leadership dot #2405: captive audience

Rather than trying to figure out how to get customers to come to you, maybe the answer is to go to them instead. Chicago Public Libraries did this with their innovative program that offers story hour in laundromats throughout low-income neighborhoods in the city.

It’s the perfect setting for outreach: bored kids, parents available for large blocks of time and frequency as most do their laundry every week. The librarians bring stories and games to create awareness of the library, demonstrate modeling to the parents and build literacy skills in the children. It is a win-win-win.

The laundromat is an untapped resource for all sorts of other activities that could benefit from the confluence of kids, parents and time. Organizations could offer activities, music lessons or camps, community groups like scouting or 4H could host meetings there, companies could hold focus groups or taste testing with a captive audience or schools could conduct professional development classes like financial literacy or ESL.

The neighborhood laundromat is a hub for a lot more than just washers and dryers. Follow the library’s example and capitalize on a population just waiting for engagement.


leadership dot #2398: modifications

I took note when the person in front of me in the checkout line bought a package of Carrot Cake Oreos. They sound delicious, but I believe that what prompted her to buy them was more of a focus on the “Oreo” portion of the equation rather than just the “carrot cake” flavor. It was a calculated risk for her that the Oreo product would be of a certain quality and consistency so she was secure in taking a chance that the flavor would be good.

Brand extensions are happening all around us as consumers are more willing to venture into new products when there is some known level of what they are getting. Peter Sims called this “Little Bets” in his book by the same name – taking small risks to create change and move things forward. We make little bets when we buy a new flavor of an established product – whether Oreos, M&Ms, English Muffins, lattes or cereals – all increasing sales in a way that may not occur if packaged under an entirely new and unfamiliar name.

Change is often hard for people. Temper your change and increase its acceptance by anchoring it to something that Is known. Can you make the equivalent to a “flavor adjustment” to one of your programs or services? How can you modify a product to keep its essence but make some aspect about it different? By focusing on what is the same, you’ll make it much easier for people to experiment with the newness and become comfortable with making a switch.


leadership dot #2386: missent

Last week my sister — who lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts – received a postcard that was mailed from Colorado in October. Apparently, it went on a little Caribbean holiday en route to her as it was stamped: “Missent to Jamaica”.

I can understand a bit of confusion every now and then, but apparently, it happens frequently enough for the Post Office to have A RUBBER STAMP that says that. Aye!

If you have a flaw in your system that happens so often that you have a stamp or process to adjust for the mistake, perhaps you are better off spending the resources to fix the problem instead. Marking something as “missent” does not atone for the three-month delay in arrival or do anything except to highlight the inefficiency of your service.

Adopt some of the pace of the Jamaican culture and slow down a bit – and avoid the client-aggravating detour that rushing can cause.

leadership dot #2375: power pack

On Christmas morning, it is inevitable that something requires batteries. And what fun is that toy/thermometer/walkie talkie if you are unable to play with it on the spot?!

To help families be prepared for holiday mornings, birthday parties or just general readiness, Duracell has come up with an ingenious method of packaging. Instead of selling individual size batteries, the company now offers a multi-pack that comes with AA, AAA, C, D and 9-volt batteries packaged together. With one purchase, you can be prepared for all those unexpected battery needs. I wonder why it has taken so long for the company to sell their product in this grouping.

What can your organization do to make its product offering more convenient for your customers? Instead of selling things piecemeal, consider how you can combine them into a package or series to make it more efficient for everyone.

leadership dot #2371: with others

One of the mantras from the Alia Innovation Cohort states: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”

 It is a good reminder for those trying to impact change. While it is far easier to make the decisions yourself, to decide on the changes and even to move forward in implementing them, this solo mentality can only get you so far. In order for the change to be infused in the organization, for there to be buy-in, and for the change to last, you must first gain the support of others. And although that takes more time on the front end, it always pays dividends in the long run.

It reminds me of the quote attributed to Jack Welch: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” The only way to achieve ongoing success is to inspire others to come along with you on the journey.

As you aim to move your organization forward, ensure that you go there with others so you go far even if you don’t start out going fast.


leadership dot #2359: levers for change

In yesterday’s dot, I shared the Change Framework (developed by School Retool) that provides a model to articulate an overarching reason for change, identify behaviors that would illustrate the aspiration is occurring, determine a few big ideas toward achieving those behaviors and design several small projects or hacks to make progress toward those ideas.

Hacks are small experiments intentionally chosen to hopefully take a step toward achieving a big idea and to also help the changemakers quickly discover what does or does not work. Hacks are about learning by doing so that iterations can be made early on in the process.

Levers for Change can help generate hacks through focused brainstorming. You can pick one of the levers – Space, Events, Schedule, Finance, Process, Role, Ritual, Incentive or Communication – and try to generate as many hacks as possible to help achieve a big idea through changes in that category. For example, if your Big Idea is to Increase Community Involvement, you could attempt to hack in Space by opening a satellite center or having office hours in a mall; you could have a hack in Roles by redesigning a position to do more community outreach; Communication could involve a thank you note or follow up call for every community member who engages with you, etc. School Retool examples can be seen in this 2-minute video.

No matter how much you strategize, plan or design your initial ideas are not going to be perfect. By creating hacks – and hacks and hacks and hacks and hacks – you will take enough small steps to achieve big change. Think broadly and creatively about the many levers of change you have at your disposal and then get started by pulling one.

For a copy of the Lever of Change handout, click here.




leadership dot #2358: change framework

Organizations often have a paradoxical challenge when trying to implement change: their aspirations are too small and their implementation plans are too big. Through work I’m doing with the Alia Innovation Cohort, I was introduced to a model that addresses both ends of the spectrum.

The Change Framework, developed by School Retool, starts with the identification of a big Aspiration – an inspiring, clear vision of why you are doing the work of change. Next, a short list of Behaviors are identified –if you achieved the aspiration what behaviors would you see. It is easy to have a lofty aspiration, but making it concrete by specifying what it would look like in action helps to design a few Big Ideas toward achieving the desired behaviors. Big Ideas are evidence-informed ideas that could be game-changers – if accomplished they would lead to the behaviors that would achieve the aspiration. Finally, implementation occurs through Hacks – small pilot projects or experiments to learn what achieves movement toward the Big Idea and what doesn’t.

Examples from School Retool help to illustrate the framework in action. The project adopted an aspiration to create “Deeper Learning”. Behaviors that illustrate Deeper Learning included seeing more students engaged in projects and an increase in student voice. Some of the Big Ideas include peer-to-peer learning programs, making learning relevant and making student work public. From there, you can imagine the hundreds of hacks that could move a school closer to achieving its Big Idea. For Alia’s work in reimagining the child welfare system, the aspiration is “Family connections are always preserved and strengthened” with behaviors of fewer children in out-of-home placements, increased community involvement and a shift in the mindset of staff.

If you are engaged in transformation efforts – and who isn’t these days – give the Change Framework a try. Articulating the model’s components in a concise manner will go a long way toward helping you actually achieve the change you desire. [More on hacks and levers of change tomorrow.]

For a copy of the framework, click here.