[Unlearning] Elevating the positives gives more value than eliminating the negatives…

Eliminating the negatives is what we are all good at… our focus is to create a complaint-free service… our energy is spent in filling the gaps, removing the nuances… but then we are rarely left with time to even aspire for the extraordinary?

elevate the positives

Inspired by Jamsetji Tata’s approach to lift up the best and the most gifted and not just prop up the weakest, I started to look for its application in business. I did not expect to find an immediate validation, but imagine my surprise (and excitement) when I found an interesting narrative in a book I was reading over Christmas (The Power of Moments by Chip Heath & Dan Heath).

In the book, the authors introduce a study undertaken with thousands of executives from consumer experience, which shows that on an average most companies spend 80% of their resources trying to improve the experience of severely unhappy customers. This is hardly surprising – after all when a customer has a satisfaction level of 5 or 6, they are reasonably happy and our natural response is to eliminate the worst customer problems and fix the issues of the unhappy customers who are at satisfaction levels 1 or 2.

The interesting aspect of the study was to map the data to a financial value of the customer. They referred to model on financial value of customer that has been developed by Forrester and suggests that the happiest people in the industry tend to spend more. The data from the model suggests that moving a customer from a satisfaction level of 4 to 7 generates more additional spending than moving from a level of 1 to 4. The results are illuminating – if you elevate the positives, you earn nine times more revenue than if you eliminate the negatives.

The thought on the table is to channelize the energy to nudge the neutrals (satisfaction levels 4-6) to positives (level 7 and above), rather than invest in moving the unhappy customers (satisfaction level 1-3) to neutral.

This maps to adding features and services that delight customers and to explicitly focus on creating such positive moments (there can be many definitions of positive moments but we can just start with the elements of elevation, insight, pride and connection that Chip & Dan introduce in their book).

Of-course I am not advocating abandoning the unhappy customers or ignoring basic problems – instead I am highlighting the need to reorient ourselves – to review our priorities, to move beyond fixing problems, to allow resources for building extraordinary experiences… I am simply reminding ourselves of the missed opportunity… the opportunity to create experiences that stays with us…

This note is a page from my diary – UnLearning, which records all those random thoughts (ideas and fears…) that make me live day-by-day.

[This article was first published @LinkedIn on 28 December, 2017.]


[Unlearning] When Social Entrepreneurship took a new meaning for me…


social entrepreneurship - new meaning

Early in the year, I read a book that chronicled the journey of the Tatas and while the many stories bring out practical business insights, I was particularly fascinated by Jamsetji Tata’s perspective on serving the interests of the country…

I have personally always been fascinated by what Jamsetji Tata (regarded by many as the father of Indian Industry) transpired to achieve (back in the 19th century, in 1868) and it’s amazing to see the disruptions he created… here we struggle to bring small changes whereas he opened up new worlds – in areas that were varied but still key to the growth of modern India – from industrial development (steal and hydro-electric power) to research (and technical education) to social welfare… he’s an inspiration… not just to lead in ideas and action but even more so to have the courage and conviction to take with you those who do not yet share your vision…

What stands out for me is his guiding principle that no success or achievement is worthwhile unless it serves the interests or needs of the country and its people… and the endeavour to create wealth for the nation! And it’s amazing to see how the foundation laid by Jamsetji Tata has stood the test of time and allowed the group to grow, maintaining its values and continuing to diversify to meet emerging India’s needs…

Everyone dreams of creating wealth for themselves but sustaining the passion to look beyond and striving to take the country forward is an inspiration… and Jamsetji’s journey is a reminder that one man’s vision can change not just a few lives, but a country!

As I started to accept that each one of us has the power to achieve more than we think, I was even more intrigued by Jamsetji’s approach to serving the needs of the country. His belief – that what advances a nation or a community is not so much to prop up its weakest and the most helpless members, but to lift up the best and the most gifted, so as to make them of the greatest service to the country – is so different from common thinking and most philanthropic initiatives of feeding the poor and healing the sick – and probably why he has left an indelible mark on India and its people – not just over a few years but across centuries.
This is a new way of looking at social entrepreneurship for me. While my passion has been to apply technology advancements for social impact – I cannot deny that my focus has been to look at selective pockets of social and economic change – and now it seems that I may be missing countless opportunities for a bigger impact.

I have something to think about as I start the new year – and as a first step maybe to evolve the infrastructure, services or ecosystems – not just to meet the basic needs of the moderate or the ordinary – but to relook from a different angle and extend the platforms with new capabilities to support the best and drive them towards their potential… yes, I really believe that this approach has far reaching possibilities – beyond social impact to also business impact!

This note is a page from my diary – UnLearning, which records all those random thoughts (ideas and fears…) that make me live day-by-day.