All posts by Stephen

Emerson’s Good Hours

“Emerson’s dominant passion was not to know but to grow. ‘Expression is all we want,’ he wrote in his journals. ‘Not knowledge, but vent: we know enough;'”

Emerson’s idea of “Good Hours” grows out of his realization that we can only really hold our consciousness for an hour at a time; so the proper unit of living is an hour.

How was your last hour? How are you inspired to grow in your next?

Just a snippet, but worth reading what’s free or buying the entire article.

Leadership = E=mc2?

Could it be that managers focus on linear relationships, while leaders focus on exponential ones?

Managers look for year-over-year, organic progress; boards, analysts, investors, and banks love predictable progress.

But, if  you want exponential gains, you need to unleash the forces that will move you up an exponential curve.

Einstein figured out the relationship between energy and matter


In a flash, all the linear progression of the bomb-maker’s art were left in a cloud of radioactive dust near White Sands, NM.  The heaviest conventional bombs used in WW2 were 1 ton bunker-busters, the first nuclear test was of a 20 kiloton weapon, or 20,000 times stronger than the prior state of the art.

What can you do to convert your mass (inventory or service capacity assets) into energy (cash) using the speed of light squared as your multiplier?

Leaders focusing on transforming the moment of detonation/conversion, the moments/touchpoints of customer/company interaction, might be a place to start.

Customer Experience Management and the Service Profit Chain

Customer experience management. Possible?

Analyze, measure, improve every customer touch point?

Energize the entire organization in a maniacal devotion to creating intensely satisfying customer experience every time?

How can that be done, really?

Customer experience leadership, simplified by the Service Profit Chain

To understand the drivers of customer experience and to communicate how to affect those drivers throughout your organization, you need a clear conceptual model, something, to structure people’s thinking about the wildly complex set of variables that mix in moment-by-moment business activities.

Even the models are complex, here’s a graphic of the Service Profit Chain:

Source: Heskett, et. al,

But, how to bring this actionable clarity?

Simplifying Customer Experience Leadership by Simplifying the Service Profit Chain

The graphic above would be useless in the hands of a front-line, customer-facing supervisor trying to help an associate better serve a customer.  It is fairly complete, but overly complex.

Ockham’s Razor, that the simplest complete explanation for any phenomenon is the most preferable, would lead us to parse the Service Profit Chain down to that arrow that connects employee retention and employee productivity (customer-touching employee work) with external service value (the moment of customer experience).

Hosting Conversations, Hosting Customer Experience

If we think of every customer interaction with our brand (web, call center, product, service, billing, etc) as a conversation between two people, we begin to have a conceptual structure that  is clear enough for even front-line supervisors to use in the heat of the moment.

We are hosting a party and we want ALL of our guests to have a lovely experience:

  • Socially connecting
  • Energizing
  • Satisfying, with a hint of the sublime if possible

What type of conversation are you hosting today?  One constrained by focus on/measurement of:

  • Average Handle Time?
  • Average Order Value?
  • Up-sell/Cross-sell Rates?

Scoreboard v. Playing Field

Are we looking at the scoreboard while the game is being played and lost out on the field?

Is your organization aligned behind hosting an exceptional conversation between your customer-facing people and your customers?  In word, yes, of course; but in deed, really?

The basic work of our organizations, where our long-term financial success will be won or lost, is in hosting exceptional conversations, be they be real-time person-to-person or asynchronously, enabled by the web (see a Zappos employee selling shoes and Fogg, Persuasive Technology).

Does this work?

Ask Zappos who used these ideas to create what they call a Wow! machine and a billion dollars in sales in 10 years.

Have your conversations built that kind of organic growth over the last decade?


Customer Experience, Brand Building, and Leadership

Newton’s second law of thermodynamics, it’s not only about heat, it’s about entropy, and entropy seems to act on everything, even brands.

Customer Experience and Brand Building

Of course, some brands are hot and getting hotter while others seem to be cooling or are dead cold

When was the last time you bragged about your Buick on MySpace over an AOL internet connection?

Were all of those brands victims of expert managers who worked the numbers while missing the fire of great customer experience?

Do you ever remember thinking:

This Buick is magic!

This AOL start up CD I received in the mail is inspiring, again!

I wish Facebook was a lot more like MySpace!

Customer Experience Leadership

The difference between heating and cooling (building and entropy) seems lie in the distinction between management and leadership, e.g.:

  • Apple starts cooking under the leadership Steve and Steve
  • Apple cooling/dissipating under expert managers Scully and Spindler
  • Apple refocuses and gains heat after Jobs returns to leadership
  • Apple becomes the most valuable company in the world in April 2012 with a valuation over $600 billion making it one of the two most valuable companies in history.
    • n.b. The other was Microsoft in 1999 at the peak of the first internet bubble.

Jobs combined an artist’s commitment to elegance in Customer Experience/UX – from product design, interface quality, to site/store experience, even to packaging with notoriously driven and focused leadership practices aimed at delivering a customer experience vision.

Customer Experience Management v. Customer Experience Leadership

Is the distinction between managers and leaders in their balancing of numbers and vision?

Do managers use vision to reach an envisioned financial/organizational/brand metric goals?

Do leaders use numbers along the path toward a vision of a relationship between their customers and their own lives mediated by the company’s product/service?

Of course, every successful business person is partially a manager and partially a leader, but what’s the current balance at the top of your organization?

What would it take to shift your leadership’s focus to one with a clear vision of customer’s experience that builds heat in your brand?


The Bookless Library?

No longer an oxymoron at one New England private school.

See the debate in the New York Times here.

The Head of School says that the school is simply ahead of the curve in meeting student’s new research and reading habits.

Are those habits serving the students well?  Is learning simply about collecting information efficiently?  Matt Mullenweg, founding developer of WordPress (Yeah Matt!), finds that he reads more with a digital reader than he did with print books.  Read his views and those of other media luminaries here.

I, as you may have guessed, side with those who believe that the long focus, the peaceful contemplation, that the reading of a real book allows can lead to  deeper thinking.

I think of reading as having a long conversation with a mind from another time and place, and probably a much higher IQ level, than mine.  If I hurry through this conversation with a TV on in the background (links, tools, maybe even ads around digital content) what are the chances I’ll get all I could out of the exchange?

Actually, for me, the reading is only the first step.  I think the digital life-style, with it’s self-created quick-cut editing, is the real issue because of its focus on quantity and speed.  Time to reflect, to sift, store, and record your understanding of what you’ve read and it’s implications for your life are where the real work of learning takes place.

If anything, we probably read too much of the wrong stuff these days… scarfing down intellectual potato chips, while the nutritious foods and the slow chewing and  digestion they require remain untouched and undone.

With all the media we consume these days, it seems to me that we need to ask ourselves one question before taking on any reading:

Is there a good chance that I will change the way I work and live from what I learn here?

If the chances are slim, put down the media and walk outside.  If you’re looking at media, ancient or au courant, that stands a good chance of refining or elevating your personal philosophy or understanding of yourself or others in a way that will lead you to make different choices and take different actions tomorrow, read on!

Learning to Learn

In my search for a meaningful path toward my own education, I’ve found the following thinkers and ideas useful. I started with Jefferson and Franklin, men I admired. I then looked to their favorite authors and educational methods. From there, my latticework continues to expand.

Benjamin Franklin

Autobiography of one of America’s greatest autodidacts. Full of fascinating perspectives and practices as well as great stories.

Thomas Jefferson

Letter to Peter Carr of 19 August 1785 in which he lays out a plan of study for his nephew.

Eric Hoffer

One of America’s most important thinkers and the author of The True Believer-lived for years as a Depression Era migratory worker. Self-taught, his appetite for knowledge-history, science, mankind-formed the basis of his insight to human nature. Working and Thinking on the Waterfront is a rare glimpse into not only Hoffer’s personal life but his thought process while postulating his great future works.
Giambattista Vico



Interesting, useful ideas from an often overooked 18th-century autodidact from Naples who attempted to create a science of history, complete with the ability to predict what’s coming.

On the Study Methods of Our Times

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self-Reliance of course, but also his essay History, which serves as the foundation for my approach to the subject.
The Brain Rules

In Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, shares his lifelong interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work.

Rudolf Steiner

Steiner’s focus on the whole person, not just mind, but body and soul too inspires me to offer a richer, gentler form of teaching.

Jean Piaget/Kegan

Piaget’s stages of human development interestingly expanded and explained by a psychologist.

Warren Buffet


Latticework reveals the thinking that has led Warren Bufftet and his partner Charlie Munger to make such excellent financial decisions.

Neil Postman

Building a Bridge to the 18th Century by Neil Postman argues that the best thinking of Western Civilization was done in the 18th C. and that we’ve been riding their coattails ever since. If we want to find a workable path forward as a society, we need to return to the educational practices and the high quality of thinking of those amazing years.

Frederich Nietzsche

In the essay, On The Advantages and Disadvantages of History for Life, Nietzsche clarifies the possible affects (positive and negative) of history on humans who live in the here and now.

The Trivium

The essential book on learning the trivium: grammar, logic and rhetoric.

Thomas Aquinas/A.G. Setillanges, O.P.

An practical, inspiring look at applying Scholastic methods to our own intellectual lives.