Thursday, November 30, 2023

Journey mapping tips from Tony Fadell, the father of iPod

Journey mapping is one of my favorite tools to capture customer, employee, partner’s experience journey and identify gaps to enhance it further. Tony Fadell, the father of iPod, has given excellent tips on how he and his team at Nest used journey mapping for experience design in his book “Build: An unorthodox guide to making things worth making”. Here is an attempt to capture some of Fadell’s tips related to journey mapping.

“You should be able to map out and visualize exactly how a customer discovers, considers, installs, uses, fixes, and even returns your product. It all matters,” Fadell says in the book. When people come to him to show a new product they have built, he asks, “Tell me what’s so special about the customer journey”. If the customer journey is that important, why does it get ignored? Fadell points to the cognitive bias we tend to carry – “We’re wired to focus our attention on tangible things that we can see and touch to the point that we overlook the importance of intangible experiences and feelings.”

Before we look at 3 examples of how journey mapping was used for Nest, let’s look at a journey map template Fadell gives along with possible touchpoints in each stage:

Fadell’s point is that we tend to focus on the “product design” stage at the cost of the other stages. Here are three examples from the Nest learning thermostat design.

The app: In the early days of Nest, everyone was focused on perfecting the thermostat. It involved getting the design, AI, electronics, mechanics, colors, textures, right. The installation, feeling of turning the dial, the glow when you walk past, all this was thought through. Fadell points out that in Nest journey, 10% was website-ads-packaging-in-store display, 10% was installation, 10% was looking-and-touching the device and 70% was monitoring and control on phone-laptop. After the thermostat was installed and working, majority of touchpoints were through the app. And the team had lost track of the app. They had done initial prototypes when the project began but thought it to be the easy stuff they can come back to later. And it got pushed to the end. Fadell admits he became “really loud” to bring team’s attention to the app.

The box: “You should be prototyping your marketing long before you have anything to market,” says Fadell. And that is what they did at Nest. The cardboard box, its packaging, the product name, the tagline, the top features, their priority order – all these were printed on a cardboard box and constantly tweaked and revised. Two personas were created one tech-savvy husband and his wife, the decision maker, dictated what made into the house and what got returned. Nest team was asking questions like, “Why would they pick up the box? What would they want to know? What was most important to them?” There was no thermostat isle in Best Buy, Nest’s first retail partner. Thermostats were not bought by homeowners directly. Best Buy was not going to create a thermostat isle either. So, they collaborated with Best Buy and invented a Connected-Home isle.

The screw-driver: When prototypes of the actual thermostat were ready, they were sent out to people to test. Self-installation was potentially a major anxiety generator. Hence, it was a crucial test. Testers reported that the installation was smooth. Everything is up and running. But it took about an hour to install. That was way more than what the team thought. So they started digging into the installation experience and see where things are taking time. It turned out that the installation itself was not the culprit. The testers spent twenty minutes locating the right tools like the screwdriver. So Nest team decided to include a little screwdriver in the installation kit. And, to their surprise, the screwdriver served the purpose of a marketing tool because people had to use it more often than the actual thermostat.

In short, the app, the box, and the screwdriver are excellent examples of how journey mapping can be used to enhance the intangible touchpoints in a customer’s journey.

Related articles:

Journey mapping illustrated through Dunzo’s order-tracking experience

Image sources:

Nest screwdriver image source:

Nest app and thermostat image source:

Thursday, November 16, 2023

8-steps after 10-years: Why bother building participation?

It has been 10 years since the publication of our book “8-steps to innovation”. During this time, we got the opportunity to share the framework with various leaders. We also saw the framework being put into practice. Through this series of reflections, I will try to shine a light on situations where the framework might be weak. In this article, I will question the third step – building participation.

The 8-step framework suggests that if you want to build an idea pipeline, create a challenge book first (step 2) and then involve people in participative problem-solving (step 3). For example, if you have a brainstorming session around a specific challenge, you end up generating several ideas. Here are situations where this may not work.

Inventor’s challenge: I have met several inventors who prefer to keep their ideas to themselves. They have no interest in sharing it with their boss or colleagues because they feel they may steal their ideas. Perhaps they have had a bad experience in the past where others took credit for their idea. In my workshops, when we have brainstorms, these people suggest some ideas. And then meet me during the break or send a message to share their pet idea which they are not comfortable sharing with others. I understand the importance of secrecy until you have some form of protection. However, sometimes people end up carrying ideas with them for years without any form of validation. It helps to have a few sounding boards. Is ChatGPT a good brainstorming partner? Perhaps.

Manager’s fear: A few years ago, I wrote about 3 reasons why managers don’t throw their toughest challenge to their teams. The single biggest reason is fear of perceived incompetence. They feel they get paid to solve problems and if they share their challenge with the team, they might be perceived as incompetent. It gives confidence when you solve a problem and get your team to implement your solution. This works best when you have been in the system for a long time and know the domain very well. However, when you start managing an existing team, you may not be the domain expert. And this approach may not work.

Why care about small ideas? Continuous improvement as a systematic approach has been around for over a hundred years. Our book presents stories from Toyota, Titan, and TVS. Many organizations continue to highlight the number of ideas and the number of employees participating in continuous improvement programs in their annual reports. For example, the Asian Paints FY23 annual report says that there were 7000+ improvement suggestions submitted. Having said that I have met several leaders who don’t consider continuous improvement worth the cost. What matters to them are big bets. As a result, participation becomes unimportant. Participation thrives when small ideas are encouraged.

Participation in virtual teams: Virtual teams have been around for a while but their presence increased during and post-Covid era. As people started working from home, formal brainstorms and tea-coffee chats diminished. As video calls started taking time, initiatives focusing on not-so-urgent issues took a backseat. And participation in innovation-related initiatives went down. Getting people to participate in anything other than deliveries became a challenge at least in some organizations.   

In short, participation may be one way of building an idea pipeline. However, there are situations in which participation may not work or one may be uncomfortable sharing the ideas. Perhaps ChatGPT is your partner. Problems may be defined and solved by individuals and implemented through teams if they are the managers. So yeah, skip step 3 if you don’t need it.