“Life is divided into three terms—that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, to live better in the future.” – William Wordsworth
At first glance, wisdom from an early 19th-century English Romantic poet wouldn’t seem to have much application to modern-day customer experience (CX) principles. However, the creators behind the podcast Often Imitated may feel differently.
Each episode of Often Imitated examines a story from history and then ties that to a current example of how someone or an organization provides a great CX. Episodes 6, 7, and 8 of Often Imitated touch on the concept of innovating in the face of adversity. Let’s take a look at what some of those constraints were and the positive outcomes that resulted, as highlighted in the podcast episodes.
Finding inspiration in your limits
Episode 6 discusses the challenges author Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, faced when writing the Green Eggs and Ham book alongside the limitations a present-day leading architecture firm, Kieran Timberlake, experiences with projects. In Theodor Geisel’s case, he was held to a very tight word count and forced to choose from a defined list of children’s words from a particular grade level for the book. The episode reviews how rather than letting himself be held in check by the word choice constraint, he embraced it by creating word maps to help find a narrative thread. By adopting this approach, he tackled these limitations head-on and found a way to create an impactful story.
Stephen Kieran, Partner at Kieran Timberlake, described in the episode how he tries to come to projects with a complete understanding of the environment the building will sit in and the people it serves. With this thinking, he created structures such as the U.S. embassy in London. He explained that constraints don’t have to be a limiting factor, rather a source of inspiration for innovation.
Both Kiernan and Geisel learned that constraints, requirements, and challenges could serve as a foundation for building and creating something your audiences will love. Kieran notes, “It’s easy to make something that’s beautiful by eliminating constraints. What we’re after is something that’s deeper than beauty. We’re after something that transcends.”
Creating a two-way dialogue
Episode 7 titled, What Burgers Teach Us About Two-Way Conversations, speaks to the great east coast and west coast burger divide. The podcast details how Esther and Harry Snyder started In-N-Out in Southern California in 1948. It began as a drive-through, with a two-way intercom allowing customers to drive up, order, and get their food. The two-way conversations allowed for enormous success and an excellent experience for their customers.
The episode then transitions into looking at a training company focused on communication to improve employee effectiveness. The episode’s guest Kyle Lacy, CMO of Lessonly, discusses how internal employee training is an industry that hasn’t had effective two-way communication between employers and employees. There’s a need that Lessonly works to fill by focusing on understanding the user experience. Lacy comments, “There’s a huge difference between lecturing and coaching. Coaching is working with someone and helping them do it. That’s where real training and development happens.”
Staying flexible and agile
According to the interview in Episode 8 with Grant Geiger, CEO of EIR Healthcare, planning for future growth and employing a circular design process allows healthcare buildings to remain flexible, grow to meet demands, and provide efficient patient care.
This idea isn’t overbuilding but instead building to support growth as and when it’s needed. Geiger notes, “It’s okay not to know everything right now. The beauty of modular construction and circular design is that both allow for flexibility, for the unexpected, or unpredictable. When you’re approaching any project, build for what’s in front of you and what’s ahead.”
For more customer experience insight from the past and present-day, listen to Episode 6, Episode 7, and Episode 8, and subscribe to Often Imitated to be notified when new weekly episodes are available.