Are we seeing the start of a democratic revolution?


I’ve been on assignment in the USA for the last year; and want it or not, I’ve been an innocent bystander to the American election. What a show! The interesting thing is, very few people actually believed Donald Trump would make it this far. He seems to have caught a lot of people by surprise; why is he so popular? Deepak Chopra offered an interesting perspective on this the other night in an interview. He believes that Trump represents the “collective shadow” of the American people. He went on to explain that we all have a dark side. That side of us may be bigoted, racist, misogynistic, ageist, or even angry; we generally suppress our shadow in our day-to-day interactions for we have learned that it is improper or not politically correct; and so we tend to hide it. What Trump does through his speeches and is appeal to our dark side, our shadow, and speak out the things many think but our uncomfortable advocating. It is an interesting thought and I’m sure there is some truth to it but I also believe there is more to this story.

Over the last 40 years, the incomes (in real terms) of the American middle class have been declining. Recent articles by the Pew research center support this. Politicians seem to be more interested in lining their own pockets than looking out for the good of their constituents, and once upon a time there was at least some level of bi-partisanship when it came to big issues. In fact a 2015 survey shows a broad distrust in government. Journalism used to be a noble profession, journalist kept politicians and big corporations in check. But with the downfall of newsprint, news organizations are too dependent on advertisers to be controversial. Besides, the election cycle is a bonanza for them; the closer the race the more money is spent on advertising. Last summer NPR predicted that the 2016 election campaign will see roughly 4.4 billion$ spent on advertising. People are just simply dissatisfied and fed up.

Europeans are not much better, they are witnessing wave after wave of immigrants settling in their countries but never really assimilating, and therefore feel threatened. The EU bureaucrats keep coming up with new rules that infringe on people’s traditions and way of living, farmers can’t slaughter their own animals even though it may be for private consumption. The small guys are being pushed out to ensure the big corporations can get a bigger share. In fact Europeans are even worst off because the people dreaming up all the new regulations are not even elected officials! The elected members of the European council don’t have much influence over what goes on in Brussels. That is left to the European commission who’s task, amongst others, is to manage the 23 000 European civil servants.

I believe we are entering an age where people are expressing their dissatisfaction through their votes, a democratic revolution. This is the movement that gave us the Brexit and will probably give us Donald Trump as the next president of the USA.

How many followers do you have?

Managers push  Leaders pull

Managers push
Leaders pull

It has been a hectic winter. Two assignments later, on different continents (not to mention Christmas and then Easter), I realized I have been neglecting my blog and I must apologize for that. Nevertheless, even though my assignments have been quite different a similar theme has emerged. That theme is the importance of leadership and the difference between managers and leaders.


Ok I know this is nothing knew and a lot has been written on this subject, but somehow I still run into this issue almost everywhere I go. I guess one of the biggest reasons for this is that true leaders tend to be controversial, they tend not follow orders like a manager would but to seek purpose and understanding; and that can get uncomfortable for senior management. Besides, in the business world, people will rarely get promoted for the leadership abilities but rather for their knowledge of the process. The sad reality is though: the higher you get, in an organization, the more leadership skills you need and the less important your management skills become. It is impossible for a CEO to control everything that goes on in his/her organization, they have to inspire trust and rely on their subordinates. The CEO, who tries to control everything, may run a tight ship but they will inevitably be weak on vision, strategy and direction as they will be too busy trying to control everything.

There is nothing worst for morale than employees doubting the capabilities of their senior management/leadership. They either don’t feel understood, or worst, they feel management just does not care about them. This is why, if nothing else, walking the shop floor is probably the easiest action that can be taken by managers/leaders to reinforce communications and inspire trust. By walking around the plant/area, not only do you make yourself visible and give people the opportunity to engage you in conversation; you can also observe how people work, how they maintain their area of responsibility or pick up on issues you can follow up with managers responsible for the area. However, a word of caution, you need to engage people during your tour, if all you do is walk around without talking to anyone, you are projecting the image of a spy and will be treated as such.

People generally look for role models to emulate. Your role as a leader is to be that role model. Your job is to create purpose for their work, enable them to contribute and provide feedback to help them grow. Managers have subordinates, leaders have followers; how many followers do you have?


Did you ever wish your employees would come to work singing that tune! Well maybe not, but I’m sure you can conjure the image in your mind and I’m sure it has a certain appeal. After all, your employees are the ones you create the value in your products and services; so it makes sense to want to keep them motivated.

As the industrial and then electronics revolution evolved work evolved along with it.  Today’s employees are less relied on for labour and manual operation than their grand parents. As machines and equipment replaced manual operations the employee’s role changed along with it. Today’s employees are relied upon to keep the machines and process running. At first it was with wrenches and screwdrivers now it’s with a touch screen. Work simply evolves along with technology. Nowadays, if you want to stain competitive, you need to invest in people. You may go out and get some specialist for a certain task but technology is changing so fast nowadays that today’s specialist is tomorrow’s dinosaur. So hiring employee with learning skills and development potential is your real insurance policy to sustained growth.

If we look at one of the best, if not “the best”, employer of our times, Google, we can learn something interesting. It ‘s not what you might think. When asked what made employees at Google happy, the number one reason was:” they feel that the work itself is rewarding”.  Google provides meaningful work for its employees. Sure it also goes out of it’s way to provide a conducive environment that fosters creativity and it encourages the creative process.  By it’s actions Google the three key ingredients to happy and motivated employees:

-Meaningful work that is rewarding

-An opportunity to participate and contribute

-Feedback for good work in the form of perks, freedom and a good remuneration.

Are you providing the same to your employees?

Could trust become the new currency of the century?


Turn on your TV or open a newspaper and you are bombarded by messages. Every one fighting for your attention and hard earned money. There used to be something called journalistic ethic, papers of records or a trusted face on the nightly news. But with the advent of advertorials and the repeal of the Smith Mundt act, in the USA, it’s becoming harder to sift the seeds from the chaff. There are enough examples of political corruption and dubious laws that work in favor of large corporations rather than the public at large that most people don’t trust their politicians anymore. Even doctors and health care in general have eroded the trust of the public; we are told to get flu shots only to end up with the flu and be told that the shot is ineffective this year but that we can fight the flu by buying so extra medicine, really?
In the mean time geopolitical games are being acted out and we are fed false or incomplete information about what is really happening. Take the example of Ukraine: we are led to believe that evil Russia is trying to destabilize it; when in essence it is the western expansion of NATO that has destabilized the region. And now with the appointments of “instantly naturalized foreigner” as finance minister in the new Ukrainian government, it has become quite clear the west is behind the movement. Oh yes, there was also that infamous phone call conversation from the US state departments own Victoria Nuland where is clearly states her views on the EU and who is behind the whole Maidan revolution. Who can you trust nowadays?

This is why I believe that trust, in your person, in your product, in what you or your company says has the potential of becoming the true currency of the 21st century.

Shoot to kill !


Is it just me or does it seem that, lately, a week does not go by without a policeman shooting some poor kid. I believe that the black victims tend to make the news as this smells of racialism, keeps viewers glued to their television sets and sells newspapers. Whether it’s “hands up don’t shoot”, toy guns or “I can’t breath” the slogans have captured people’s attention and the likes of reverend Manning are quick to capitalize on the incident to advance their own agendas. However the situation is tragic, these events are fanning the flames of racism and young people are dying.

Now, I can understand that it is not easy being a police officer. They put their lives on the line every day for the good of the community and we have to respect that. But why do they have to shoot to kill? What happened to shooting people in the leg, or the arm/shoulder that reaches for a presumed weapon?
Is it necessary for them to unload their guns into the perpetrators? It would seem to me that if they were unsure about a situation, especially situations involving teens, wounding would be the appropriate choice of action.

Having listened to my father talk about his experience as a policeman in the early fifties, it also appears that the car has transformed the relationship between policemen and citizen. Before police cars came to be, policemen walked their beat and were much closer to the people. By walking around they had time to talk to the citizens on the street, building relationships. By being more accessible, they were more respected and trusted. They were more likely to personally know the kids, and their parents, and therefore less likely to pull out their guns on anyone.


What happened to the golden rule?

Gold bars

I happen to live in Croatia, one of the former six socialist republics of Yugoslavia. Croatia gained independence from Yugoslavia during the Balkan civil war (1991 -1995) and became a democracy. The people had high hopes for their future. They would finally be freed from Belgrade and the other socialist republics and could run their own affairs. However, the first president of Croatia, Dr. Franjo Tudjman, had a flaw in his plan from the start. In his vision of Croatia he envisioned a country where 100 families, the elite, would control the economy. And so it was to be, state assets where sold off for a fraction of their value, often for a symbolic “one Euro”. However, rather than reinvest in these businesses, most were closed down and their assets, mostly prime real estate, were sold off to the highest bidder. Now 20 years later the results are painful for the thousands of employees who lost their jobs whilst the elite live off their wealth. The economy is a disaster, GDP keeps shrinking and politicians are busy protecting their own asses and standard of living by raising taxes; believing in the illusion that they can cover the ever growing budget deficits that way. It is not surprising that many long for the years under Marshall Tito. You may not have had total freedom of speech then, but at least they had jobs, and everyone lived a comfortable life. As a result, Today Croatia has one of the highest VAT (Value Added Tax) in Europe, the cost of labor is also one of the highest at about 80% for salaries above 1500€ per month, not to mention the administrative red tape, all together, make it unattractive for foreign investments; in fact all this is further chocking the economy.

Marshall Tito may not have been a religious man, and religion had no place in politics during his reign in power, but he understood the essence of the golden rule.

Regardless of your religion or beliefs, the golden rule can be found in most religion or belief system. It is written in the Torah, the Bible, and the Qur’an, even the Chinese philosopher Confucius wrote about the golden rule:

“One should treat others, as one would like others to treat oneself”.

On this principle everyone seems to agree. In fact in 1993, in an attempt to create the “Declaration toward a Global Ethic”, 143 leaders of the world religion and faith signed the declaration under the auspices of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

However, as I watch the news on TV or read in the newspaper, world events remind me of an old joke about the golden rule:

“The one with the gold makes the rules”

Unfortunately this seems to be the real golden rule nowadays Croatia’s ex-prime minister is in jail, because of corruption and captains of industries don’t pay their taxes. Now this might even be expected from a young Balkan country like Croatia, but the same sort of thing occurs in other countries, maybe not quite as obvious, the actions are subtler but the impact is the same nonetheless. In the US, the bastion of democracy and liberty, companies lobby politicians to pass laws in their favor, with little regards for the impact on the citizens. In fact, when a civil servant bucks the trend and refuses to go along with the nonsense he often gets fired or removed from his position, to be replaced with someone who is more agreeable. Such was the case with “Aspartame” in the 80’s: Amid indisputable research that reveals the toxic effects of aspartame the commissioner of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), Dr. Jere Goyan, was fired before he had a chance to ban the substance, his follower Dr. Arthur Hayes Hull, signed the approval of “Nutrasweet” in dry foods and later in liquids.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of other examples where lobbyists “convince” politicians to pass legislation in their client’s favor whilst ignoring the effects on the population at large; it is scandalous!

A web of lies

A web of lies

Unfortunately, with the 2013 amendment to the US information and education exchange act of 1948. (Smith Mundt act) it is easier for the government to divert funds for propaganda within the US borders; thereby obscuring the truth and feeding the public with their own messages.

So all jokes aside, we now live in a world where:

The ones with the gold make the rules!

The pecking order

It’s been a while since my last blog. In fact quite a number of things have changed since my last blog.  Back in April, a week or two after publishing my last article, my wife and I visited the local farmers market.  We were familiar with the vegetables and fruits section but we discovered they had a live animal section and decided to have a closer look. As we strolled through the isles full of chickens, turkeys, and ducks, of all ages and size, an idea struck us.: why not get our own chickens! We have enough space in the backyard and will get the benefits of eating fresh eggs.  As we neared the end of the isle, we spotted what has to be the picture perfect rooster and hen. We approached the man and inquired about his chickens. He told us they were an Italian breed of chickens. Awestruck by their beauty we bought them on the spot without too much thinking about it.  We told the man we did not have any experience with chickens and he helped us select the right feed for them, which luckily for us, was sold in another section of the market.  Normally we like to have lunch at the market for there is a place that serves delicious roasted suckling pig, but today, with our precious cargo, he headed straight home. On the way, my wife and I discussed various possible names for our new pets. And we settled on “Luigi & Luisa”.


Chicken Buffet – Breakfast is served!

Now I must admit that such an idea would not have flown in the past as I know absolutely nothing about raising chickens; but, the eggs from the store have been tasting like fish lately and I find that quite disgusting to be honest.  Besides, how hard can it be? When we got home, I started building a fence so our dog would not eat our chickens before we have had the time to taste the eggs. We used the old dog pen  (our new dog refuses to go in the old dog house) as it been sitting empty since we lost them.  However since the pen does not have a roof, Luigi escape to the neighbor’s garden and Luisa disappeared! Half an hour later, whilst I combed the neighborhood looking for Luisa, our neighbors caught him and brought him back.  As we brought him back in the pen I also found Luisa, she had been hiding the whole time in the Cedar tree.  I quickly proceeded to cover the pen with wire fencing to ensure they stayed where the belonged. Luigi and Luisa spent their first night in the pen perch on top of the doghouse.


Luigi & Luisa getting ready for bed!

However it did not take long to realize that, being a family of four, one hen would not be enough to feed everyone. We needed more hens if we were going to enjoy their eggs. During the following four weeks, my wife and I visited all the nearby farmers market and, each time, bought a pair of hens: Lily & Lola, Gertrude & Olga, Stefitza & Katitza,  Dora & Dara. We now have 9 hens and one rooster.


Gertrude – our first egg layer


Olga – our smallest but bravest hen

As the flock kept increasing I also realized that the old dog pen would not be sufficient for our new pets.  I researched how to raise and care for chickens on the Internet and found a very helpful websites: Backyard chickens dot com .   I learnt that hens need a quiet and darkened place to lay their eggs so I looked up the basics principles of making a chicken coop, and went to work on it. If we were going to raise chickens, then we might as well do it right! I also found out that our Luigi and Luisa where not Italian but rather an Icelandic breed.  I guess Gunnar and Guðrún might have been more appropriate names but “oh well” we decided to stick with Luigi and Luisa.


Katitza – the shy one


Stefitza -lays 2 yolk eggs

After having finished the coop, I realised I should have started with the floor. You see when we built the dog pen we laid down wood so it would not be to cold for the dogs, but now, years later, the floor is rotting.  I decided to pour some concrete, as it would make it easier to clean than wood.  This proved to take longer than I had anticipated. As the chickens were living there I had to subdivide the area into smaller square and tackle each one individually.


Lily on the left and Lola on the right

The upside of this process was that I had lots of time to observe the chickens.  I had heard of the pecking order, I even learnt about the pecking order financial theory; but never had the opportunity to observe it.  Since we introduced our chickens to our flock 2 at a time, every new introduction was an opportunity to observe first hand and here is what I have learnt:

1) The rooster is the leader and he takes his job seriously.  One would think he would be the first in line to eat, but as a true leader, he lets the top hens eat first. While they are eating he chases the lower rank hens around and thereby provides them cover so they can eat in peace.  The rooster is also vigilant. As dusk approaches he is constantly looking up at the sky and is the first one to settle in for the night. He leads by example.

2) Size does not always mean rank.  Rank is determined by productivity. We have introduced smaller hens to the flock that have immediately risen to the top because they laid eggs. (Although this might have to do with the fact that egg-laying hens let themselves be fertilized by our rooster ;-))

3) Once the pecking order is established, there is no need for violence. The chickens accept their rank and live by the rules.

4) Hens are proud of their work! Every time they lay an egg, they sing a song, as if to celebrate their accomplishment.

Do morals and values need calibrating?


Picture, courtesy of desert moon rising dot com

I recently entered into a discussion in one of the forums on Linkedin. That got me thinking and recalibrating my views on morals & values. The thread’s topic started with the question “How much are you respected as a consultant?” Someone posted: “Respect has nothing to do with performance. It’s a meaningless babble word like “trust, ethics, values and morals” -all which have numerous meanings”. Although the statement is correct, I was irked by the comment, as I believed that: “defining and sharing values is what holds societies together, it provides a yardstick against which we can judge intentions and actions. If we did not have any values or morals we could not differentiate good from bad”. My colleague and I had a good exchange but I had to admit that smoking marijuana in Texas is considered bad (jail) whilst in Colorado it is good, or at least legal. Morals, values and ethics are “babble” words – not convinced about trust just yet- that have different meanings depending on where you live and where you’re from.

It is true that different moral standards apply to different religion and tribes. A good example is homosexuality, (or sexual freedom). It is measured or ranked on a morality scale very differently in Saudi Arabia (Mecca the heart of Islam) than in Europe (the home of the Christians). Regardless which religion, religions have held the monopoly on morality matters throughout history. Interestingly enough the Jews, Christians and Muslims all share the same root and thus the “old testament”, where the guidelines are very clear:



Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, religions and God have little in common. Religions are all lead by men; all claiming to be speaking the message of God. Although I not contesting the original message or intent of sharing the “message” with others, religions develop a life of their own. Even the seven deadly sins, although noble in their nature, are a fabrication of the church. History has taught us that power is addictive. Today it’s the politicians that get addicted to it, “power” is the drive behind the men who are behind the religions. Regrettably history has also taught us that power corrupts, and the religion’s elders seldom retire as Pope Benedict did. The system just isn’t perfect.

It just seems that once upon a time, value was measured differently; or maybe we just measured more things than just money. Perhaps it’s because presidents of companies did not make a thousand times the salary of their lowest paid employee. Of course you may argue that today’s CEOs generate perhaps a thousand times more value as an employee than the man on the assembly line; and that it is only fair to compensate him accordingly. Good point, if we take shareholder value as the only measure of success. Unfortunately this is the same logic (along with a few other things of course) that has lead China to become the world’s manufacturer, making things where it’s cheapest. How can Europe be facing some of the highest “youth unemployment” ever measured whilst the baby boomers are entering retirement age? Quite simply, the jobs have moved elsewhere because it’s good business, good for the bottom line. In today’s global economy, not only are you competing against the neighbour’s business from across the street, you compete with a business from across the world, and your neighbours are all over the globe. So the decision to move jobs abroad is relatively easy to make; in many cases it may even be imperative to a company and it’s business model’s, survival. It’s just about money and shareholder returns. There is no room for morality. Time goes by and as employees are victims of the circumstance, the greed slowly siphon’s away the jobs and economic activity these jobs provide. This is the kind of actions and reasoning behind paying CEOs large salaries. The only value that count’s today is money. Never mind honesty or integrity, mastery or excellence, reliability and trust are all just words that look good on the vision statement but are hard to recognize in every day actions.

I happen to live in Croatia, a young democracy with an abundance of natural resources; since it’s inception in 1991, the vast majority of politicians have demonstrated with their actions; that they care more about their own pockets than the people, and state, they are meant to represent. Not only did they managed to squander the previously state owned companies, they have indebted the country to the point that fiscal discipline, mandated by the EU, is now very painful. The answer has been to raise taxes; at 25%, we have one of the highest “Value Added Tax” in Europe; and things are not only taxed once, but every time they are resold. These policies are snuffing out any kind of economic spark and this is reflected in the low investment figures. As we watch the evening news report about the corruption trial of the ex-prime minister, Ivo Sanader, the country is facing tough economic times and millions of people are paying for his greed, whilst the people that supported him are living it up immune by their fattened wallets to the hardship their irresponsibility have caused. What is sad; is that Croatia is certainly not the only example.

Many will argue that we have more choice today than ever before. Choice means competition and competition means a better product for consumers. Thereby stimulating innovation, which spews out new products and more choice. Those who don’t adapt to the ever-changing conditions quickly go out of business. Industries become extinct, just like species in nature; essentially a kind of “economic evolution”, where the only law is the law of the jungle: survival of the fittest. It’s only fair to say that in such an environment, it’s not surprising that people start worshiping money rather than god, wrongfully believing that money is the only thing that makes you happy. In fact if we dig a little deeper we find that there are many things that we value in life; we just tend to forget them. They get lost in the rat race that has become our lives, juggling deadlines and priorities whilst constantly distracted by everything and everyone who is seeking our attention.

So to refresh our memories about what is valuable to individuals, and give you the opportunity to recalibrate your own priorities; I thought of sharing this values map (found at with an open heart dot org).





Are you trustworthy?


Recent events in my life have reminded me about the importance of trust. No matter what relationship you look at, business or personal, trust is the key component of its foundation.  No trust, no meaningful relationship; the importance of building trust cannot be underestimated.  Nevertheless, trust is not a subject that is taught, or even covered for that matter, in schools. Sure our parents, or elders, can talk about their experiences with the subject as they sum up what they have learned but it is generally abstract and not necessarily relevant to your own situation.

Fortunately research has been made on the subject. In their 2001 best selling book “The trusted advisor”, Charles H. Green, David H. Maister and Robert M. Galford present a simple, but effective, way to understand the dynamics of trust. Through their research the authors of the book have develop the “Trust Equation”. This simple formula covers the important components that dictate whether you will trust someone or not. The equation goes like this:


By increasing the elements in the numerator you increase trust whilst by increasing the denominator you reduce or undermine trust.  Although the book was written with business relationships in mind, I have found that it applies to our personal lives as well.   But to really understand the formula we need to look at, and understand, all its variables.

Credibility – has to do with whether one can be believed or not.  Can one present credentials to support their credibility.  Although it is sometimes also referred to as “the words one speaks”, I find it important to consider the other aspects of communication as well.  Classical NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) emphasizes that words only make up a small portion of real communication. In his 1994 article, in Anchor Point magazine, Dr. Buzz Johnson claimed that words only make up 7% of communication intonation 38% and body language 55%.  Although more recent studies have challenged the accuracy of the results the concept remains valid: words make up a much smaller percentage than intonation and body language.  This is why I find that all three components of communication need to be considered. Let’s face it you may have a good story but if you are hesitant when you tell it, I will have a hard time believing you. Therefore intonation and body language are also important components of credibility.

Reliability – Has to do with your actions, can you be depended on to deliver what you promise. In business you can think of things like, being on time or following up and sending the material you promised. In your personal life, it often comes down to you being consequent. Are your kids or partner used to you saying something than doing something else or do they “know” that when you have said something you will not change your mind or soften up and cave in somewhere along the way.

Intimacy – has to do with your ability to connect with people and give them a sense of security. While I trained my fellow consultants I used to tell to develop their observation skills; pick up clues in someone’s office about themselves and their personal lives. This could be things like the diploma that hangs on their wall, which university is it from, perhaps you went to the same university; or a family picture, which enables you to ask about their kids and share your own experiences with children; or a vacation picture skiing and you are an avid skier yourself. Whatever the case, someone’s office generally holds clues about their personal lives and the fact that they are on display gives you permission to bring them into the conversation and explore how you can connect with them; ultimately raising the level of intimacy.

Self-orientation – has to do with where your focus lies, particularly with yourself. Since it is the denominator, the less self oriented you are, the better. You may have scored very well on all the variables above but if your counterpart has a sense that you are only thinking about yourself this will strongly undermine their trust in you. You probably have heard the saying: “The truth in selling is that you succeed more at sales when you stop trying to sell. When all you focus on is helping prospects, they trust you more and buy from you more as well.”[i]

In todays world of scams and politicians trust is hard to come by. It seems that greed, and or the hunger for power, will push people to, and often over, the limits of integrity and morals.  People get blinded by the illusion that money and wealth can bring them happiness, and will often sell their souls in the process; only to wake up one day in a big house and an empty life. Money can always buy you “fair weather friends” but it can’t buy you real friendship.

How are you approaching the innovation challenge?


We live today in ever faster changing times. The industrial, technical and   telecommunication revolution of the end of the last century are quickly being followed by the information and social connectivity revolutions. It has never been easier to learn, create and share.  Whilst a lot has been written about deconstructing businesses and their business models. We have witnessed giants like Eastman Kodak, or Encyclopedia Britannica, who have failed to develop and market innovative products and services as their traditional business models were doomed were being destroyed. There are countless other examples of all sizes and national backgrounds; and they all share something in common: a failure to adapt to changing times, a failure to innovate.  But you better get ready because the next revolution will be the innovation revolution.

But wait innovation “today “is not was it was 20 years ago, it has evolved. Perhaps the best example of a modern innovative company is Apple.  Under Steve Job’s leadership, they explored and exploited other innovation dimensions such as customer experience through: design, quality, ease of use, shops and distribution.  Innovation today is not only about  new and improved products, it’s about the way we see our customers and how well we understand their needs and how we can serve them. Even if the foundation for any successful business is a quality product, there are many other aspects of our offering where a little innovation can gain us a competitive advantage.  It would be foolish to ignore it.

So how to approach the innovation challenge?

Start by understanding “who” your customers are?  It’s ok to serve everyone who wants your product, but its better if you know understand your customer’s buying patterns. Because when you understand, you can better target them with specials and offers that can boost your bottom line.

Once you know whom you are targeting, reflect on their needs. A good tool to help you put things into perspective is the KANO Model. By reflecting, categorizing and weighing and comparing your product/service attributes vs your competitors you can create a clear picture of where you stand. Because over time product attributes have a tendency to move down from delighters to performance and then basics, you can also use the tool to map your innovation strategy for each product over multiple product generation.


You a can also use the KANO tool for the next phase: mapping the results of your customer’s experience and that of your competitors.

The next phase is to reflect on your customer’s experience.  Ask them for feedback and engage and prompt them to give you ideas; “put your self in their shoes”.   This is can often be a problem as the contacts you have at your customers are rarely the ones using your products.  You will have to put some effort into your initiative if you want real feedback for the users of your product. Sophisticated companies strive to understand the internal dynamics of their customers as to identify the influencers, stakeholders and decision makers with regards to their products. Not getting any complaints from the shop floor maybe the kind of minimal criteria needed to stay in the game, other times it requires a lot more than that.  Whichever approach you pick, to learn about your customers and their organisations, it is important to remember that the rule here is not  “More is better” but rather the opposite “less is more”. For it is important that your customers see actions out of your questions and survey; otherwise they will lose interest and won’t give feedback anymore; you are wasting their time. Just remember that when you ask for feedback you should give feedback in return.

The real news is that individuals and small business entrepreneurs can also use these tools to discover opportunities around them, services that are not being fulfilled or other innovative offerings. By playing to their strengths and turning their weaknesses into advantages they can carve niches out of otherwise saturated markets and distinguish themselves from their competitors just by thinking through their approach to innovation.