change, consumers can’t anticipate the next big thing. Companies should be idea-led and consumer-informed”
It’s time to re-imagine. At ISD Global we are constantly trying to be as future ready as possible, driven by the weird, motivated by the untried and fuelled by no fear. To generate ideas that can transform businesses and thereby quality of human life.
Your time starts now. The clock is ticking!