Monday, July 24, 2006

Emotional Connections

Have you noticed how many restaurants have names like The Texas Roadhouse or the San Francisco Oven? Did you know that The Texas Roadhouse is based out of Indiana and the San Francisco Oven is based in Ohio? I guess the Cleveland Oven doesn't evoke the same emotional connection. How about the Indiana Roadhouse?

Isn't it interesting that communities, like people and organizations have brand images? I was reading Richard Florida's book, The Rise of the Creative Class and was fascinated with his observation that the type of community environment has a big influence on the type of people it attracts and the type of people influence the community. Sounds rather obvious but how many communities are intentionally creating the environment (not just buildings but the entire experience)for a certain population segment. Texas says "cowboy". Within Texas, Austin says creative people. San Francisco evokes a certain feeling of creativity and sophistication. Ohio... well I've been there and enjoyed myself, but in my mind they don't instantly create a strong emotional connection other than that of large manufacturing facilities with union disputes. And Indiana, other than the Colts, the movie "Hoosiers" and the Indianapolis 500 I'm at a lost to describe a particular emotional connection to Indiana.

So, how are you creating an emotional connection? It could be with a city, a color, a design, a smell, a taste, a location, a person, any of thousands of things that touch people's emotions, even if it's in a very subtle way.

How are you creating an emotional disconnect? It's usually not intentional. For example, I'm currently sitting in San Francisco Oven and I'm thrilled they have WiFi (emotional connection) but the noise level is almost unbearable because of the bare concrete floor (emotional disconnect). Which do you think I'll remember? Hint: I see a Panera's across the street.

Let me hear some of your favorite places, people, things that create either an emotional connection or disconnect. You've seen what's in my head... What's in YOUR head?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Knowledge Bridging

Last week I finally found a term for what I've been preaching for years... "Knowledge Bridging." What is "knowledge bridging?" It's taking expertise from one field and applying it to a completely different one. I was reading an article from the Wharton School and they were talking about how BOSE, the sound system folks, have developed the next generation of automobile suspensions. Huh? Yes you read that correctly, BOSE has found a way to transfer it's expertise in sound into (what seems like) a completely different field (automobile suspensions).

What knowledge bridging really is, is recognizing the similarities of need in different fields. As a consultant I've worked with attorneys as well as home improvement companies and often apply the same principles to both. It's about having an open perspective in identifying the real issues and not just settling for the usual answers. I've also facilitated sales training classes for a group of business owners in a variety of different businesses. Once again, knowledge bridging to the rescue. What was common for one industry was breakthrough thinking for another. Talk about Impact! Anyway, my suggestion is to stop looking for industry best practices (Benchmarking, etc.) and look to other, often unrelated industries for those transformational ideas that will set your organization apart.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Word of Mouth... VBS style

I started attending services at Fairmount Christian Church in 1991. Vacation Bible School had been taking place there for almost 100 years. Like most churches it was held in the morning with stay at home Moms teaching classes, helping with crafts and making snacks and the rest of the parents would drop their kids off on their way to work. We had about 350 people coming to church on Sunday but only about 50 or so kids would make it to VBS... and we thought that was great!

But let me tell you about Fairmount's VBS 2006 style. We have about 975 attend on Sundays but now we have over 500 people at VBS! Incredible! How did we do it, you ask? Well, a lot of prayer and a lot more thought on how to be more relevant. Back in the 1950's when VBS came into being most Moms were stay at home Moms. Fast forward to 2006 and that is definitely no longer the case. So having VBS in the morning didn't make a whole lot of sense. Also, one major influence has always been missing from VBS... Dads! The answer: we decided to move VBS to the evenings when Mom and Dad are both available. It worked.

We also wanted the parents that didn't teach or help with crafts or make snacks to still be able to participate in VBS. So we started an adult class in 1994. At first it was just a Sunday school class wannabe but then Larry, quite the creative guy, decided to shake things up. He started using old TV series as the foundation of his lessons. We've used the original Star Trek, the Andy Griffith show, blockbuster movies and some that never made it to the Big Screen.

Over the years the class has grown and grown to the point that many of the adults at VBS do not have children in the program. It's classic word of mouth. Most church-goers don't talk with their friends and co-workers about church. Why? Well this may be considered harsh but I believe it's because church often really doesn't have much relevance to the lives of those in attendance. But what has occurred with the adult VBS class and VBS as a whole at Fairmount is that it fits our schedules and speaks to our lives.

For example, watching Andy Griffith showed us how to approach conflict in a Godly way. Who of us doesn't have conflict in our lives at some point? Because it's relevant... and fun, it makes it much easier to say, "Hey Joe you've got to come with me to this great program at my church. It'll blow your mind!"

Word of mouth doesn't work without the right words coming out of the right mouths to the right people. What are you doing at your organization that gets your staff, your customers, your members, your vendors and the rest of the world talking... hopefully in a positive way? If it takes more than a couple of seconds to come up with something, set aside some time to think about how to make what you do more relevant to your target audience(s). If you came up with something right away I'd love to hear about it and I'm sure it will inspire others.