Practice the Process of Inspiration to Generate Ideas

An exceptional concept depends on good process as well as pure inspiration.

One of my favorite shows at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is Mickey’s PhilharMagic. In the image below, notice the music notes in the background circling around the showcases in the gift shop at the exit from the theater. They’re not random. If you hum them, you will get the opening to Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – one of the most memorable sights and sounds from Disney’s Fantasia, and the core idea in Mickey’s PhilharMagic.

WDW Apr16 MK MickeyPHM

That’s the magic that “Process Practice” can produce!

Being aware of the design process and knowing what phase the team and the idea are in is a big part of the show producer’s job. You probably aren’t a producer, but all leaders have a role in pulling various people and resources together in creating something – which is the role of a producer.

Inspiration generates ideas, and the process helps to shape efforts in a way to keep the team moving towards a fully developed idea.

It’s time for you to “get” it…

  • Get going. Toss a bunch of ideas out. Direction often comes from joyous chaos.
  • Get excited. Brainstorm. Dream. Take tangents. Notice where ideas go, what’s cool about them, and incorporate this into the design.
  • Get committed. Set up a regular project meeting time, discuss ideas, or just sit and stare at the wall. Ideas will come either way.
  • Get doughnuts or cookies and some toys. Brainstorming sessions go better when food or toys are around.
  • Get different opinions. Listen to someone else’s point of view and listen for things that improve the design.
  • Get confused. Ask yourself hard questions that you can’t answer.
  • Get unstuck. Try a different direction. Throw out an impossible action. Debating a wrong answer can help reveal the correct one.
  • Get your hands dirty. Build a rough model or stage a reading. You will learn more from this than from any debate, and you’ll learn it in time to fix things.
  • Get reactions. Show the idea to others. Listen to what they say, especially if it isn’t what you want to hear.
  • Get it on paper. Take everything you’ve learned and write a description of the goals and details of the design. If you write convincingly, you’ve probably got a good idea.

If everyone is comfortable with the process, the team members have the freedom to generate the best ideas for their project.


part of a series of ideas to shape and tone your creative muscles

Inspired and adapted from The Imagineering Workout

Imagineering logo

The Disney Imagineers

Sue Bryan, Senior Show Producer

 

The Three Ps of Service Magic

Service Magic

An unexpected experience with a touch of style, grace, and imagination the customer remembers with fondness and a smile.

Creating an unexpected, unpredictable, and valuable experience that is both memorable and reproducible.

Today’s customers are often surrounded by lackluster, mediocre service in every industry. How can you win their attention, admiration, and loyalty?

By using the magic of amazement, delight, and enchantment to create a customer experience that soars far beyond their highest Service Magicexpectations. Service wizards Ron Zemke and Chip Bell share their powerful bag of tricks in their book Service Magic. Subtitled “The Art of Amazing Your Customers,” it delivers a powerful bag of tricks to help you add zest, memorability, and value to your customers’ experience in ways they would never expect.

For leaders in ChurchWorld, the translation from customer experience to Guest Experience is an important one – starting with your mindset. You may not think you have “customers” in the traditional mindset – and you don’t. But you do have Guests coming to your church (hopefully!) and they, like you, live in consumer-driven world.

Why not study and learn from some of the best minds and practitioners from the customer experience world, and translate them into Guest Experience practices for your church?

Take Service Magic, for instance.

There is a feeling of awe, wonder, pleasure and delight in Service Magic. When it is present, the customer perceives that something special and unique has been done to, for, or with him or her. It can come from a word spoken, an experience observed, a process experienced, or the context in which the service occurred.

There is magic in Place, Process, and Performance – and all three are available to the skilled service magician and the organization determined to create consistent Service Magic for its Guests.

  • Place Magic: a venue – natural or manmade – with physical attributes that attracts and pleases, and that are subtly enhanced by human endeavor. We vacation at national parks to enjoy the great out-of-doors and visit theme parks for fun and thrills. We remember most of the great views and the rides, but without a little Service Magic, those pleasures would be greatly diminished.

ChurchWorld Application

You meet in a facility – owned or rented – that conveys a powerful impression to your Guests. What does your facility “say”? What are you doing on a regular basis to evaluate your place? What plan do you follow to make sure your place is the best it can be? Does your place invite people to come in – or does it turn people off, or even away? Do you have a plan of constant evaluation and upkeep? How “fresh” are your interiors and exteriors? Does your place fit into your community or does it stand out?

  • Process Magic: the often thankless, almost always invisible effort that makes the difference between policies, procedures, and routines that are difficult, confusing, maddening, and frustrating – and those we experience as surprisingly easy, positive, and memorable. No waiting where once lines were long; sign-ins, sign-ups, and renewals that are hassle-free and even interesting – if not fun – are the result of a little well placed Process Magic.

ChurchWorld Application

Your Guests should experience an invisible, seamless flow of actions from their first contact with you all the way through a worship experience and back again. The processes behind that invisible, seamless flow are probably complicated and maybe even confusing. What are you doing to regularly evaluate and change the process behind the curtains? Do you know what Guests experience when they come to your church? Are you using and speaking with a “churchy” language or do you make things simple to understand and follow?

  • Performance Magic: the surprisingly positive interaction with someone from an organization during the acquisition of a service or a product – or even when a problem with a product or service is being resolved. The wait staff who makes the dining experience “work” for you by correctly reading your mood and engaging you in light-hearted banter or by leaving you alone to your solitude are card-carrying, practicing, professional service magicians.

ChurchWorld Application

When it comes down to it, your front-line teams: parking, greeters, ushers, etc. – make the first and most powerful impact on your Guests. Their actions often dictate whether or not a Guest will return – even before, and often no matter what, the worship experience. When was the last time you ventured out to the front lines to observe? How often do your teams receive training – and encouragement? How high are the expectations for your front-line teams?

Each of these three “magics” is powered by a set of principles – which I hope you will join me in discovering in the next few posts!

Putting Processes to Work for Your Guest Services Team

Here’s the bottom line principle when it comes to designing processes for guest services:

An organization needs to think like a customer (or in this case, a Guest)

Put yourselves in the shoes of the typical guest coming to your campus this weekend. Walk through (literally) every touchpoint and interaction that your guest might conceivably encounter. Develop a process or system that will anticipate their need and meet it before it becomes apparent to the guest.

Need help working it out? Try this six-step continuous improvement cycle from Xerox:

  • Identify and select the problem to be worked on
  • Analyze the problem
  • Generate potential solutions
  • Select and plan the best solution
  • Implement the solution
  • Evaluate the solution

Once you have identified a solution and find that it works, continue to use it, evaluating it periodically as needed, replacing it completely when it no longer works.

Here’s a real world situation as an example:

I serve as a Guest Services Team Coordinator for Elevation Church’s Uptown campus in Charlotte, NC. We meet in McGlohan Theater in Spirit Square (the former First Baptist Charlotte campus, turned into an entertainment venue in the 1970’s when the church relocated).

Problem: Almost everyone attending the Uptown Campus drives from somewhere else in Charlotte – which means lots of cars.

Analysis: The theatre only has about 40 parking spaces associated with it. Wanting to reserve those for VIPs (first time guests) and families with small children, we had to locate other parking.

Potential Solutions: Everybody for themselves (no way!); utilize street parking (not enough, and used by businesses or not available many Sundays); negotiate favorable rates with surface parking lots (not so favorable rates, it turns out); negotiate the use of a parking deck 1 1/2 blocks away (good rate, but a little far)

Select the Best Solution: Utilize the parking deck because it puts the majority of cars in one place, allowing maximum efficiency of guest services teams; helps with security; gives a sense of “place” to everyone coming Uptown

Implement the Solution: Determine the traffic patterns of cars coming Uptown and design appropriate signs and locations to maximize impact; develop a checklist of the different types of signs and their locations; negotiate with parking company to insure staff is on site or nearby in case of mechanical problems; promote the “how” of the parking deck through website videos, print materials, and live announcements as needed; plan for inclement weather; coordinate Parking Team, VIP Team, and Greeters to insure smooth transition from parking deck to theater

Evaluate the Solution: Every week the parking team notes hits and misses, and adjusts the process to eliminate them

That’s how we do it at Uptown!

Now, take the principle and apply it in your context.

Efficient processes can transform your Guest Services Team

My favorite post from August, 2012

Excuse Me, Can I See the Manager?

The best place to start thinking about process is at the end; in this case, where a customer or guest didn’t have a great time/meal/service/whatever.

The customer/guest usually takes it out on the person who was most involved in the transaction – a clerk or waiter or flight attendant – a front-line person.

But is it really their fault?

Seth Godin wrote a great post entitled “Who’s responsible for service design?” which provides an excellent starting point for a better understanding of the “process” that must go into your Guest Services Team. Here are a few highlights, but be sure to read the entire post:

Too often, we blame bad service on the people who actually deliver the service. Sometimes (often) it’s not their fault. Sadly, the complaints rarely make it as far as the overpaid (and possibly overworked) executive who made the bad design decision in the first place. It’s the architecture of service that makes the phone ring and the customers leave.

Three quick tips for anyone who cares about this:

  • Require service designers to sign their work
  • Run a customer service audit. Walk through the building or the event or the phone tree with all the designers in the room and call out what’s not right.
  • Make it easy for complaints (and compliments) about each decision to reach the designer (and her boss).

That’s powerful.

  • What are the processes behind the scenes that make your Guest Services work?
  • What are the processes you have in place when something unexpected pops up?
  • What are the processes you have in place when something needs to be changed?
  • How do you even know that something needs to be changed?

A closing quote from Seth Godin:

In my experience, most of the problems are caused by ignorance and isolation, not incompetence or a lack of concern.

Are you ready to be a process engineer for your Guest Services Team?

One Word Makes the Difference

Guest Services in the church is a passion of mine. I want churches to realize that they have a chance – usually a single chance – to make a WOW! first impression on Guests coming to their facility this weekend.

Here’s a challenge for you: a single word will change your mind-set on this topic:

When it comes to ChurchWorld, more often than not we have visitors.

It may be a little thing to you, just a word, but I think it’s actually a powerful first impression that needs to change.

Do you have Visitor parking? Visitor packets? A Visitor’s Center? Do you welcome your visitors during the worship experience? And on and on…

The first step in creating a WOW! Guest Services experience is to remove the word visitor from your vocabulary, never to be used again.

It’s a little thing to be sure. But it’s a mindset change that will really impact how you create the rest of the experience at your church.

You are expecting Guests this weekend.

Guests come to your place, looking for a warm greeting, a smiling face, and an experience designed to make them feel like, well, Guests. Nothing phony, manipulative, or in-your-face; just welcome them as guests with the most sincere, energizing, and loving experiences you can.

Can we agree to start with a simple change that conveys a powerful image, one that will be reflected through your church?

Over the past several years, in conversations with hundreds of church leaders on the topic of Guest Services, that one word has been like a light bulb being turned on – it’s like “Wow – I get it!”

Now that you’ve got it, I want to stretch you a little bit more and plant a seed for future posts:

The magic formula for Guest Services in your church can be broken down into 4 categories:

Product

What business is your church in?

Only you and your leadership team can answer that, but I am suggesting your church is in the people business. Your church doesn’t manufacture and sell an object, but you do seek to produce something: changed lives.

The “raw materials” you start with are the pinnacle of God’s creation – after all, we are made in His image. But even so, we are all in process. Somewhere between birth and death, all of us are on a journey. Your church needs to balance the frailty and possibility of everyone you encounter, and create experiences that accept them where they are, challenge them to move toward where they need to be, and walk with them along the way.

Churches that understand their “product” and create vital, life-changing experiences – those are the churches that are making a difference in our world today.

What are you creating at your church?

Place

Think like a designer – be an environmental architect

Just as an architect asks a number of questions before designing a building, church leaders who want to be environmental architects must ask questions to reveal the function of the space, which in turn determine its design.

If you were to own the architectural responsibility for every environment in your church, you should be asking questions like:

  • What’s the purpose of this environment?
  • Who will use this environment?
  • What do we want people to experience?
  • What do we want people to leave with?
  • Who’s responsible for quality control?

Now just in case you were wondering, this concept of space is not limited to physical place. Environments (the physical kind) matter very much. But a good environmental architect is also creating psychological space in much the same way.

You’re on a journey to create experiences that keep people coming back.

Process

Guest Service leaders need to understand design thinking.

Design has the power to enrich our lives by engaging our emotions through image, form, texture, color, sound and smell. The intrinsically human-centered nature of design thinking points to the next step: we can use our empathy and understanding of people to design experiences that create opportunities for active engagement and participation.

Just as a product begins with an engineering blueprint and a building with an architectural blueprint, an experience blueprint provides the framework for working out the details of a human interaction, including emotive elements, from beginning to end.

It captures how people travel through an experience in time. Rather than trying to choreograph that journey, its function is to identify the most meaningful points and turn them into opportunities that positively impact the individual. What might be a source of discomfort or pain is now an opportunity for an experience that is distinctive, emotionally gratifying, and memorable.

The experience blueprint is at one and the same time a high-level strategy document and a fine-grained process analysis of the details that matter.

It’s time to create an Experience Blueprint for your Guest Services!

People

You have to have a great team in place first before you can begin to deliver excellent experiences.

In the equation Creating Experiences = Product + Place + Process + People, the most important part, the starting place, the foundation which all else is built on – it’s people.

The experiences that you are attempting to create, the places and spaces in which they are housed – both literally and figuratively – are important. But you don’t get anywhere without the people.

When an organization helps its team members bring pride, excellence, and playfulness to every aspect of their task, those team members literally have the chance to change the lives of those around them.

People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be a part of something that touches their hearts.

Everything matters – but everyone matters more.

 

Intrigued about Guest Services at your church? Look for more information in upcoming posts here, and drop me a quick note and tell me more about what your church does in the Guest Services area.