At the outset of a wonderful video entitled "Beyond Agile programming", legendary software developer Kent Beck tells a story about the goats that he raises in Oregon. The baby goats love to be scratched and so he spends time scratching then all over. He notes that when he scratches, the goats are normally happy in a vague kind of way. And then, every now and again, all of a sudden he lands on a particular spot with his scratching and the baby goat lights up with utter joy. He can hear and feel the little baby goat communicating, “That feels GOOOOOOOD!!!”
In a similar vein, Seth Kahan talks about his young niece who struggled for months to get an iPhone and the cool apps that she could download on it. When finally she had persuaded her mother to lend her one, her reaction was to jump up and down and shout, “Yehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
I stumbled on the power of delight when I was doing a webinar in 2009 and I noticed that there was enormously disproportionately positive response to the idea of client delight. I mentioned it in passing. Wow! It was as if I had hit a magic spot. I was getting the same reaction as Kent’s baby goats and Seth’s young niece. It felt so GOOOOOOOD!!!
A respondent on my blog wrote recently: “That word 'delight' is both powerful and empowering. It can lead to healthy industry and so much personal health and well being.”
Another respondent wrote to me recently about a workshop she was holding. She said: “I mentioned 'customer delight'...Low and behold, customer delight was a buzz word that took off and was really the theme for their forecast and strategic direction!”
Delighting other people has lot of pluses:
- It helps productivity. When we delight other people, they want to return the favor.
- It builds innovation. Once you focus on delighting people, you have to come up with something new.
- It’s morally good. Ethics is all about caring for other people and what’s important to them.
- It helps morale: doing something worthwhile turns most people on.
This is the great divide in organizations today:
- There are organizations that looking from the inside-out, doing their thing, producing their products and services, doggedly tweaking their value chain, parsing and manufacturing customer demand, trying to find ways to lower costs, looking for economies of scale. They are "pushing" their products and services at customers. They are living in the world of managerial capitalism or capitalism 2.0, i.e. their goal is making money for their shareholders. And in some cases, they are making money, albeit on a long-term declining trend. Avoid these organizations if you can. These are the organizations of the past.Their life expectancy is limited.
- And there are organizations that are focused on looking from the outside-in, understanding the people with whom they might do business, comprehending their hopes and dreams and problems and goals, and trying to find ways to delight them. The whole organization is focused on this goal. Rather than "pushing" products and services at customers, they are deploying the power of "pull". They have recognized that they are living in the age of customer capitalism, or Capitalism 3.0. Their value is growing exponentially, like Apple or Amazon. Find them out. Invest in them. Look for jobs in them. These are the organizations of the future.
To learn more about the magical power of client delight, read Roger Martin's HBR article, The Age of Customer Capitalism, or books such as The Power of Pull by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison, or Reorganize for Resilience by Ranjay Gulati, or The New Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque, or Leadership in a Wiki World by Rod Collins, or my own book, The Leader's Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century.