Virginia Beach, Virginia – Parari’s marketing manager, Scott McJunkin, was a panelist speaker at Regent University’s School of Business and Leadership (SBL) Connect event held in Robertson Hall this past Wednesday. McJunkin touched on the qualities innovative companies look for in new-hires and how business schools can best prepare their students. He emphasized the importance of question-framing and how students need to develop this essential skill, regardless of field, so they can be lead to creative solutions.
“Creativity and boldness are key assets we look for in new hires,” says McJunkin. “We tackle big problems that require new answers. Often, you can’t come up with those answers through traditional means. It takes a particular level of courage, boldness and creativity to take on this type of work. But, creativity isn’t a commodity like silver or diamonds. It’s a human resource that can be cultivated by learning how to ask the right questions, and working to find novel and appropriate answers to those questions.”
In regards to how Universities can better prepare their students for innovative work, McJunkin suggests students learn techniques and apply them in real-world settings. “It’s not enough to learn concepts to pass a test or impress professors. Students have to know how to use those concepts to bring the right solutions to the surface for real organizations. The more institutions can give students opportunities to practice, use and internalize design thinking principles in real-world settings, the better-prepared students will be to tackle future problems.”
People don’t experience brands in isolation. Brands are experienced through sustained exposure to tailored interactions. Each interaction (aka touchpoint) imprints upon the customer a meaningful glimpse of what matters to the organization and the role it plays in the lives of their customers. Depending upon how the customer perceives these brand experiences, they can either move on to deeper levels of engagement, or they can drift away. It all depends on the amount of empathetic thought that has gone into the design of the brand experience.
The importance of experience design cannot be overstated. Particularly in today’s service-centric economy, meaningful brand experiences have the power to add value and strategically differentiate organizations. They are intentionally designed to bring the customer into a deeper level of trust, affinity and loyalty. It’s intentional, value-focused and, when done correctly – very powerful.
A prerequisite of any brand experience design is the uncovering of an organization’s “why.” The why is a company’s reason for existing. By articulating the why, organizations are accomplishing two important things that will determine the direction of any meaningful experience design. One, they are examining all needs (current and potential) that their product/service meets. Two, it forces them to link their answer to an identified value proposition that is meaningful to their market. And when thinking in terms of value propositions, identify meaningful, emotional and tangible benefits that your organization provides.
If why answers cannot be linked to a value proposition, an organization needs to either increase the parameters by which new types of why-information is acquired, or they need to reassess the validity of their organization, service or product.
Here are a few questions to get you started with your why question:
- What need does my company directly meet? Why does that matter?
- Why would consumers choose my business over others? Why does that matter?
- Why does my company serve the market(s) it does? Why does that matter?
The question “how” seeks to identify the ways in which the company delivers upon their why. Thinking of this from a customer’s standpoint can incorporate a variety of design thinking techniques. The most simple and powerful way to begin is to outline the entire purchasing process and identify opportunities (touchpoints) in which customers may realize the value of a company’s products/services. This presents organizations a clear view of existing experiential opportunities, as well as a roadmap of potential opportunities.
It’s important to remember, when a company cannot identify a strong answer to their why, they will overcompensate by focusing too much of their value proposition on their how. While the how can be interesting, it cannot last. The mode of delivery and communication for how will always adapt and reflect a changing market. Never substitute the how for the why.
One of the final considerations is that of time. How does a company deliver upon its why over time? This is where a “journey framework” can begin to take shape. In the journey framework, time is the vehicle in which customers move to deeper levels of trust and perceived value. Consumers may experience the why in different ways and at different times in their lives, but each touchpoint reinforces their relationship with the brand
Think of it like dating. Both parties have internal value (their why) that they are willing to extend to the other. They reveal their internal value through various means (their how): physical touch, humor, etc. These expressions of internal value are not communicated all at once – a rational person wouldn’t propose marriage on the first date. Rather, these sentiments are demonstrated and experienced over time, which brings both parties to deeper levels of trust and intimacy.
By thinking through the why, how and time, one can lay the foundation for a lasting brand experience journey. Through this process, one can find how a company is doing it right, areas it could be doing better, and new ways to meet previously-unknown needs. In the end, this way of thinking leads to something that few companies have and many want…strong and meaningful relationships.
In a world that is quickly becoming more reliant on creativity to produce new innovations, research shows there is a growing divide between organizations and creative thought. In fact, a relatively small percentage of people (only 1 in 4) feel they are fully utilizing their inherent creativity in their current roles. This is just one statistic in a growing body of data that is shedding light on how big the divide truly is. This research paints a better picture of how creativity functions in the marketplace and why producing strategies to continue fostering creativity in professional contexts is greatly beneficial.
Productivity Vs. Creativity: Conflicting demands are limiting employees’ and company’s performance
As markets are becoming increasingly competitive, organizations are looking to retain positive profit margins by increasing the efficiency and productivity of their employees. This naturally puts pressure on managers and employees to value production over creative thought despite the long-term benefits creative thinking offers. According to one study, only 32% of workers surveyed feel comfortable being creative in their career. This is alarming when you consider how research indicates that people exhibit higher levels of creative behavior when they perceive the work environment to be supportive of creativity. This tells us change needs to start within the organizations structure and goals to alleviate the need employees have to express creativity and overall, unlock vital innovation.
Problem Solving: Creativity is needed to address increasingly-complex problems
At face value, it’s easy to associate the utility of creativity with new product development, marketing and sales. The reality is, the positive uses and benefits of creativity extends beyond established creative roles and supports an organization in a variety of ways. For example, as the shifting competitive landscape becomes more technologically diverse and the realities of globalization continue to impact entire economic sectors, creative thinking is being relied upon to address traditionally-solvable problems. The essential nature creativity has on one’s ability to solve problems in their career is felt by 85% of the world’s professional population. Contrast this with the relatively small percentage of people who feel comfortable being creative and it becomes clear how this gap in creativity can pose a significant organizational threat to efficiency and productivity.
Universities: Standardized thinking produces a creativity-devaluing culture
The devaluation of creativity can be approached many different ways. However, there are those who view universities as the origin point of this devaluation. In a university setting, one is rated against peers in their ability to conform to a particular way of thinking. While this generates competent professionals, it does little to nurture creative thinking in the workforce. To further prove standardized thought has created a culture of devaluing the importance of imagination, a statistic says only 58% of university students believe creativity will be important in their career.
As research continues to reveal insight on how organizations and employees view and use creativity, it becomes apparent that organizations are far from exploiting all its potential. If organizations would place more emphasis on the role of creativity, perhaps employees would be able to grow in their confidence and use of creativity. This new emphasis would naturally prompt universities to do the same, resulting in more creative professionals entering the workforce. Of course, this is a long-term approach to solving a complex issue. But, if creativity can improve how problems are solved, products are designed and careers strengthened – it’s a long-term approach worth taking.
 Diliello, Trudy C., Jeffery D. Houghton, and David Dawley. “Narrowing The Creativity Gap: The Moderating Effects Of Perceived Support For Creativity.” Journal Of Psychology 145.3 (2011): 151-172. Business Source Complete. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.
 Ness, Roberta B. “Promoting Innovative Thinking.” American Journal Of Public Health 105.(2015): S114-S118. Business Source Complete. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.
Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D