Posts tagged ‘Experience Enhancement’

Six Semi-Lazy Office-Keeping Tasks

How difficult is it sometimes to step into your office or studio on a lovely summer day? Even if you’re working on fantastic projects with wonderful clients, there’s just something about wanting to linger over that cup of morning coffee on the terrace, porch or in the garden; or taking a long, leisurely outdoor lunch…and not coming back for the rest of the day! Don’t feel guilty about this, after all one of the best benefits of being your own boss is the ability to set your own schedule. Use some of these lazy summer days to do a little light office keeping and get yourself prepped for the typically busy September-December crunch time.

  1. Organize your reference and swipe materials
    If you’re like me you probably have dozens of past issues with pages flagged for reference, or perhaps you’ve even gone so far as to tear out the pages and tossed the magazine, but the loose pages are still waiting to be labeled, filed or otherwise organized. Just turn on some of your favorite tunes, let the phone go to voice mail for an hour or two and set your computer to sleep, then start tearing, sorting, filing and tossing. It’ll take far less time than you think and you’ll feel so virtuously organized at the end!
  2. Do the same for your computer files
    Do you have lots of random .jpgs and other visuals you’ve collected? First, make sure you name them all in a manner that means something to you, not just image544.jpg, because then you’ll just have to open them up again later to know what it is. Once you’ve named them appropriately, sort them into client files, reference files or delete if they’re no longer useful.
  3. Take this chance to clean up your digital inbox
    Delete old e-mails, making sure to save the address to your address book if you need to, download the necessary attachments from e-mails and just keep the attachments. Sort your e-mail inbox into appropriate folders and consider taking an e-mail “holiday” on Fridays throughout the summer…It’s a sure-fire e-mail inbox clutter reducer.
  4. Clean up the rest of your computer also
    Organize your client and/or project files, archive to a CD or backup drive finished projects, run a defragmentation program on your hardware to organize all those background operating files you don’t even know about (this is good thing to do while working on item #1) and make sure to do a little old-fashioned cleaning. Keyboards get gunky, screens get smeared and, if you’re not working off a laptop, the box can get dusty. 

    One of my tricks for cleaning between the keys on my keyboard is to take a plastic knife and tape a section of nonwoven insti-wipe to the tip, changing it out frequently as it really gross what can build up between your keys without realizing it! Gently though and don’t let the wipe start off too moist.

    And, why not give your desktop a holiday…download a new wallpaper for your desktop. Currently I’m loving this great series from Real Simple.  Or just try changing your fonts and color schemes around in your preference manager. 

  5. Refresh your office or studio
    Is there a color scheme or fabric that your currently fascinated by? A designer or project you’ve come across that particularly inspires you? Create a mini-moodboard and place it somewhere in your office for a fun, fresh dose of eyecandy. And summer’s all about light, easy and breezy, right? Clean out your files, clear away the clutter, even if just means sweeping some of it into a box…then give yourself a half-hour a day (say you’re on hold with a vendor) and then work through a layer of the box at a time. There are only three categories: Act On, Toss or File.  

    And if you have a sulky printer, fax or other piece of equipment that isn’t working at 100%, make the decision to either have it repaired or replace it. We all work hard enough…we shouldn’t have to struggle with our own stuff!

  6. Congratulate yourself
    By most standards 2008 has been a rocky year for the design industry. Take some time to acknowledge your successes, maybe over that lazy lunch…Write them down and map out what you’d like to accomplish for the rest of year. And then hey, go ahead and take the rest of the afternoon off!

23 June 2008 at 3:44 pm Leave a comment

Take A Fresh Look

I wrote in a previous post about several articles in the recent innovation-themed New Yorker issue that I found particularly interesting. The first, which dealt with the Japanese principle of kaizen, can be read here, but now let’s turn to the second article, which is based on the theory that big ideas aren’t as rare as most of us think they are. Titled “In the Air” and written by Malcolm Gladwell, it examines the process of idea generation, the process of multiple discoveries and our romantic notions of “genius.”

As many might already know, there is fairly well documented history of simultaneous discoveries. Marconi & Tesla with electricity; Newton & Leibniz with calculus, there seems to have been at least six different inventors of the thermometer and nine claimants to the invention of the telescope. And this list is just a fraction of the number of significant discoveries all made “multiply” over the centuries.

But what really grabbed my attention was the story of Nathan Myhrvold, a former Microsoft engineer who wanted to create ideas. His thought was that by bringing together clever people from different backgrounds and with different interests, he would assist in the creation of innovation and insight. His goal is ultimately to have develop an idea far enough to patent and then sell the rights to other companies for development. But what struck me was how applicable this approach is for small, independent businesses.

We all struggle with the issue of having to be the sales manager, marketing director, customer service dept., plus dealing with our “real” business–being creative! So how about letting a few outsiders in to take a look at your business; and offering to do the same for them? Go to your favorite locally owned businesses: a restaurant, a clothing boutique, a plumber, etc.–all of whom you admire for some aspect of their business. Explain that you want to start a brain trust–local companies working together to the benefit of all, and see what types of innovations and insights you can generate for each other. Be willing let others into your process and your decision-making, be interested in what they have to say and offer, and able to to offer constructive insights of your own on their issues and concerns. 

Because while there are very few true geniuses in the world, there are great many very clever people. And the history of scientific insight shows that a genius is not a person who does what no one else can; he or she is a person who does what it takes many others to do. “The genius is not a unique source of insight,” writes Gladwell, “he is just an efficient source of insight.” So start your own genius sounding board today!

22 May 2008 at 3:06 pm 1 comment

Just a Little Bit

The New Yorker magazine this week carries the theme The Innovation Issue and although I haven’t finished it yet, there are already two pieces that have captured my attention. The first is by the magazine’s regular financial/economic reporter James Surowiecki, titled “The Open Secret of Success”. It’s a short, sharp little overview of Toyota’s much analyzed, widely copied production systems.

The ostensible reason for taking another look at something that has seemingly been studied to death, is the news that Toyota appears to have finally stopped G.M’s seventy-seven year run of selling more cars than any other company in the world. And while Surowiecki dutifully recounts the history behind Toyota’s production system, he reserves most of his praise for the company’s kaizen or “continuous improvement” approach. 

He writes “[Toyota] rejects the idea that innovation is province of an elect few; instead it’s taken for an everyday task for which everyone is responsible…Toyota implements a million new ideas a year…Most of these ideas are small-making parts on a shelf easier to reach, say-and not all of them work. But cumulatively, everyday, Toyota knows a little more and does things a little better than it did the day before.”

I love that last line! Because I think it’s such a fundamental, yet often overlooked, reward of running a business. Every day you learn, every day you apply what you’ve learned and every day you and your business are a little bit more knowledgeable, a little bit more skilled, a little bit more difficult to compete against. It’s not a lesson for only huge multi-national companies, it’s a lesson for everyone.

Check out the entire article available on The New Yorker website. Tomorrow’s post will be tie in another aspect of this article with the second piece in the issue I admired.

7 May 2008 at 3:16 pm 2 comments

Perception and Pricing

Earlier this year researchers from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the California Institute of Technology published the results of a study on the effect of price relative to preference in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Not typically a widely reported on publication, but the outcome of the study caused many in the mainstream media to sit up and take notice. As covered in the New York Times, The Economist, CNet and others, Antonio Rangel, along with Baba Shiv and John O’Doherty conducted a very interesting wine-tasting.

Participants in the study were presented with two glasses of wine and given no other information other than that one wine was $5/glass and the other was $45/glass. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) they documented that the part of the brain that experiences pleasure becomes more active when the drinker thinks he/she is enjoying the more expensive wine. Of course, both glasses of wine were from the same bottle.

“What we documented,” said Shiv, “is that price is not just about inferences of quality…but that price changes a person’s experience with a product.”

The researchers ran different variations of the test, for example, when one wines was said to cost $10 a bottle it was rated less than half as good as when people were told it cost $90 a bottle, its true retail price. Moreover, when the team carried out a follow-up blind tasting without price information they got different results. The volunteers reported differences between the three “real” wines but not between the same wines when served twice.

Rangel, having only studied consumer reactions to wine pricing, is hesitant to extrapolate too much, but says he believes that the bias toward higher prices occurs in many areas. And history has certainly shown that conspicuous consumption and waste are an important part of many societies.

There are many instances of this price-placebo effect, and many companies throughout the years have used it to their advantage. One my favorite, all-time examples is the L’Oréal slogan “Because I’m Worth It”: The L’Oréal products cost more than the other haircare and make-up options on the shelves, but extra cost was rendered incidental by the branding. And while there are many considerations to keep in mind when pricing a product or service–your local market, demand, profit and revenue goals, etc.-it important to realize the additional information and now, clearly, experience value, that pricing plays in terms of branding and positioning.

What’s your take on this? Do you think you’re in a position to bump your prices and improve your customers’ experience?

6 May 2008 at 6:34 pm 1 comment

Understanding Happiness

Daniel Gilbert, the Harvard psychologist who wrote Stumbling on Happiness was interviewed in the NYTimes the other day. His book examines most people’s fundamental inability to truly predict what will make us happy-or unhappy. As he puts it: 

Bad things don’t affect us as profoundly as we expect them to. But that’s
true of good things, too. We adapt very quickly to either. So the good news
is that going blind is not going to make you as unhappy as you think it will.
The bad news is that winning the lottery will not make you as happy as
you expect.

If you haven’t read his book, it’s worth it; a great combination of humor, insight, examples and information that can make an immediate difference in your life. But in the interview he summarizes one of the significant studies described in the book.

…we know from studies is that people tend to take more
pleasure in experiences than in things. So if you have “x”
amount of dollars to spend on a vacation or a good meal
or movies, it will get you more happiness than a durable
good or an object. One reason for this is that experiences
tend to be shared with other people and objects usually aren’t.

The value of the experience, especially in the custom design process, should never be underestimated. What are you doing to add experience value to your design services?

24 April 2008 at 4:35 pm Leave a comment

Emotional Marketing

I spent several years in the trenches of various advertising and marketing agencies and every few months there was another industry genius whose campaign or strategy was the ultimate solution. But sometimes there were real gems of truth to be found among the hype. One of the names I followed since then is Terry O’Reilly, a fixture in the Canadian advertising biz. I recently came across several of his comments that made sense to me back then and still do.

“Emotions should be felt, never stated.” Think about the most powerful moments in your favorite movies, the commercials that move you, even if they’re for products/services you’re not interested in…that’s the power of emotional understatement. 

“People don’t want to be targeted, they want to be understood.” Again, sometimes we lose track of what the message should be when we’re in the midst developing it, but it’s important to keep in mind that custom window treatments are not purchased to cover windows, but for thousands of other emotional reasons, that designers as therapists need to understand.

22 April 2008 at 7:48 pm Leave a comment


We started out the DBRx Atlanta session with the 10 Stories exercise…and I know some of you probably thought we were a bit odd! But just this week I received an e-mail promotion from a show called the Buyers Market of American Craft.

Part of an e-mail promotion for the Buyers Market of American Craft

This is a perfect example of story-selling, giving a bit of personal history, individuality and authenticity to a designer in what I’m sure is the very crowded jewelry-design market. Which of the 10 stories does this sound like?

12 April 2008 at 9:31 pm Leave a comment

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