#5 Proactive problem solving
One with Tim Urban's magic
Last week was satisfying. I came across a couple of highly inspiring resources. I will focus on covering them in some details in today’s snapshot. Hoping that you find them useful.
Upstream by Dan Heath focuses on proactive problem-solving. The title of the book “Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen” does a good job explaining what to expect in the book.
It starts with the famous story from Expedia. In 2012, their customer experience team identified one single reason that generated 20 million calls a year to their call centre. What was this call about? To get the itinerary of their recently booked flight or stay. Sounds familiar, right? Their solution? To build a self-serve for the customers on their website. Again sounds familiar, right? What happened in between is the inspiring tale that guides us on how to create proactive solutions that can create a huge impact. By one estimate, this one change saved them roughly USD 100mn every year.
The concluding chapter summarises 3 key takeaways for us:
Be impatient for action but patient for outcomes. Bring a homeless person a meal today and you’ll feel good immediately. But to figure out how to reduce evictions in order to prevent people from becoming homeless might take a decade.
Macro starts with micro. Upstream victories are won an inch at a time, and then a yard and then a mile and eventually you find yourself at the finish line. However, you can’t help a thousand people until you understand one.
Keep your scoreboard handy. Find a way to monitor your performance in real-time. Don’t obsess about formulating the perfect solution for now. Instead, take ownership of the underlying problem, start marching and learn so you can fine-tune as you go.
Upstream work is not easy, it does not bring a lot of glories. But that should not stop you from not pursuing it. You create an outsized impact with upstream work, and the span of it is longer. You’re making this world a better place, too.
In the author’s words:
Our heroes shouldn’t only be lifeguards, firefighters, policemen, people who restore things to normal. We should do a better job at recognizing a teacher who skips lunch to help a struggling freshman. And a cop who makes himself a conspicuous presence around an abused woman’s home, ensuring her ex-husband will think twice before coming around. These should be our heroes too – the people who are unsatisfied with the normalcy. The people who clamour for the better.
I travelled to 17 countries during a 90 days exchange program in Paris during my 2nd year of MBA. That, I could not visit an IKEA store remained my biggest regret of this trip. Even bigger than the fact I did not go on top of the Eiffel tower.
When we went to Singapore about 5 years back, visiting the IKEA store was a highlight of my itinerary. My sister, a seasoned host for my extended family's there, found it extremely amusing. Who goes to a furniture store of all the things! I don't blame her. It was me.
And then IKEA opened in Hyderabad. I did not rush for the opening day ceremony. But then have not missed any chance to go there anytime I have been to HYD since.
I read a lot about the famous IKEA experience, but could not experience what the fuss is all about. Once I visited, I cannot forget it. When I saw this video today, it hit me. I am like the perfect subject from their design. One that follows & enjoys every aspect of the IKEA customer experience. It was all orchestrated, to perfection.
IKEA has built a world and a culture of its own. And it has made it available in every country it has opened its store. It's a shame that we don't talk about it as much in our discussions of product, design & customer experience. We should change that now. I am working on creating a profile on them capturing all those useful insights. Let me know if you want to join hands, it will be a fun project.
Tim Urban had twitted this sometime back. It’s worth revisiting it almost every day!
We think a lot about those black lines, forgetting that it’s all still in our hands.
Some random goodness from the internet:
Twitter thread: How to ask better questions? This one packs some simple yet important questions for interviews - by @joulee of "The Making of a Manager" fame
That's all, folks!