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Archive for the ‘Problem Solving’ Category

Mike Shipluski

 

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Source: shipluski.com

 

 

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An interesting example of how a ticklish situation was turned into an opportunity to impress and gain business advantage.

Udaivilas Oberoi

From HBR March/April 2017:

M.S. Oberoi and the front-line obsession

Successful founders understand the economics of customer loyalty. In their early days they know every customer by name. Keeping that up becomes impossible as they grow, but nevertheless they remain obsessed with making sure that someone is looking out for every customer at all times.

Few business leaders have developed this attention to the front line as effectively as M.S. Oberoi, the founder of the Oberoi Group, a chain of luxury hotels in India. Oberoi obsessed about every detail in his hotels that might affect the customer experience. Even in his eighties he kept visiting his hotels to make sure employees were getting everything right, and in doing so he established a culture by which all employees shared in his obsession.

Poornima Bhambal, the assistant manager of the front office at the Oberoi Udaivilas, in Udaipur, described for us the company’s empowerment program, which encourages all employees to do what it takes to delight customers and even gives them access to small amounts of money in order to do so. “We love to surprise and delight guests with little gifts and niceties,” Bhambal said, “and the empowerment program allows this to happen.”

One example, related to us by Vikram Oberoi, a grandson of M.S. Oberoi who now serves as the group’s CEO, was what happened when the staff at one hotel discovered that an American family occupying two rooms was taking all the toiletries — twice a day. This seemed a bit much to the housekeeping staff, and the manager’s first instinct was to go to the family and politely point out that they probably had enough toiletries.

But instead, says Oberoi, after some coaching, “He created a basket of soaps and shampoos and oils used at the hotel’s spa, and wrote a note that was signed by the housekeeping staff. The note said, ‘We notice you like our toiletries and wanted to give you a supply you can take home and share with friends.’ The family loved this. They wrote us after, saying that we were the most fantastic hotel and that they would tell all their friends to visit. That’s a wonderful business result from the investment of a box of lotions!”

Image of Oberoi Udaivilas from theholidayindia.com

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Source: Buzzfeed.com

 

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From Inc. (lightly edited):

Walmart Just Created a Side Hustle for Its 1 Million Employees

By Chad Perry, Senior Sales Leader 
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These days, you’ll be hard pressed to find an individual who isn’t working a side gig or side hustle.

In the old days, it was paper routes and second jobs. Today, many side hustlers aspire to be the next internet star or consulting guru. But most are simply looking to make an extra buck or two.

Don’t believe me?

Look around your company and you’re sure to find more than one individual hustling on the side. And that’s from the front lines all the way to the executive suite.

In a brilliant move, Walmart just tapped into the “make money on the side” desire of its employees.

The Walmart Associate Delivery Program

In a Walmart blog post Thursday, Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. e-commerce, announced the testing of an associate delivery concept.

The model is pretty simple: Associates are able to opt in to deliver groceries on their way home from work.

Associates can choose how many packages to deliver, along with the size and weight, and also which days they want to deliver.

(Some sources report that Walmart will limit the number of associate deliveries to 10 a day. The remaining deliveries will be handled by carriers like UPS and FedEx.)

Walmart then uses technology to match deliveries and associates. The technology will never take an associate too far out of their way home.

Here’s why the move is brilliant.

The Hunter Becomes the Hunted

Walmart was once considered the unbeatable juggernaut, gobbling up anything in its path. Today, Amazon has grown to two times the size of Walmart, and threatens to devour it.

Amazon has built a delivery network of over 40 cargo jets, truck fleets, drivers, and, in the not-too-distant future, drones. Many have speculated that this network will be the downfall of Walmart.

But, in one single action, Walmart tapped into the latent needs of more than a million employees, and now has a home delivery force to rival that of Amazon. For little to no extra cost (certainly less than Amazon spent).

The Lesson of Latent Employee Needs

Walmart knows that many of its employees are no doubt working side hustles. We all have employees and co-workers who are doing the exact same thing.

Why not keep it in the family? Why not build greater employee loyalty and improve the customer experience (because your employees are more loyal)?

Why not make the side hustle an on-the-way-home hustle? Why not be both the employer and the side hustle?

And that is the brilliant lesson we can learn from Walmart: There are latent needs in every employee. Tap into them, and you’ll find yourself with an increase in bandwidth, productivity, and skill-sets.

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Source: Inc.com

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An interesting story from James Lawther:

…During the second world war over 60 million people were killed.  That was roughly 3% of the world-wide population.  It was a hazardous time.

Among the hardest hit were the bomber crews.  The Eighth Air Force suffered half of all the U.S. Air Force’s casualties.  The British fared as badly.  The chances of surviving the war as a member of the RAF’s bomber command were only marginally better than even.

If flying bombing raids wasn’t dangerous enough, landing when you returned home was also fraught with danger.  Pilots of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress had a series of runway crashes, accidentally retracting the landing gear when they touched down.

…Accident investigators blamed these incidents on pilot (or human) error.  There was no obvious mechanical failure.

It wasn’t only Flying Fortresses that had the problem.  There were stories of pilots of P-17 Thunderbolts and B-25 Mitchells making the same mistake.

Nobody would deliberately retract the landing gear when they were still hurtling across the tarmac.  Why the pilots did so was anybody’s guess.  Perhaps the pilot’s attention wandered when they realized they were almost home.

…The authorities asked Alphonse Chapanis,  a military psychologist to explain the behavior.  He noticed that the accidents only happened to certain planes and not others.  There were thousands of C-47 transport planes buzzing about.  Their pilots never suffered from such fatal inattention.

After inspecting the cockpits of the different planes the cause became clear.  On B-17s the controls for the flaps and undercarriage were next to one another.  They also had the same style of handle.   Pilots who retracted the undercarriage when the wheels were on the ground were actually trying to retract the flaps. They just pulled the wrong lever.

In the C-47 the two controls were very different and positioned apart from each other.

The solution: Once he identified the cause Chapanis developed an equally simple solution.  Circular rubber disks were stuck to the levers for the undercarriage and triangles were stuck to the levers for the flaps.  When a pilot touched the rubber, he felt the difference and the crashes stopped…The pilots were well aware of which lever to pull.  It was “human error” that caused the mistake.  But laying the blame on the pilots wasn’t ever going to solve that.

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We all make mistakes.  It is in our nature.  Don’t fight it, fix it.

 

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The original post – unfortunately no way to reblog – may be read here.

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Extracted from an interesting short piece by Christian Madsbjerg is the author of SENSEMAKING: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm:

Silicon Valley needs to get schooled

Silicon Valley is getting antsy. It’s been awhile since we were collectively wowed by the next big thing. The iPhone is ten years old. Uber is eight. The problem isn’t a lack of ideas. As engineers keep breaking new ground, it seems like anything will be possible soon. Why aren’t more of these technologies breaking through to our everyday lives?

What Silicon Valley is missing is an understanding of people—what is meaningful to them, the way they live their day to day lives, what would make a difference for them on an ordinary Tuesday in Phoenix or Shanghai. There is a dearth of deep, nuanced cultural knowledge

From my experience working with major corporations, I would say that technological advancements are only half of the picture. Knowing how to build things is great, but if you have no idea for whom you’re building them—how these inventions will connect with people’s aspirations and challenges—you will fail, no matter how many coding geniuses and data scientists you employ.

If you, like me, are a reader of great novels, you know that almost visceral sensation when you come to understand the world of someone else – the suffering of an Afghan woman, enduring abuse and horrendous conditions to spear her loved ones, or the drab misery of life as an IRS clerk in middle America, someone who had always imagined his life would turn out differently. Literatures—like in-depth journalism, plays, music, art, and even activities like cooking—can put you in the shoes of people unlike you in profound, empathetic way. But the importance of these activities is under attack from the big data-mindset that has invaded both Silicon Valley and many of the world’s biggest corporations.

Spend a few days immersed in a great novel by Tolstoy or with the work of Greek scientist and poet Ptolemy and one is forced to acknowledge that nothing is ever entirely disrupted nor is anything ever completely new. Learning does not function independently of what has come before, but rather in dialogue with it. If executives at Google had taken some time to contemplate this fact, they might have avoided the disastrous rollout to their Google Glass product in 2014. The technology itself functioned just fine. In a narrow Silicon Valley perspective, Google Glass might be considered a successful technology. But when does a piece of technology ever exist independent of a world, a societal structure and culture? Yes, the glasses “worked” but did they belong? Google Glass wearers were dubbed “Glassholes” and people shunned Google Glass wearers at social events. Silicon Valley may have new technology, but in this instance it failed at the much larger challenge of understanding how people relate to one another.

When we use a skill set based in the humanities to understand the world, we gain insight into these deeper issues. And these are the factors that actually drive business forward. Let’s return to China: one by one, the world’s biggest and most cutting edge Silicon Valley companies—Yahoo, eBay, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, and, finally Google—have attempted to develop a meaningful market there. They have come armed with all of the best technical knowledge along with plenty of cash and intellectual property. And yet, today, Internet market leaders in China are still local: Alibaba, Baidu and TenCent.

Technical superiority is a very small part of this story. Limited by their “Silicon Valley” state of mind, American companies simply had no feel for the nuances that made the Chinese marketplace different. With a deeper immersion into the lives of Chinese consumers as well as into their literature, history and religion, technologists might have grasped the more subtle differences between professional and personal network building in Chinese society

When we stop valuing culture, we become blind to the very opportunities that drive “world changing” technology to mass adoption. The greatest challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century are cultural, not algorithmic. And the greatest tools for the study and understanding of culture exist within the wealth of theories and methodologies that make up the humanities.

To those of you with a liberal arts degree, I say this: your skills are essential in today’s world, and more companies need to recognize that. To those of you with a STEM degree (or who never bothered with college in the first place), I would say: pick up a book or two every month. Go to plays. Travel and immerse yourself in a culture unlike your own.

Without a deep, empathetic understanding of other people, turning that good idea into the next big thing may prove elusive.

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The original article may be read here.

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How a rest stop on the side of the road inspired a web page design

Introducing the YesAQars ago I was driving back to Chicago from Wisconsin. On the Illinois side there are a couple of rest stops over the tollway. It’s a great place to get some gas, grab some caffeine, and stretch your legs a little before the final 50 miles home.

The rest stop usually has a booth where you can buy a iPass so you don’t need to stop and pay tolls all the time. During the day there’s a person in the booth to help answer any questions you have.

It appears that a lot of the same questions are asked over and over. Enough, in fact, that the person who answers them is sick of giving the same answer. That answer is “Yes”.

So they jumped on a computer somewhere and put together what I can only describe as one of the smartest formats for an FAQ I’ve ever seen. A single answer on top, and all the questions below. The answer is always YES!! YES, YES. YES!! Then they taped it to the outside of the booth. You can’t miss it.

Yes Page

I thought this was brilliant. I just love it. Yeah, it’s full of passive aggression and spelling errors and formatting problems, but the idea in itself is so refreshing. It’s folk information art.

Inspired by this, we whipped up our own version of a YES! page for Basecamp 3. It was a fun exercise in messaging and design. We call it the YesAQ.

Yes Page 2

Check it out.

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Source: From here.

 

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