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6 Steps to a Thriving Company Culture (that Most Companies Aren’t Taking)

Posted October 16, 2014 by Editor
Categories: Leadership
Team-FocusThis post was written by Alison Mora, Director at Jump Associates. Follow her on Twitter at @AlisonCMora, or connect with her directly by commenting on this post.

Most companies don’t manage culture. They notice it and write it down after it’s already formed.

The organizations best known for their culture, however, didn’t get there by treating it as an afterthought. In employee reviews, Starbucks holds people accountable and measures them by their values. Southwest regularly highlights its culture and points out exemplary employees who embody it. And Zappos provides explicit behaviors and habits that employees can use to embrace and conform to the company culture. All of those behaviors took good organizations and helped to make them great.

As leaders and executives, one of the most important jobs you have is to craft your culture and bring it to life in a way that’s true to the company and drives business. If you don’t know the essence of your company, your culture becomes reactionary to different cultural trends and isn’t true to itself. And if your culture is aspirational instead of accurate, people don't believe it, and you will fail.

Your company culture has to be totally true to what you are and what matters. Ask yourself: “Who are we on our best days?” That’s the culture you should codify—the culture you support and build. But of course, that’s easier said than done. At Jump, we’ve actively thought about the culture we should have to help us do our work from day one. Though each company’s culture is (and should be) different, there are some replicable actions any company can take to build a culture that’s on-point and real.

Here are 6 steps any company can take to better manage its culture:

 

1. Know who you are.
The question we mentioned above—“Who are we on our best days?”—is essential. Culture is not something you’ll be able to exemplify every single day with every single last action. It’s something you should strive towards and build for. You can’t manage your culture if you don’t know your culture in the first place.


2. Know how to tell people why to care about culture.
Figure out how culture drives your day-to-day business. The most successful leaders in your company should live out your company’s values; you need to prioritize culture above other things as part of your company’s strategy. Prioritizing culture in this way will force you to be better at articulating why it matters.


3. Have an ear to the ground and enroll cultural champions.
Have a temperature gauge to understand what pieces of culture are thriving and which aren’t. Have a network of people who you call upon and recognize as cultural champions. A champion’s job is to help people make meaning of their work and company.


4. Be explicit about behaviors and habits to help people improve.
The culture you define sets general expectations, but likely won’t call for specific actions.
You need to codify and be explicit about the behaviors and habits that people can use to display what would otherwise be a “soft,” subtle culture. This is fundamental to helping them improve and get better at living out the cultural values. 


5. Make your culture visible and highlight it regularly. You’ll feel like you sound like a broken record, but it helps people take notice and do the same.
Highlight your culture regularly so that employees take notice of the things around them. The reality is that to have a strong culture, every individual at the company needs to constantly improve the culture in themselves.


6. Measure people against your company’s values.
Nearly every company hires its employees based on their skills and their cultural fit. They should be measured against these standards as well. Hold people accountable! There’s little incentive to follow culture and build upon it if there aren’t clear ways to measure what fits your culture and what doesn’t.


Our experience at Jump has shown us that companies who manage their culture in these ways have more effective employees and a strong community of advocates inside and outside of the company walls. While these steps may not get you 100% of the way there, we certainly think they’ll get you started on the right path.

 

 

What the Millennial Generation Can Teach Businesses about Building a Better Customer Experience in the Era of the Consumer

Posted October 13, 2014 by Editor
Categories: Hybrid Thinking
clear blue water

This post was written by Alex Havneraas, Receptionist at Jump Associates. Connect with her directly by commenting on this post. 

Do I need a new pair of shoes? Some updated clothes for my work wardrobe? Maybe a birthday gift for this weekend? As I sit at my desk in front of my computer, the online shopping arena is my oyster. I don’t have time in my busy schedule to wander around the mall and sift through clothes racks that have already been trampled through. Online shopping makes my life as a closeted shopaholic easier than ever before.

Millennials in the age of the consumer—myself included—have a “want it now, get it now” mentality. If I need a specific item or service, I can simply pull out my phone, tablet, or laptop, and get it right then and there. But my online purchases aren’t as personal as traditional shopping; I can’t physically hold or experience what I’m purchasing right away. And that’s where customer reviews and testimonials come in.

I’m not interested in what your company claims your product can do for me, especially if it seems unreal. I’m mostly interested in past customers’ experiences. Through my experience, I can say that three things are essential for remaining relevant in the age of the consumer: providing customers with what they want, when they want it, ensuring that their opinions are validated, and providing transparency and honesty in advertising.

When people get what they want, when they want it, your company seems reliable. That much ought to be clear. It’s important to add that when customers have their opinions validated, it makes your company seem more genuine. Companies that win provide digital interfaces that consumers can use to locate, research, and utilize your service, and seek out individual testimonials.

The “want it now, get it now” mentality was born when the millennial generation came of age—when Google and Amazon were at our fingertips at all times. With that ability, consumers were given the opportunity to give their own opinions for specific products. As the pioneers of customer testimonials, they gave themselves the ability to be fully transparent to the consumer. This is a lesson does not only apply to B2C brands, but also B2B businesses. Even if you don’t have a review system like Amazon, an online forum can still be very valuable. Past studies have shown that as many as 72% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Customers today are also more suspicious and discerning of advertisements. Long gone are the days when companies could make wild insinuations about their products, such as old ads that argued cigarettes were good for your health. Customers aren’t laughing anymore when companies joke about their products’ blatantly facetious benefits, just like when Red Bull was sued for claiming their drink "gives you wings." Customers respond best when online advertisements are quick, clever, and most importantly, transparent.

In order to make customers happy in today’s world, companies need to have a strong digital presence that facilitates fast reactions and interactions. Customers like to be entertained but, with their shrinking attention spans and more skeptical perspectives, they also want to feel like the whole truth is being presented to them, quickly. They want information at their fingertips, so companies need to be upfront with their own motives while also providing outsider perspectives via testimonials so that customers can make educated decisions when shopping online.

Customers respond to transparency, so make your digital platform as clear as glass. Your customers will appreciate it.

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photo credit: Bradphoria via photopin cc

Designing Beautiful Businesses: What Innovation Strategists Can Learn from Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of Good Design

Posted October 7, 2014 by Editor
Rams-portrait   This post was written by Will Patterson, Growth and Innovation Strategist at Jump Associates. Follow him on Twitter @willrpatterson, or get in touch by commenting on this post.

Hybrid thinking is deeply engrained in the way we do things at Jump. One of the main benefits of this approach is the opportunity it offers to make connections between perspectives that are not usually associated with one another.

There are many different flavors of hybridity at Jump, but for me, hybridity often lives in the connection between my background as a designer and my capacity for strategic thinking. Designers are often characterized by an obsessive attention to detail, whereas strategy relies on seeing the big picture. Both are powerful on their own, but it is at the intersection where things really get interesting.

Innovation strategists can learn a lot from industrial designers—or one particular industrial designer, to be more specific. Dieter Rams is most well known for the work he did as the Chief Design Officer at Braun in the mid to late 20th century. But he also made his mark on the history of design by codifying what he called “10 Principles of Good Design.”

Here are three of those principles, and ways we can apply them to creating strategies for new and impactful businesses.

 

1). “Good Design is Long Lasting… It lasts many years—even in today’s throwaway society.


When building a business, think in terms of addressing needs rather than creating solutions. Netflix started off as a service for renting DVDs online, then shifted towards streaming content.  Most recently, Netflix became its own content creator. All of these offerings address an overarching consumer need to access entertaining content in the most convenient way possible.


Focusing on this need allows them to maintain a strong position in the market, even as technological advances change the way people watch movies and television shows. Had they been too attached to DVD rentals, they probably would have gone the way of your local video rental store.


The phrase “throwaway society” alludes to our materialism and our rapid adoption of new technologies. Deep customer needs, however, are not so transient. Always have a clear understanding of the need your product is addressing, and embrace change when a better way to serve that need arises.


 2). “Good Design is Honest It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.”


An honest business has empathy for its customers. Across all touch points—its product, its brand, its culture—it should reflect who the customer is and what they really need.


At Jump, a focus on empathy is deeply engrained in all of our work. When developing a strategy for Target’s back to school products, for example, we did so by putting ourselves into the shoes of kids going off to college for the first time, as well as the parents they were leaving behind. It’s a scary but exciting time for everybody involved because neither kids nor their parents have a clear vision of what the future looks like. Through an empathy-driven process, we created a shopping experience that was reassuring rather than one more source of anxiety.


A deep understanding of the customer should manipulate your offerings, not the other way around.


3). “Good Design is as Little Design as Possible… It concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials.


The world is changing at an ever-increasing rate. Building new businesses, particularly in industries surrounded by emerging technologies, involves navigating complex systems and planning for an uncertain future. Rather than trying to do it all, it has become important for companies to have a clear understanding of their purpose and find the essential expression of that unique vision.


Take, for example, the way Nest approached the complex space of home automation. By starting with one relatively simple product—the thermostat—they were able to develop a strong point of view on what the connected home of the future could look like. They didn’t try to be everything to everybody.


Starting simple creates the foundation upon which systems can be built. When creating a strategy for new ventures, constantly ask whether or not the approach is carrying out an essential value of the business.


Beautiful businesses, among other things, address long-lasting needs, have a genuine sense of empathy for their customers, and focus on the essentials when navigating ambiguity. But beyond possessing those qualities, they execute on them with incredible attention to detail.

Doing so relies on people that can transition seamlessly between big picture thinking and the fine points of execution. It’s no coincidence that there are more and more people with design backgrounds taking on leadership roles in their businesses. Our rapidly changing world needs the hybrid approach they represent to make a better future happen faster.

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photo credit: Abisag Tüllmann via Fast Company

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