Incredible experiences can begin with the motivation to solve one single issue for one person at a time. That’s the idea that led Mick Ebeling — who was recently named to the “The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders List” by Fortune — to found Not Impossible Labs, LLC, an organization which describes itself as “a one-of-a-kind, award winning technology incubator and content studio dedicated to changing the world through technology and story.”
At Oracle Modern Customer Experience 2019, we met with Mick for a Facebook Live discussion about his keynote speech at ModernCX, the inspiration behind his organization, and his passion for making the impossible possible through technology.
Watch our interview and read the 5 inspiring customer experience leadership lessons we learned from Mick.
Lesson 1: Start small, then scale
When we asked Mick to describe what Not Impossible Labs is all about, he shared how his team uses “social tech” to solve problems for one person at a time, and then scale that solution to help many. Here’s what Mick had to say:
“At Not Impossible Labs, we are a crazy group of mad scientists, and hackers, and makers, and social activists. We are based in Venice Beach, California and we are what we call a social incubator lab.
We look at creating social tech — tech that solves social issues — and we figure out how to hack, and make, and program, and do whatever we can to solve an absurdity, which is usually the word that we use to describe things that we say are social issues that exist. We’ll jump on that and dog pile that using technology to solve it.
And then once we figure out how and what that solution is, we’ll either post it open source, or we will figure out how to scale it in some capacity so we can help the most amount of people as possible.”
Lesson 2: With the right team, the impossible is possible
We asked Mick to describe how he got into this field of work, and he described how a fateful meeting with paralyzed graffiti artist Tony “Tempt One” Quan led to assembling a team of problem solvers who created the Eyewriter, and would then later go on solve problems for more individuals around the world. Here’s what Mick had to say:
“I had a production company. I was an animator and production company owner and we were doing great things all over the world. Everything was peachy, and then we met a paralyzed graffiti and street artist named Tony ‘Tempt’ Quan, who had been lying motionless in a bed for 7 years due to ALS and his story really just struck a nerve for me.
We ended up compiling a group of hackers, and makers, and mad scientists from around the world, who came in and crafted a way for him to be able to communicate and draw again using only his eyes. Because up to that point he was just lying in a bed, unable to speak and communicate except for a piece of paper with an alphabet on it. People would run their finger along a piece of paper and when they get to a letter he would blink, and we said, ‘That’s crazy, let’s solve that.’ So, we crafted solutions — really low cost, inexpensive solutions — to solve that absurdity.”
Mick continued, “Project Daniel, when we went to Sudan, was our first time going outside of our borders into a world that was completely unknown and it really challenged our belief in the concept that anything is possible, because we didn’t know the rules of engagement. We didn’t speak the language, we didn’t know the terrain. Nothing functioned the way we wanted to, so I’m very proud of what the team accomplished there.”
And further, “We launched Music Not Impossible that helps the deaf experience music. That’s leaning into something that we hope to launch at the end of this year that addresses Parkinson’s and the symptoms around Parkinson’s. We’re really excited about that — that would be our first actual, tangible, scaled product that goes to market.”
Lesson 3: It’s easy to motivate for a good cause
Given the extraordinary results of the Not Impossible Labs team, we asked Mick his secret to motivating a team toward one goal. Here’s what he had to say:
“We don’t have to motivate very much because our principle is help one, help many. And we always identify that one person who all of our efforts are being focused on to try to solve the problem for. Once people have that ability to understand who that person is and meet that person, the motivation just happens, because if I said to you, do you want to help cure hunger in the United States? You would say yes, and I would say, ‘Awesome, how do you want to do it?’ And you’d be like, ‘Ah, well, you know, like oh this…’
But if I said, ‘Hey, outside this hotel right now, I met a guy named John, and he did two tours in Afghanistan. He can’t get his head straight, but you can tell he’s a really good guy. And he really wants to get his life together. His name is John and he’s 29 years old. Let’s go buy him a sandwich. Let’s see if we can just feed him for the week.’
Boom, Mia and Mick are going to go do that. It’s quantifiable, it’s tangible, it’s obtainable. So, our whole premise in what we do is we focus on solving for one person and in doing so, all of a sudden, everything comes into focus. Everybody gets aligned with what needs to happen, and in doing so, lo and behold, that solution ends up having an effect to help many.
So that’s what help one, help many means.”
Lesson 4: Channel the power of storytelling for a greater purpose
During our interview, Mick expressed that, “Story is so important to us. Our mission statement is change the world through technology and story.”
So, we asked Mick: How can a CX leader approach storytelling in an inspiring and motivational way, while maintaining authenticity? His answer is straightforward:
“Story is baked in to who we are as humans. So, all we’re doing is telling people just do what you already do, which is you tell your story, but do it in a way that if you channel it, it can actually help people.”
Lesson 5: Remind people that they have the capability
When we asked Mick what accomplishments he’s most proud of, he said, “That’s hard, because it’s like asking which one of your kids is your favorite.” One notable and timely accomplishment that Mick highlighted is the Not Impossible Awards taking place on June 1. Here’s what Mick had to say:
“Not Impossible Awards is about celebrating other people doing and making impossible not impossible. So, nothing about Not Impossible — it’s about other people. That’s an amazing accomplishment because that’s part of the movement of Not Impossible. How do you remind people that they have that capability? The Not Impossible Awards does that. It’s these stories of all these amazing people who are making the impossible not impossible.”
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This transcript may be edited for readability.