Uncovering the Why Behind the Buy; The Art of Sensemaking

mad scientistNever send a statistician to do an anthropologist’s job.

Big Business is learning that all the big data at their fingertips still can’t uncover the essence of WHY people will buy and buy again. Turns out, you have to talk to and observe people, in order to gain that magic insight.

An article in the fall 2017 edition of Harvard Business Review (HBR.org) by Christian Maadsberg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen, titled An Anthropologist Walks into a Bar…, talks about how organizations like Lego re-discovered their core business by doing something truly radical….really getting to know their customer. They engaged in a discovery process called Sensemaking.

Sensemaking; is the art of merging the hard and soft sciences to dig deeper into what motivates human behavior. It is the study of how people experience life. Smart companies use this information to inform strategy, product development and corporate culture.

The article outlines the 5 Steps to Sensemaking:

  1. Reframe the Problem; Stop labeling it a Problem and start thinking of it as a Phenomenon to be studied. Switch your perspective from Inside Out (how the business perceives the problem) to Outside In (Understanding how your customer ACTUALLY interfaces with your product or service.)
  2. Collect the Data; Ah, but here’s the magic formula – you must approach the data collection process without a pre-conceived hypothesis. Enter the process with zero assumptions about what you might find. The goal here is raw, personal, real-time data.
  3. Look for Patterns; Now Peel the Onion, go beyond the outer layer of observable behavior and start to analyze the data for patterns and themes, to unearth the underlying causes behind customer behavior. The real WHY.
  4. Create Key Insights; Look for gaps between your assumptions and your customer’s actual behavior. Ask questions like “What are we missing? “How can we look at this differently? And What if?”
  5. Build the Business Impact; Now, translate insight into initiative. Create an innovative strategy to bring to market the solutions for your customer’s newly uncovered needs and desires.

I am personally very excited to see a high-touch approach like Sensemaking being used by business as an avenue for understanding human behavior. 

I have always studied and observed human behavior, my own and others. As a comedian and humorist for over 30 years, my self-appointed job-description has always been; “To keep an eye on humanity and report back.”

I think of myself as a social anthropologist with a punchline…using humor to help spotlight the funny in the foibles of human behavior and inspiring positive change.

Comedians ask the same questions as all great innovators: “What if? What’s missing? Why do we do this? Is there a better way?” You could say, that we use humor to achieve sense-making.

And now, a parting piece of wisdom from one of the all-time, great social scientists, Star Treks’ Dr. Spock:

Logic is only the beginning of wisdom.”

For more information on Sensemaking go to HBR.org or pick up a copy of the Harvard Business Review; The Leader’s Guide to Problem-Solving at your newsstand.

Karyn Ruth White is a Success Humorist, Social Anthropologist, Comedian, Author and Keynote Speaker.   Visit her at www.karynruth.com, info@karynruth.com

How Low Can You Go?

bad-157437_1280This month the standard for customer service was lowered beyond my imagination by United Airlines. 

As a Humorist and Keynote Speaker, I present HILARIOUS talks to companies on the Do’s and Don’ts of Customer Service around the country. This month I have added a very big DON’T to my story list!

Whenever I travel, I have a mental checklist I go through; Will the plane be on time? Will it take off and land safely? Will my trip go smoothly?  But, I have never had the following pre-travel question pop into my mind until this month:

“I wonder if I will be bodily dragged off the plane if it is overbooked?”

What in the Hell is going on?  In what scenario did the crew/management at United think that this was okay?  Where in the operations manual does it suggest; “bodily dragging a non-violent, paying customer off the plane,” as an acceptable policy. I am appalled! 

In my several decades of travel as a Speaker, I have been a frequent United customer and I have spent A LOT of money with them over the years. Based on their recent bad behavior and incredibly poor judgement, I will now go OUT OF MY WAY to see if there is any way to get to my destination without flying on United. (Even if it costs a bit more.)

Kudos United, you’ve done it…you’ve sunk so low that you’ve made Frontier’s Customer Service look good by comparison.

UA in my lexicon no longer stands for United Airlines, it now stands for Ugly Act.

Two thumbs down United.  You blew it big time!

Karyn Ruth White is a Success Humorist, Keynote Speaker, Author and Comedian. She helps companies remember the importance of treating their customers in a civilized manner.  Visit www.karynruth.com, info@karynruth.com

The Heart of the Matter

hearts-583063_1280I am amazed at how many leaders forget the importance of the human equation when leading others.

It is easy in a world of mounting deadlines and shorter attention spans, to become myopic in the way we approach our work. It is easy to see only the goal line and forget about the team.

How far do you think Tom Brady of the New England Patriots would get in this month’s Super Bowl, if he decided to carry the ball himself on every play? Well knowing Tom Brady, probably farther than most.  But for the rest of us mere mortals, we need people around us to help us complete the play and drive the ball into the end zone.

The best leaders I have ever worked with, were the leaders who brought heart to their work and freely shared their hearts with their cherished teams. 

There was my first corporate boss, Bob.  Bob was a big, brusque Texan who put his feet up on the conference table during meetings, smoked a cigar and when he laughed, the entire building shook.  I watched Bob closely, and what I observed was a man who knew the importance of greasing the wheels of productivity with some back-slappin,’ good ole fashioned fun.  Oh, and by the way…everyone loved him, everyone went the extra mile for him and as a company, we rocked our goals and consistently came in ahead of deadline…all the while having a lot of fun doing it.

Then there was Jan, my first mentor in my comedy career. Jan was the manager of the Laff Stop in Newport Beach, CA and decided to take me under her wing and groom me for the stand-up stage.  I will always be grateful to her for encouraging me to pursue my comedy dream. Jan also had a wonderful, wry sense of humor and a very big heart.  Everyone in the club loved her and whatever Jan needed, Jan got. No questions asked. Jan showed me by her leadership example that you can maintain grace under pressure and that nice goes a lot farther than rude. A great lesson Jan taught me about understanding why people heckle in a club (or in life) was this; “Rudeness is a weak person’s attempt at strength.” I have never forgotten that piece of wisdom.

And finally, there was my former boss Gerry.  Gerry was a great guy.  One of the smartest men I have ever met.  Laid back, with an endearing touch of cynicism when it came to navigating the inherent B.S. that comes with the machinations of day to day business…and once again, a great sense of humor.

Gerry had some funny quirks. For instance, every week he would go through my Request for Expenditures Form and cross out every other item, always saying the same thing: “Nice to have, not necessary.”  “Nice to have, not necessary.” “Nice to have, not necessary.” I have NEVER been able to get this sentence out of my mind.  To this day, whenever I am considering a purchase in my own business, I will hear Gerry’s voice in my head…”Nice to have, not necessary.”

So here is the heart of the matter.  I have noticed several truths in my up-close observation of leaders from my past:

#1) Heart and Humor like to travel together.

#2) People work harder for leaders they genuinely like as people.

#3) More wins happen when people can have some fun working together towards the same end.

#4) The more you can connect from a heart space with people, the more meaningful, impactful and significant the work will be.

Here is an overview of 7 Principles of Heart-Centered Leadership from Susan Steinbrecher, the co-author of Heart-Centered Leadership. Find out more and listen to her podcast at www.positivitystrategist.com

7 Principles of Heart-Centered Leadership:

  1. Know Thyself
  2. Know Your Impact
  3. Don’t Judge or Assume-instead come to understand
  4. Let Go
  5. Associates Have a Choice
  6. They Need What You Need
  7. Care for the Heart

Once again…The best leaders I have ever worked with were the leaders who brought heart to their work and freely shared their hearts with their teams.

So get out there and share your big, beautiful heart. Spread some love, light the way for yourself and others… and amid the quotas, the deadlines and the daily pressures of work…I implore you…LAUGH A LOT!!!

Karyn Ruth White is a “thought-laugher” in the exciting field of Human Potential.  She calls herself a Success Humorist (a job title she made up.) She energizes Conferences around the U.S. with her hilariously poignant Keynote talks. She is also an Author, a Comedian, a Keynote Coach and the proud owner of Laugh and Learn Productions, LLC, an enterprise helping people to live and work from their heart-centered greatness. Visit her on-line at karynruth.com or email her at info@karynruth.com

Jump The Goat

goat-1402613_1280My three brothers couldn’t believe it.  They couldn’t believe their eyes when I rolled up to the front of the house on my new metallic brown Honda 450 motorcycle.

All growing up my brothers had dirt bikes and they would never let me ride them.  I would beg them to let me ride and they always had the same answer… “No you’re a girl, you’ll ruin it.”

So I bought my own bike…and just in case you were wondering… “No you can’t ride it, you’re a boy, you’ll ruin it. AHHH, that felt good!”

I remember when I first got my bike being afraid to take it on a long ride.  I puttered around the backroads but I knew that I would have to take my initiation ride before it would really be mine.  So after several days of staring at the bike in my driveway and asking myself: “Is today the day you break her in?” I finally screwed up my courage, put on my safe riding gear; closed-toed boots, leather jacket, helmet and goggles and timidly headed out on the open road.

It took me all of 15 minutes before I was thinking, “This is great, I got this, let’s take her up the coast road”…so off I went.

About 10 minutes up Route 1 I was going about 65mph, feeling the wind on my face, swallowing bugs, loving my new-found freedom, leaning into the corner like they taught us in class when I look up, and standing 20 feet in front of me in the middle of the road is a GOAT! A flippin’ goat!

I had exactly 3 seconds to make a decision. I could swerve to try to avoid the animal but the road was narrow and there was an oncoming car…I could dump the bike in the ditch but I didn’t think that would end well for me or the bike…so I went with option #3.  I gave into instinct, took a deep breath, lifted the handlebars and JUMPED THE GOAT! That’s right, I jumped the flippin’ goat. He never moved, just stood there nonplussed, chewing.

Needless to say, after that, nothing scared me.  I was free and it felt good. Few situations scared me as a rider after that, I had earned my wheels and I was ready to roll. That’s kind of the same way I feel after surviving 10 years as a touring stand-up comedian, as a speaker very few audiences scare me…(with the exception of Cops and Custodians.)

Moral of the Story: Sometimes you don’t have the liberty of deliberating over a decision, sometimes the decision makes itself.  Sometimes there is a gift in taking drastic, expedient action.

The key is to trust your gut, take a deep breath and jump the goat.  Once you get through it you realize… that it wasn’t all that baaaaaad.


February Blog Series   Theme: Heart At Work

#3) …And They Call It Vendor Love…

Do you treat your vendors with the same love, attention and respect you give to your customers?

How an organization treats its vendors tells me quicker than any Mission Statement on the wall, where the true values of the company lie.

I have been on both sides of the Vendor Desk. I have hired vendors for large companies and for the past 25 years I have owned my own business and have been a consultant (vendor) to many Fortune 100 and 500 Companies.

Here is what I have learned.  The bigger the company, oftentimes the more frustrating the vendor process. 

I am happy to report that an exception to that rule and a glowing example of how a large corporation can run like a well-oiled machine is Home Depot. ( www.homedepot.com.)

I work with them as a consultant, and from day one have been treated with the utmost respect and immediately made to feel like a valued member of the Orange Team.

Without your trusted vendors your business wouldn’t be able to function. So, it is in your best interest to treat them well.

Trust is a two-way street, treating people shabbily is a dead-end.

Here’s a newsflash…vendors are like teeth…ignore them and they will go away!

My personal business philosophy is to make sure that my vendors are paid promptly every time.  I make a point to tell them frequently how much I appreciate them and I continue to reward them with my business.  And guess what? When I need something…they have my back.  They are there day or night willing to go to work to help me shine. That is a beautiful thing!

If you want to get a read on how well (or not) you are treating your vendors…imagine this…

You see a very important prospect getting into the elevator with your smallest vendor.  Are you nervous about what might be revealed about you and your organization during their conversation ?  What would your smallest vendor say to your prospect about how you treat people and how you do business?  Would they win the prospect’s business or sabotage it? 

This is how important vendor relations are to your business. Your expensive marketing campaign, shiny brand launch and snazzy PR can all be annihilated by one unhappy vendor. 

So hug a vendor today, pick up the phone and let them know how much you appreciate them, send a gift or better yet…send them that overdue check they’ve been waiting for!

Karyn Ruth White is a Motivational Comedian, Humorist, Funny Keynote Presenter and Author. Her presentation style is high energy, clean, clever and very funny. She headlines conferences throughout the U.S.  Check out her Programs at www.karynruth.com/Keynotes. For speaking inquiries, go to www.karynruth.com/Contact or email info@karynruth.com or call 303-369-8277.  For daily hope and humor follow her on Twitter @karynruth.