by Jordan C. Lofton

Book Name: Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service

Author:  Chip R. Bell

Amazon Rating: 5 Stars

GSC Rating: 5 Stars

Author Chip R. Bell helps clients like The Ritz-Carlton, Victoria’s Secret, Verizon Wireless, and Harley Davidson focus in on their most important asset…their customers.  Sprinkles is a book that is literally, short and sweet.  Chip tells the story of how to improve Customer Experience by describing it the same way his granddaughters do with baking cookies.  They love to add “Sprinkles” to make the cookies even more special.  In each of the short chapters, Chip helps us understand simple ways that we can each improve Customer Experience by adding that little something extra.

Why should someone consider reading this book?

In industry we often think of the customer and how one might interact with them in terms of “Customer Service”.  A new buzz word is emerging however which goes beyond the mere service to providing a “Customer Experience”.  In Sprinkles, we learn that providing a great experience doesn’t have to be daunting.  It can and should be something that is simple, valuable, and personal to the customer.  I would recommend this book to the GSC readers so that the next time you think about how you interact with a customer you have some basic tools that make that one person feel they received more than just “great service”.

What are three main takeaways from the book? Please describe each and how you can apply them to your current role.

At the end of each chapter Chip gives away a little “Secret Sauce”.  These short snippets bring home the most important points and leave the reader with opportunity to carry those actions out in their own company.  The three most valuable points that stood out to me were:

  1. Animated Employees serve as the “spice” of a good experience. The spirit of an organization is what drives a great experience.  This spirit, instilled in each employee, is infectious and spreads from employees to customers.
  2. A great experience is accessible to all of your customers.  Chip says it should be “As Easy As a TV Dinner”.  To use a line from the book, “It does not have to be draconian.  Make access to stressless service a vital and obvious part of your service recipe.”
  3. Chip gives 7 Principles of Customer Inclusion.  These simple tips are a great way to make your customer a part of the experience by making them partners.  Through this alliance customers feel invested in an outcome they help to create.

by Hannah Pool

A Great Leader?

As I was reading Daniel Goleman’s HBR article called “What Makes a Leader?” the first thought that crossed my mind was ‘why didn’t the title say What Makes a Great Leader’? As I let the thought pass and continued to dive into Goleman’s five Emotional Intelligence (EI) skills, I quickly came to realize that you can’t be a leader without those five skills. You may have a title or a position that allows you to manage others but that does not always make you a leader.

The Five EI Skills

Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy, and Social Skills. Self-Awareness can be as simply put as knowing yourself. You must know your weaknesses, emotions, drives, strengths, values, and goals and their impact on others. Self-Regulation is the ability to control or redirect disruptive emotions and impulses. This can often be a difficult task as those impulses are often biological. Motivation is something we are all familiar with, the drive to achieve for the sake of achievement. The fourth skill, Empath, is considering others’ feelings especially when making decisions. If you read the full article you will realize this isn’t always the mushy-gushy stuff that being empathetic can really provide value to a company and to relationships. The final EI skill is Social Skills. Social Skills and Empathy relate to a person’s ability to manage relationships with others, but we can take the idea of Social Skills a step further to include the ability to move people in desired directions.

Becoming Self-Aware

If you are like me, after reading the article you probably took a step back and realized ‘whoa, I have a lot of work to do’. (I guess you can say I took my first step to becoming more self-aware). When I realized there were skills I could improve upon I also realized that I have already shown growth in some of the other skills. That is a great theme of EI, that you can learn these skills through prolonged practice, motivation, and feedback. Although I haven’t been conscious of the growth of these specific skill sets or connected EI with some of the growth I have seen in the past year, I am realizing it now.

My Journey

The GSC Associate Program has provided me with a sense of nurturing in terms of my leadership skills. I not only have experiential learning from my time on projects but I am also provided classroom training on a more technical level where I have learned meeting facilitation techniques which can be a fancy term for Empathy and Social Skills. Another major area of improvement has come from our leadership training which is in the form of reading a leadership book throughout our program and our leadership coach. The book we use takes a very similar approach to leadership as EI in that the skills that you need to be a leader can be learned. So as we have read the book we are introspective and look at how we can apply the teachings to our own leadership. I can mention many other instances in which my EI skills have been developed over the past year because that is the focus of Golden Source Consultants and especially the Associate Program. Golden Source wants to develop you into the best leader you can possibly be and it provides you with support and resources to do that.

by Catherine Baird, PhD

Over the last decade, your society has literally grown up. Even the most environmentally incorrect is now busily forging some sort of alliances with those who more deeply protect your many fragile habitats…You need to use technology to create a proper habitat and not to destroy it. ~Sheldan Nidle, March 10, 2015.

#GSCLIONShare Big Data Conference an interesting question was posed: I’ll paraphrase it as “This Big Data stuff is very interesting, but also very technical. As a BBA major, how do I get involved?

One of the neatest things about Big Data is that it’s so interdisciplinary. It calls for such broad understandings—not just in computer technology or math and statistics (STEM is the common acronym now) or even business, marketing and finance—but all human thought inclusive of philosophy, language, arts and the humanities… holistically, globally.

Did you know that one of the most sought-after disciplines for Big Data recruiters is philosophy?

“First, strategic employers want well-rounded people for their big data initiatives. How’s your Nietzschean philosophy these days?”

“ Jeremy Howard, chief scientist at an Internet startup that runs data prediction competitions has a degree in philosophy. He believes that the key job requirements in data science is really curiosity, flexibility, and the willingness to learn, capabilities that can be found in a wide variety of studies and job backgrounds (Hall, 2012).”

This shift comes from the very nature of Big Data. It’s vast. As we say Big Data is all about the V’s — velocity, volume, variety… (I still argue the 4th V = validity remains an emerging capability!) … So people trained in conceptualizing the big picture and in visualizing and analyzing multiple, seemingly unrelated correlations are in high demand.

Finding those grains of sand on the beach requires we open ourselves to being aware of non-obvious connections, allow for anomalies, and jump into everything from the placement and etymology of words and numbers to location and timing of context. Discovery is definitely not linear. At minimum it’s 3 dimensional. Many Big Data problems (questions) seek 4D or even 5D resolution. The only rule I’ve found is, expect the unexpected!

(A thought for another time… if technology is just humans optimizing their experience with life– doing things faster, and perhaps more accurately than they’d do it by hand–and studies show organizations today are using ~ 10% of the data they have available, hence they’re adopting Big Data to help them use more than that 10% …Whoa! Wait! Doesn’t that sound familiar? How long have we been hearing that human beings are using only ~ 10% of their brain?)

But before I get distracted. This tie back to the humanities and non-technical, scientific training was fascinating for me, especially as I’m one of the anomalies in the field (a Ph.D. in History, B.Sc. in Zoology who somehow took the road less travelled to become a Cloud Computing evangelist and Big Data Architect?)

Recently, I converted my 1997 doctoral thesis into Revolution from Within, a narrative nonfiction covering the story of “The 160” (an elite group of Russian intellectuals exiled from the country by Lenin in 1922), and their interactions with a most unusual sponsor, the YMCA, culminating in the return of their ideas to Russia almost 70 years later with the fall of Communism. The book was released for publication in 2015. For more information, see www.catherinebairdbooks.com.

Thanks to that eclectic evolution, I’ve long been aware that computer programming is really nothing more than another language, a philosophical-logical system devised by humans. All computing is just logic (human’s made-up language). It’s truly all in our minds.

So if Big Data is to be the catalyst that brings people trained in ALL disciplines together once more, I can only welcome and embrace it. For far too long we’ve limited science and the technologies to a very limited, rational, sensationalist (meaning what we can perceive with our senses) perspective. And in the quest for immediate gratification, instant results, I must say that we’ve ignored some very important considerations to our peril. Questions other than “Can we?” or “How fast?” or “How much will it cost?”

Rather than focusing on what can we do now to help the people and the world around us today—safely, securely and responsibly—many Big Data initiatives founder on trying to boil the ocean (cheaply of course) or conquer the world.

It was so inspirational to hear the great story from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta about their “Frankendoop” project. Knowing Big Data could help solve pressing questions about better ways to treat children yet hands tied by non-existent budgets for new hardware, the team cobbled together a Hadoop cluster using PCs and laptops that were headed for the scrap heap.

Literally on a shoestring budget, they interconnected the end-of-life computers, installed Hadoop, and began collecting vital ICU monitoring data, then analyzing it to answer top debates being held between the doctors and nurses in the ward. One outcome was magnificent! Improved pain management leading to faster recovery and self-sufficiency in premature babies. You can read more about this heart-warming story here.

Just like the whole designed implementation of Big Data Ecosystems is holistic, heterogeneous, and unifying—supporting almost unlimited compute and storage paradigms on one cluster—so too are the talent and resource demands of this emerging field requiring people skilled in the full spectrum of disciplines and creative inquiry.

If Big Data is revolutionizing the way human beings work with digital information, it is also disrupting the way human beings work together: breaking down the walls and insisting “no more silos”.

Celia Ellisby Celia Ellis, PMP, ITILv3

Is your organization playing the finger pointing, blame game? Does there seem to be a constant gap between what IT can deliver and what the business wants? Is the business forced to change behavior based on IT constraints?

If you answered yes to any of these questions and you’re a Technology or Business leader looking to solve any of these problems going forward into 2014 then the Technology Garden by Jon Collins, Neil Macehiter, Dale Vile, and Neil Ward-Dutton is a must read for you.

Jon and his team of IT expert authors interviewed dozens of IT directors, CIOs, and senior business and technical decision makers to find out what works and what does not. The team gathered the results into this short readable handbook with application methods that can be applied right away.

The Technology GardenThis handbook groups the best practices that an IT manager should harvest and hone in on to ensure that IT is aligned with the business’ needs and provides value in a service oriented approach.

In addition, the book also provides a framework for the application of these principles and provides template tools such as organizational self-assessment checklists and surveys to understand where companies are on the IT-business alignment road map and how to progress.

Six Actions

It starts with asking what are the six things you can do to become a successful IT manager, then sums them up into the following:
Six Actions
Four Stages

It then maps these six actions against four key stages:

  1. Gain Trust form the business (Become the trusted IT service delivery organization)
  2. Understand and reflect the business (Differentiate business support from IT)
  3. Engage the business (IT Service Management In the Business)
  4. Drive the business (Appropriate Change and Transformation)

Four Stages
In the past IT has taken on a passive role and not been aware of the key drivers for the business or had an understanding of their operational goals. This book stresses the importance of maintaining proactive business engagement, understanding corporate strategy and goals, and the significance of being a transparent service oriented organization.

The stages outlined above reflect how mature the IT and business relationship is within the company with this in mind.

Prioritize

In the example below, the six key activities are mapped against the four stages and prioritized based on the results of one of the surveys provided in the handbook.
Prioritize
Additional tools are provided that help to establish a road map and a course of action to map how the IT-
Business relationship can be improved based on the results of this exercise.

Let’s Innovate

InnovationIn addition to the importance of maintaining Business-IT Alignment, Collins’ work stresses the importance that the IT organization has with Innovation. The business looks to IT to bring solutions that can aid the business in developing or maintaining their competitive advantage.

The authors discuss IT’s unique view across the enterprise at all of the various capabilities. From this vantage point, the business is BLIND. IT can be a true enabler and take advantage of this position to bring solid recommendations for building out service road maps, enabling new capabilities, and retiring old or duplicate capabilities and functions. This in itself can lend to the companies competitive advantage.

In Closing

In closing, forget those verbose, academic and long-winded books that claim to provide answers to these
issues and read this straightforward handbook as part of your 2014 action plan.

If you need help with implementing your Business-IT Alignment initiative for 2014, Golden Source Consultants’ Strategic consultation services can you expedite your plan.

We have experience with helping enterprises deliver innovative solutions delivering true ROI through creative, well researched, and industry-appropriate implementation methods.

Our expertise combined with Collin’s illuminating handbook will provide invaluable tools on for your Business and IT relationships can align and shine!