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Miscellaneous Topics: conferences on creativity and customer service

Miscellaneous Topics

Lately at work, I've been going to conferences or team building activities, so I will try to recapture a number of them.

First was a team building activity that took place quite a while ago. I forgot the name of the place - maybe Cypher - but the goal was to be locked in a room with a bunch of people and try to decipher clues lying around the room to escape from the locked room within the hour. Did we escape? No, but they said we were so close (maybe, I don't totally believe). The interesting thing was there would be some kind of interruption where the hosts of this escape game would ask me what was I trying to do at certain points of the game. I guess I was doing something that was on the right track but since I don't talk much (and folks don't listen to me much anyway), nobody was picking up on the clues I was working on. So the hosts had to kind of push us in a certain direction. But this was a fun exercise and clued me in that I need to communicate more - but I'm not sure that people will listen to me.

The next topic will be the two conferences but I can see that I'm starting to forget the thrust of the conferences, especially the first one, and I don't have my notebook with me. So this post will necessarily be sketchy.


The next event was a conference where there were numerous speakers. The general theme of the conference was being creative/innovative and importance of customer service. The first speaker, Erik Wahl, was memorable because he was an artist and he did 3 quick paintings done in 5 minutes each. I thought, "Wow. This is interesting but I wonder how this ties in with work?" The speaker's take was that in today's environment, we need to be fearless and try new things, be bold and creative to come up with new things for business. We can't do the same old same old. You also have to have a tolerance for failure. My boss and I talked about that, and the fearlessness, and we thought that's great but in business, time is money and we can't fail too many times. It's a great thought but there has been times when I felt like I had been creative and created something different but it wasn't accepted. People generally want the same old same old, especially at work.

Another speaker, Andrew Davis, spoke about being different but in terms of showing how you are different rather than saying you are different from everyone else. His perspective was more of a marketing perspective: he does sell himself as a marketing guru. His particular stance is that people are sold on great experience. He gave an example of a demolition of a hotel. One demolition was a typical demolition and so was priced on offering lowest cost. The other demolition turned it into a show, with fancy fireworks, and promo of the events. This second demolition was more expensive because of the additional work involved but it provided a brand new experience. And the video capturing the event could be used as future marketing. The speaker also talked about identifying your niche - he had a story about quilting in the middle of nowhere and yet thousands of people come from miles around to vacation in the middle of nowhere, just to see the quilting town. There were a couple of other things but I don't remember them.

We also had Richard Yoo, founder of Rackspace. His particular focus was on customer service or "fanatical support". Apparently, he created the ultimate customer experience that helped him grow his company from start up to a billion dollar giant. He talked about how important people will be, even in the age of automation/robots. So there was a brief discussion about the coming takeover by robots and he said that if you focus on the people aspect, you should be able to do fine. I would argue, though, that there will be a period of time where today's children growing up with computers will not be as interested in people contact. Think about iPhone use today. People can congregate together but they really don't speak to one another because they are busy looking at their phones. So I suspect that there will be a period of time (decades) where the iPhone children of today won't care about talking to a live person if there is a suitable robot to take care of their needs. It will probably be after 2 generations when we have a surfeit of computerization that a generation will start to crave people contact and be more interested in things produced by humans. I'm thinking about art as an example: there was probably 2 or 3 generations where artists really could not make a living except for a rare few. Today, there seems to be much more interest in art: the painting parties, the coloring books, the use of art in advertising. I'm starting to see more successful artists. I think today's millennials and younger are showing more interest in the arts because everything is so commercial and bland.

[Okay, this post is actually getting long so I'm going to cut it short. I'm going to talk very briefly about one more speaker and then do the other conference in another post.]

The last speaker spoke about... customer service. He provided a lot of specific points about customer service that I have written down in a notebook (but don't have on hand). He provided do's and don'ts on how to treat your customers. But I think the bottom line is: it doesn't matter how good your product is, customer service will be king. People will remember you for your customer service.

Okay, I'm stopping here and maybe in the next post, I will talk about the second conference. The second conference was smaller so the post will be shorter.

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