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Going Through the Emotional Journey of a Writing Retreat

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Going Through the Emotional Journey of a Writing Retreat

In July, I took a week by myself to write in Tulum, Mexico.  That’s right - write.  I have been wanting to write an online course to teach small businesses how to use empathy to build a brand for about 2 years.  I have THOUGHT about doing it for over 2 years, y’all! That’s a lot of thinking.  Oh wait, I did a lot of research about it, too.  I researched others who were doing it, I bought several online courses.  I brainstormed about the type of content it would need, but I didn’t actually start DOING anything about it until this spring.  This spring I started acting on it.  Even then, my actions swirled around everything BUT the writing of the course.  Actually getting something, anything on paper (well, computer) was the missing part in my whole process.   

It’s fascinating, because get what my #1 strength on Strengthfinders is?  Activator. Seriously???? That strength has been the backbone of my business – I am typically really good at acting on what I need to do.  So, I have had to ask myself recently, why have I struggled so much with acting on this project I really want to do?  There I am again, going back to the questions, the thoughts, the analysis. “Stop and act, April”, I would say to myself.  And still, I watched distractions grab at me every turn, especially when I had taken out time to write. I knew I had to eliminate as many as possible to give myself the time and space to write.  

So, 3 things occurred simultaneously as I was telling myself it was time to act:

  1. My mom at the last minute asked if she could take Autumn for a week

  2. A research project got cancelled

  3. I had a random conversation with a friend about Tulum, Mexico,

In a moment, I made a snap decision to book a flight to Cancun, get a car to Tulum by myself and spend the week writing on the beach. 

Sounds wonderful, eh?  I was giddy proud of myself for this “action” as I settled into my cute, bohemian boutique hotel.  This blog, however, is not about the glamour of this week to myself, it is about the painful mind journey that happened AFTER deciding to book the trip.

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By the end of the week, I definitely had clarity on the battle that goes on in my brain.  I realized I didn’t know how crazy I was until I was alone with my thoughts, trying to do something totally new for several days. 

So, that brings me to Tulum. 

 

 

I learned that “getting away” is only part of the hurdle when it comes to having a specific goal of writing.  I wasn’t fully aware of how much resistance I have to writing and how the self-talk prevents me from doing the 1 thing I want to do most.  I had to ask myself, “why is this so hard?” and I think it’s this:  my brain is more comfortable consuming information than it is creating it. You see, I love to read, and the more I read, the more I know.  But transferring knowledge into something that’s meaningful is a completely different story.  I have read 2 of Steven Pressfield’s books, which are incredible:  The War of Art and Do The Work.  And they sum up quite nicely what he talks about as Resistance.  I experienced it in full force that week.  The battle in my mind went something like this:

IMG_3739.jpg
  1. This is fun, I’m excited and nervous.

  2. WTF am I doing?

  3. Hmmm…this hotel is nice but I really wish it had air conditioning. I’m definitely not going to be able to write in a non-A/C’d room.

  4. Where is the perfect place to write? There is no perfect place to write.

  5. The beach would be good but I’ll get sand in my computer; the hammock would be good but how am I going to type while I'm swinging.

  6. How can I see the ocean while I’m writing – that will definitely help.

  7. I’m pretty sure this is a dumb idea.

  8. It’s for sure a dumb idea.

  9. I’m not safe, someone’s going to kill or rape me down here.

  10. When can I let myself have a margarita?

  11. I love myself.

  12. I can do this.

  13. How can I make myself do this?

  14. Ok, I’ve figured it out. I’m going to make it a game and give myself a treat for every module I write.

  15. I made a checklist, now I’m pumped.

  16. Are we there yet?

  17. I rocked the 1st module, I’m a badass.

  18. 5 more to go, this is definitely a dumb idea.

  19. Why can’t I just be normal and let myself have/be fun?

  20. You’re a bad ass, brave woman…do it.

  21. I should be laying on the beach, that’s how I can get more creative.

  22. If I lay on a beach, I’m just going to want to read, drink margaritas and fall asleep, not necessarily in that order.

  23. Why are people bothering me on email and text? Don’t they know I’m trying to do something important?

  24. I definitely think laying on the beach is a good idea.

That was all during the morning of Day 1.  And Day 1 wasn’t the only battle, Day 3’s battle was different because it involved other people….

 

I had told a few friends that I was going, ones who I knew would be super supportive, and thank God their positive energy held me up.  Something triggered me to reach out to another friend on Day 2 evening.  I’ve known her for a long time, and after a couple of texts, I ended up texting her about what I was doing this and asked her to send me good vibes and for grace for myself as I was working through it.  Her text reply was something like “Good luck - that sounds horrible.”   That triggered Day 3’s battle – the battle of “needing other’s approval.”  When I got that text back, I was pissed because it certainly didn’t feel supportive.  However, after exploring my feelings further, I realized that me expecting others to approve or love what I’m doing is unrealistic.  I have typically (up until now) sought love from everyone around me but this week, it became clear that the more I could be kind to myself and love myself through it regardless of what anyone thought, the easier the process would be.  The more I “beat myself up” for not doing things good or perfect enough, the harder the process was.

By the end, I realized 2 things that were extremely valuable, and I wish I had learned them long ago.

  1. Work and Play can co-exist: Having fun and doing the hard word do not have to be mutually exclusive. Once I made the “work” of writing a game, and started “playing” with the idea of what time I could lay on the beach and have a margarita, I actually started having fun writing. I learned that when I made the choice that it would be fun, it was. It was fun because I chose doing something hard over thinking too much. In fact, even thought it was still a terrible first draft, I was “playing” with words for the first time in a really long time.

  2. Activating before Hesitating is the Key. The longer I sat around and thought about it, analyzed it, mulled it over, the harder it was to begin each day. When I just “started” moving my fingers over the keys, without letting my thoughts and distractions over take me, my brain followed my body. The words started to flow, and I wrote quite a bit more than I thought I would.

The irony of the whole deal, is that the battle is not over.  I got back and was sharing with someone else about the process I went through and the first thing they said was, “So, what’s your plan now for finishing it out?”  And I thought to myself, “Shit, now I have to more…” 

IMG_3749.jpg

Will it get easier?  I hope.  I do know one thing.  It’s starting to take on a life of its own.  It’s like no matter what comes of it, I have to finish it, primarily because I don’t want all of that experience to be wasted.  But, now I'm ready for a REAL beach vacation.  I can’t wait to get back to the beach…and just lay around and read.  Maybe I’ll book one when I complete the course!

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Passion: The Job To Be Done

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Passion: The Job To Be Done

Jobs to Be Done

One of my clients first introduced me to Jobs To Be Done theory, and since then, we have used it as one of the tools to help uncover consumer needs states in certain situations, in order to better understand “white space gaps and opportunities.” 

What I appreciate about this theory is that it starts from a place of “need or desire” rather than a place of “what’s missing” or lack? Many traditional methods for understanding wants and needs is looks at filling the gap to produce products - starting from a place of what's missing. People can typically comment or think about how to do something better than what it is.  When starting from a place of lack, one cannot help but stay in a place of lack. 

drill bit.jpg

But when one starts from a place of desire, suddenly everything shifts. Let me give you an example, For years I've been trying to figure out how to change things in my company that are frustrating to me – the feeling of never having enough time, wearing too many hats,wanting to create new ideas or better systems but feeling buried in the work we currently have.  From that mindset, I've been evaluating what's missing, what's not quite right, what I would do different as a starting place for trying to solve the problem.  And I haven’t gotten very far.

A Trip to Austin

So, I took a few days just to myself, thanks to my wonderful husband (who I think was secretly ecstatic for a few days alone and my mom, who took my daughter for a “cousin camp”).  I went down to Lake Austin Spa to spend time with… me.  I did this thinking I would come back with a new purpose, life planned out, with dramatic shifts along with a strategy.  Instead, I came back with something different.

vision board collage.png

This may have been the only few days I’ve lived without an agenda as an adult.

I took a step back and I slept, walked, read and journaled.  And then on my 2nd day, I started flipping through magazines, pulled out every image that attracted me, or emotionally drawn to, then labeled, and created a collage .  Suddenly, I was in research mode, and knew what to do – this time I was researching myself!  I started looking and what resulted was a really specific “Job to be Done.”

 

Turning it on Myself

I decided to start from a place of desire. I started asking myself why do I feel the urge to change? why is finding my passion so important to me? I have a great family and I'm doing work that I love and feels interesting to me so what's missing? I also asked myself the question what do I most love

Looking at my collage, I realized I needed to develop some patterns or themes. So, my second step was to create definition around the pictures, looking for similarities and differences. When I finished, I had discovered that a lot of what I had passion for was already in my life! In the discovery of trying to find my passion I found that I already had it. What a concept!

Here’s how I translated my “vision collage” into a Job to Be Done.  I’ve wanted to buy or design a “creative, innovation space” for awhile but I have been rejecting in my mind that it’s a viable option…due to all of the negative self-talk rattling around in my mind.  But this process allowed me to open up to the “why” of how this is important to me,...here’s how I organized the picture and post-it data using the JBTD theory.

   
  
    
  
   Normal 
   0 
   
   
   
   
   false 
   false 
   false 
   
   EN-US 
   JA 
   AR-SA 
   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   
   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
  
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
  
   
 
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     ·        Note: the sentence structure we use for our research, I slightly changed.  Instead of “I use”, I replaced with “I need”

·      Note: the sentence structure we use for our research, I slightly changed.  Instead of “I use”, I replaced with “I need”

I need (what)

-       to create a beautiful space where light, water, nature and creativity connect

-       an innovative, transformative space for me and others to create

-       space to breathe - to feel, to be, to love, to give thanks

 

When (the situation)

-       I’m in my current state of desiring a life that’s true for me

 

I want to (what motivates me)

-       create vibrant ways for people to come together for fun, cozy connection

-       help others find their joy and facilitate groups growing together

 

So I can (the outcome I want)

-       set myself free and surrender to loving what's important to me

-       explore into the unknown with a spirit of adventure

-       let go of what doesn’t serve me

In the end, what came up for me was unexpected. What I discovered is that I was not spending enough time implementing experiences into my life which gives me joy. So suddenly these themes that emerged allowed me to start taking action on some small steps and over the hump of feeling like I had to make some huge life change in order to find my passion or make things better. And in turn, it has brought newfound passion for fulfilling this dream!

 

 

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How to Build Data That's Useful

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How to Build Data That's Useful

Analytics and Stroller Pushing

One of the best analytical lessons I ever learned was nowhere near my computer. My wife and I were gearing up to have our first child. We were shopping for a baby stroller. If you have done this, you know the choices are paralyzing. There are at least 20 options that are rated on multiple qualities. After hours of debating what should have been painless choice, we stopped ourselves and asked, “what is the most important feature here”. After thinking about it, my wife said, “I want to be able to reach down with one hand (because the other will be holding the baby) and pick it up so it collapses, then toss it in the back of the RAV4 in one motion.” Suddenly, 20 options went down to 2 or 3, and we made a decision a minute after that.

Analytics-and-Stroller-Pushing

Good data insight development follows this approach. It is not an attempt to build the Encyclopedia Britannica, it’s an agreement on what piece of currently unavailable information would make the most difference to the people who actually run the business. Here is a fun little video of me talking about this.

Back in 2011 I took a leap of faith. I left the stability of Pepsico to lead an analytics group in a much smaller Energy company. At that time, I was introduced to a new software called Tableau. It seemed pretty cool, and was easy to learn if you were a strong excel user. So off I went with my team to build reports from the database of company information we had put together.

One of the first and certainly most notorious reports we developed was for a “very eager” and attention-challenged marketing manager. The good news is that he loved data and believed in not making decisions without it. The bad news is that there was no end to the data that he felt he needed to look at.

My team went on to develop the report exactly the way that he wanted it, with all the different possible views and filters he could think of.  With this one report, he would be able to see everything, and answer every question that his directors could pose.

This is an example of what it looked like. My team gave it a name: “Filters Gone Wild.” No one else in the company could stand to use this report for more than two minutes without needing a glass of scotch.

Filters-Gone-Wild

So why to people do this? Isn’t it a noble intention, after all, to want to see more data? The reason is because complexity creates its own burden, As it turns out, consuming data is a lot like purchasing jam - more isn’t always better.  Not only is there a point of diminishing returns in how satisfied we are, but our ability to act is reduced significantly as well.

That was a really interesting role for me, and I’m glad I took it. Not only did I learn a lot of new, useful skills, but more importantly I got to see the gamut of “clients” and how they wanted data. The better ones understood this concept of simplification.

Around the same time, there was an article released by MIT, which put some science to what I was learning. They surveyed a few thousand people at multiple companies and determined that top performers were five times more likely to use analytics than lower performers. No surprise there, but what was more interesting was how the top companies approached data.  It wasn’t about budgets or sophistication of software; the lower performers cited development process and managerial issues as a major contributor to blocking progress. What - people are getting in the way?!?

A recent client experience motivated me to write this blog. The team had purchased all the software it needed to bang out good reporting. They had a small army of internal folks and contractors who could wrangle and structure the data as good as anyone. But when the six-month check-in time on a nine-month project came, they discovered that only rudimentary reporting had been developed, and that the internal clients were disappointed to the point of considering pulling the funding for the expensive software they purchased.

Why? Because the IT developers who were in charge of it had treated it as a requirements fulfillment exercise.

One of the key points of the MIT article was a concept they called “start in the middle”. In their findings, they saw a trend in the approach of effective teams where they would simplify the issue to discover the most relevant information to move the needle the most, and then iterate against that until they honed it to a useful state.

It’s a conversation between business people, that happens to use technology as a tool to make it come to life. There is no requirement to gather, because it’s never really known completely what is needed until the discovery begins. It’s not a conversation with executives, it’s with the frontline managers and directors who make the business happen. Once they start becoming successful, peers start taking notice and the path to a data-driven culture organically grows.

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Do You Need a Data Scientist?

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Do You Need a Data Scientist?

Data Science is all the rage. Career interest has surged, programs are offered at more and more universities, and every company is talking about needing it. But do you? How do you know, and when would you hire one? These are questions that get glossed over in the race to be smarter.

April Bell Research Group

Data Science is a powerful tool  - it can unlock understanding in data, which leads to new insights no one considered. However, often the most practical insights arrive as a result of Data Mining and posing the right questions.

At the latest MSMR conference at UT Arlington, the keynote presentation “Behind the Corporate Curtain” by Simon Chadwick talked about where corporate research spending was headed in the next five years. The top two items of incremental focus, above CX and Digital, was Data Analytics and Data Mining, plus integrating multiple data streams.

 

 

First, let me break down what is meant by these three “Data” terms we’ve mentioned – Analytics, Mining, and Science:

  1. Data Analytics – working with the business to describe, predict and improve business performance through data. Broad subject that includes many tools and techniques.
  2. Data Mining – examining large data sets to generate new information or insights. A tool of analytics used to dig in, clean up, and see what nuggets there are in the data.
  3. Data Science – applying statistical methods to data to generate new information or insights. A tool of analytics used to apply a specific technique to generate a specific result.
April Bell Research Group

Remember that finding that got Target all the press a few years back, where they could predict when a girl was pregnant before her father knew? That was heralded as a slick data science discovery, but it wasn’t, it was just good ‘ole fashioned data mining. Finding that right pebble on the beach.

Target had conducted a study to understand what major life events force a break in normal shopping routines, opportunities to capture new customers. One of the more interesting ones was getting pregnant. Around the same time, they were pulling all their shopper and sales data into one spot to allow them to track purchases by customer.

April Bell Research Group

 

Then, someone asked the following: “what products does someone, who we eventually realize is pregnant, purchase in the early stages of pregnancy?” If Target could get them in the door early, they would likely stick with the store for all their later needs. After just identifying those customers and walking backwards through their shopping data to look for patterns, the answer was not baby gear, it was  unscented lotions.

A client that I was working with told me recently, “I can bring in a statistician, but I think I’d also have to hire someone to accompany them to talk to the business user. They know the mechanics, but wouldn’t be able have a meaningful segmentation discussion.” These are wise words from a leader who is trying to bring advanced capability to an organization. A more inexperienced leader would hire a small army of statisticians and hope the “build it and they will come” strategy pays off. It typically doesn’t.

Capital One is a company that jumps to mind often as a leader in data science. They employ an army of statisticians, and consider how they analyze data to be a completive advantage. There is a famous Harvard Business School case study on them that explains this, but also more importantly, describes a business process that they followed early on, which allowed them to gain share quickly before their competition could react: testing and innovation

They were relentless in conducting market testing for different offers and products, targeted to groups of people that they thought might respond.  Yes, there was data science behind the segmentation and prediction that helped shape the hypothesis, but the sheer volume of testing, measuring and validating was what set them apart. They were throwing a hundred pieces of spaghetti on the wall and seeing which 5 would stick, then aggressively going after those ideas before their competition could react. They used data science as a methodology, but their business model described in that moment of their history was to outsprint, not outsmart.

April Bell Research Group

The statistical analysis of Data Science is a powerful tool, and well deserves its place in the toolbox of any company doing advanced analytics. But advanced comes after intermediate, and when an intermediate company tries to follow a “me-too” advanced strategy, it is ignoring the value of what intermediate data mining can bring. All too often this wastes valuable time for a company, trying to be something they aren’t…yet. Data science is part of a mature progression of data capability, formed from having as a clear sense of how it can successfully integrate into a business process before the first study is conducted.

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Road Stories on how Married People go into Business Together

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Road Stories on how Married People go into Business Together

After telling some of our close friends over the holidays about our plan for Lloyd to join the business, and seeing their wide-eyed worried expressions, we decided we should probably talk about how we might work together…and stay married! 

Success Is

April’s perspective: I approached our “vision of how we will work together” in the same way I plan any other work project. Thinking about: “What do we want to accomplish?”  “What are the tools we could use to help the discussion flow?”  “What does success look like?”  “What is the agenda?”

We packed ourselves up and headed to a location away from home with all of our materials – flip charts, post-its, magazines and markers.  Our objective was to create a shared vision for the company and what our roles would be. 

Over the years, I’ve discovered several sources to help with vision/strategy planning; all of them are great in different ways. The first exercise was to review each and come back together to align on the best approach. Some of the sources we had available were:

  1. 90 Day Year by Todd Herman

  2. Lara Casey’s Powersheets

  3. Self-Authoring  

  4. Marie Forleo

  5. Lululemon’s Vision Worksheet

I was excited and optimistic when we got back together. Books and materials were all over the table, and I could tell this was going to be a good conversation. Lloyd started first.  He said “so what I’ve discovered is that our word for the year should be ‘intentionality’ and I’ve identified two main areas that we need to focus on to be more productive.” All the air went out of my sails, and I sat there for several long seconds trying to grasp at how I would respond, because he clearly did not stick to the plan of aligning on the best approach but instead, jumped to a conclusion!

intentionality

We had to stray from the agenda for about 10 minutes to work through this style difference, but we made it to the other side.

After getting past my initial reaction, I knew what he said was exactly what was needed for the business - he’s very proficient at coming to solid conclusions quickly, and doesn’t feel the need to review every angle before deciding. This is exactly the skill we need … although it wasn’t what I expected from an exploratory vision exercise.

Lloyd’s perspective: It didn't take long to see that there were similar patterns in these different methodologies, so let’s just cut to the chase here and identify the big levers that are going to move the needle for us most. Boom, done!

Married Couple working together lesson #1: we need to be open-minded toward the other person’s way of thinking. We have different strengths, and our approaches are not the same but can be complimentary when we have patience.

Stay Tuned….more lessons to come…

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4 Montessori Principles to Help Guide Client Work

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4 Montessori Principles to Help Guide Client Work

Autumn

Until a couple of years ago, I knew very little about Montessori schools – something about kids having freedom of choice in the work they do.  But I was a bit skeptical about whether that would be a good environment for my child. I felt if given too much “free reign”, my daughter would be the type to run with it.  (I think she gets that from her Dad! :) But an event in her first preschool left me feeling different.  I walked in one day to pick her up, and the teacher pulled me into the classroom.  With every 4-year old eye on me (including my daughter’s), the teacher pointed up to a wall of kid’s work – all of the letter “u’s”.  My daughter’s work was hanging up – completely blank.  Then, the teacher proceeded to tell me about how my daughter wouldn’t listen in class, showing me the blank piece of paper she had posted up for everyone to see.  My face reddened, and so did my daughter’s.  When we left the class, I began questioning her to understand what was going on, and she broke into tears and said “mommy, I don’t know how to draw a ‘U’ – I don’t know how to do it right.”  And that experience is what led me to rethink putting her in a Montessori classroom - how that environment would be interesting to learn more about…

Fast forward 2+ years, and I am thrilled that we found White Rock Montessori. Not only has our daughter thrived in this environment but we have as well, as parents.  

After seeing the impact Montessori had on her love of learning, I was curious to understand more about “why” this was effective for her, as well as “how” the classroom works.  What I discovered was that some Montessori principles were applicable to the work we conduct with our clients

When conducting marketing research, my teams are very involved in “learning” – learning what people think about products, how consumers react to new ideas, etc.  And my job is not only to learn new insights through my interviews but also keep my clients engaged in the learning.

Here are the Montessori principles that directly link to the work I do -

1.     Pull, Don’t Push - Montessori teachers refer to this as “The Art of Drawing Out.” Instead of pushing information in, they use acknowledgement and questioning to get children to think about what they are doing.  This helps children learn to be accountable for their learning.  Similarly, when in research, questioning the listening team to help “draw out” learnings creates ownership in the learning process. 

Montessori Principles

2. Concrete Before Abstract - The Montessori belief is that students learn best from something they already know, so teachers use physical objects to begin each lesson, and present new concepts through storytelling. This builds connection with students’ emotions and gives them greater interest in the concept. In my practice, especially when conducting ideation sessions, I find this principle helpful to ignite creativity with clients. When brainstorming, it is actually easier to create new ideas by starting with “constrained” stimulus because participants start with something they can visualize, making it easier to alter/change/adapt to new ideas. Learn more about this topic from Chip & Dan Heath’s Myth of the Garage eBook (see “Get Back in the Box” page 31). This helps spark their imagination and allows them to think about “abstract” concepts.

3.     Structure That’s Flexible - The beauty of this principle is that children believe they have freedom of choice but their choices are orchestrated around what the teacher plans for them to learn.  Providing a flexible structure for learning with client teams is just as important because clients appreciate getting to make choices – and it allows them to “own” the process.

4.     Observe Before Acting - Teachers in a Montessori classroom don’t take on the traditional role – you won’t see them in front of the room, chalk in hand, writing out a math problem step-by-step. They see themselves as guides, not teachers. They ask questions, then sit back and let students take their own path to figure out a solution - make their own decisions.  As a facilitator of client’s learning, my role of guide is similar. Sometimes this means facilitating a highly involved team debating a controversial learning.  Other times, creating activities to encourage a distracted team to actively work together is necessary.

Check out this video to see all 4 of these principles in action in a Montessori classroom environment. 

 

I will be speaking more on this subject, specifically how I use these principles alongside a Design Thinking at the 2017 QRCA Annual conference in LA on January 19. Click here for the schedule conference and other presentations. 

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2016 Reflections - Firewalking with Tony Robbins: More than Just a Physiological Impact

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2016 Reflections - Firewalking with Tony Robbins: More than Just a Physiological Impact

Firewalking

As 2016 ends and we take some time to think about some of the year’s highlights, Tony Robbins' Unleash the Power Within was one of them. 

How do you describe Tony Robbins?  Almost more than human.  The conference is something between a hardcore rock concert and a very dynamic church service (a long church service).  And while on the surface, those events may seem very different –Tony Robbins brings and maintains both elevated emotions, senses, and inspiration to the table all at once.

Twenty years ago, a co-worker of mine REALLY got into Tony Robbins.  In fact, at the time, I felt she was akin to a groupie, and I didn’t really understand it.  I remember thinking the whole thing seemed kind of “cultish” and therefore, didn’t engage to really understand why she was so into it.   Fast forward many years later - I’ve learned (the hard way several times) that judging something without understanding it is, frankly, my own ignorance. 

More recently, I was reacquainted with Tony Robbins through a blog I religiously follow called Asian Efficiency.  AE’s productivity content has been extremely helpful in both work and personal life due to their “holistic” approach - energy management, help with Omnifocus, a productivity "cheat sheet", a productivity "blueprint", including morning rituals, etc.

They profess in their content how much Tony Robbins has influenced them, and that his UPW conference was “transformational” for their work.  So, when Tony scheduled one of his shindigs in Dallas this year, I decided to go.  I wanted to see what it was all about.

While some of his tactics are a little hard core (i.e. fire walking on the 1st night), he is one of the most powerful speakers I’ve ever encountered. The days were incredibly long - 2 of them were 15 hours.  When I showed up the 1st day, I was so glad I had a car so I could make a quick get away when I became tired of sitting in a hard chair amongst 8,000 of my new friends!  However, believe it or not, his energy was so captivating that it was easier than I expected to stay engaged.

But what did I learn.  Here are just a few things…

Tony Robbins

1.     There is an Art to Fulfillment – One of his many provocative statements he made was “The brain is not designed to make you happy.  It’s a great strategy tool – but it’s not good at enjoying.” Deciding to live in a beautiful state of mind is 100% my responsibility.  To do this, I must become aware of my own thoughts and basically, STOP believing them! 

2.     Changing my Feelings starts with Changing my Focus, Language and Physiological State. This hit home because so many times when I get knotted up about something I want to change, I believe I need to stop feeling bad BEFORE I can make a change but according to Robbins, that belief is what holds me back. 

Focus

·      Focus = feeling.  What I focus on creates the feelings I have.  My pain and suffering is not necessarily dependent on what happens to me - it’s more dependent on the “story” I create about it.  I don’t HAVE TO suffer no matter what happens.  “As you think, so you feel”, he says.

·      Use Language that Lifts, Not Limits You – so often, my thoughts are a repeat of the thoughts from yesterday or the day before.  I can interrupt those patterns by creating “incantations” – sounds a little over the top but the idea is to create statement that addresses an Empowering Belief (instead of a Limiting Belief).  An example of one of my own Limiting Beliefs is:  “I can’t lose weight because I have thyroid issues” vs. this Empowering Belief I replaced while in the session: “I am strong and healthy overall, and I have the ability to make almost anything happen that I want to make happen.”

Tony Robbins

·      If I Can’t Change My State of Mind, I can change my “State” - The shortcut to changing my emotions is to change my “state”  (i.e. if I “feel” sad, I can change that feeling more quickly if I change something physiologically first - my posture, my breathing, my face expression, etc.). To close the gap between how you currently “feel” and how you want to feel, you need to visualize experiencing it.  In fact, the best advice he gave on visualizing is to not only visualize it but also, to imagine having it taken away – once you get a “taste” of something, you’ll fight to keep it!

Dancing

3.  Stress is the Achiever’s Word for Fear.  This, too, hit home for me. Not only had I never related my “stress” to fear, I also did not realize how “universal” fear is.  He spoke of 2 primary fears that we all share:  “not being enough” and that “we won’t be loved.”  What he suggested was to dance with fear – instead of fighting it. And of course, Tony showed us this by dancing on stage with imaginary fear so that we could understand his point – it’s there and moving with it (instead of running or fighting it) releases its hold on us.

 

If you want to learn more about Tony Robbins and his style, you now can without attending one of his events.  A documentary was released in 2016 and Marie Forleo interviewed him about it. Good interview…

Oh, and I walked over hot coals - I, too, am a fire walker!  …although yes my feet hurt a bit afterwards. =)

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5 Ways to Work it Like a (Go) Pro

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5 Ways to Work it Like a (Go) Pro

We love doing in-context or ethnographic research.  It’s so fun to immerse ourselves into a respondent’s environment and learn “what’s really going on” vs. “what respondents say” in a focus group setting. And, yes, video is a great way to effectively capture the interviews – it provides authenticity but also comes with some drawbacks. Regardless of someone’s moderating skills, it’s more awkward for a respondent when you add a video camera to the mix.  For the last few years, we rarely take video during our ethnographies due to the “cumbersome nature” of the equipment.

Dallas-Ethnography-GoPro.jpg

To solve one of these problems, we could enlist the help of our clients. However, walking them through operating a camera is technical and takes away from the ‘in the moment’ learning. 

At ABRG, we found a small and mighty answer to this multi-layer dilemma. Insert GoPro Hero 4 Silver! We chose a GoPro because its versatile capabilities allow flexibility for any ethnography or in-context research situation. 

Dallas-Ethnography-GoPro-Accessories.jpg
  1. Mounting accessories:  we love the Go Pro’s various accessories and bought the suction cup, flex clamp, and hand grip. These make it easier to walk with it or mount it wherever you need to take video – bathroom, kitchen, etc. The clamp accessory especially, is useful doing in-homes because furniture can easily become camera equipment.
  2. Size:  It’s tiny, which is another asset when recording. Because it’s not bulky, respondents don’t notice it when they are being interviewed – it fades into the background. 
  3. Great quality video at close proximity – the video quality on a GoPro is stellar, especially when it’s put on the “narrow” setting.
  4. Mark-up ability: it is easy to mark up interesting, noteworthy parts of the interview in the moment!  This makes sorting through footage later so much less painful! 
  5. Remote control via iPhone app: the GoPro contains a remote feature that allows you to control angle, start/stop, etc. from your iPhone, which is awesome.  If needed, the interviewer can both record and conduct interviews without enlisting the help of another team member or client.  

All of these features are great but getting up to speed and feeling comfortable with it requires bit of “ramp up”. We believe in creating step-by-step Process Documents to keep us from reinventing the wheel so we put all our knowledge into words in the format of a laminated Process Document containing the ins-and-outs of “how to use a GoPro.” To easily access this guide when we are in the field, we made it so that it easily fits inside the GoPro’s case and color-coded it based on topic. Additionally, the GoPro, its parts and mounting accessories are labeled and correspond with the user guide as reference.   In conjunction with the process document, we also labeled all of the parts of the GoPro and the different mounting accessories. Wherever the GoPro goes, a user-friendly guide goes with it. 

Dallas-Ethnography-GoPro-ProcessDocument-Guide.jpg

To GoPro or no?  That is the question.  So far, we’re loving it.

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Uncharted Territories for Prestigious Summer Art Exhibit

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Uncharted Territories for Prestigious Summer Art Exhibit

ABRG BLOG

Jeffrey Johns of Northstar consulting recently presented on “Using Insight Innovation to Re-Invent a 247-Year Old Institution” at the 2016 QRCA Worldwide Conference on Qualitative Research. His investigation piqued our interest and made us want to dig deeper to understand his methods and findings. The Summer Exhibition at London’s Royal Academy  is one of the most significant and unique visual experiences in the world due to the combination of works from emerging and established artists. However, since its inception in 1769, the structure of the exhibit has remained largely unchanged. But for the upcoming 250th Summer Exhibition, London’s Royal Academy intends to make changes that incorporate the needs of a new generation of visitors as well as other trends from our changing world.

Consulted for their expertise on customer-related research, Northstar was brought in to help The Royal Academy as it moves forward with its redesign. Northstar’s undertaking of this project was unique because The Royal Academy had never consulted with researchers before, thus making the collection and presentation of findings original and unfamiliar. In fact, Northstar’s insights were reflected in the 247th Summer Exhibition in 2015 and visitor volume and art sales were noticeably higher; a good indicator of the impact they will have on the 250th anniversary. The study itself was unique because of its short timeframe and methods used, unlike those commonly used in ethnographic research where experiments are long and data collection is extensive. Northstar’s goal with this immersive research was to provide consumer insights that could make the Summer Exhibition more popular and enjoyable.

Northstar conducted its research within the institution and yielded 16 hours of data and 400 photographs. Their qualitative, ethnographic approach included methods such as listening in on visitors’ conversations, observing gestures/interaction of visitors with art, and conducting ‘non-interview-like’ conversations with visitors. The research uncovered trends such as “Visitor control”, “family”, and “divergence” which rose to the top across many exhibit visitors. But how does this help the London Royal Academy? What do these trends mean? “Visitor control” meant that visitors liked that they weren’t guided through the exhibition and were free explore on their own. “Family” referred to the fact that the exhibition has become well known to families who have made visiting the exhibition a tradition. “Divergence” showed that the combination of both emerging and establishing artists is a positive for the exhibit because it reflects inclusivity. By understanding these trends, the Royal Academy will have a better understanding of what is needed for the redesign of the Summer Exhibition.

Northstar’s innovative research methods provide d actionable insights for an institution that did not formerly utilize qualitative research. Utilizing qualitative research may be something that the London Royal Academy will continue to do given its increase in art sales and visitor volume since changes reflecting the trends of control, family and divergence were made. Entering uncharted territory was a success for Northstar because this unique methodology resulted in positive outcomes for their client; indicating that innovative methods could be advantageous and should be implemented in other non-typical areas.

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QRCA Event - Think like a "Futurist"

QRCA Event - Think like a "Futurist"

When I saw the topic for this month’s QRCA event in Houston, “Think Like a Futurist,” I was immediately intrigued. Since this topic was unique from other QRCA meetings and I was not too familiar with the subject, I was very curious to learn more.

The event was hosted by Connexion Research, a full-service research company with a boutique facility in Houston. Prior to the meeting, I got the chance to take a tour of their new office space. April and I have definitely been inside a lot of research facilities, but this one has a more modern flair to it. Danelia Argueta, the Marketing Director at Connexion, explained that the company strives to promote an environment of creativity, and has the latest video and audio technologies available for its clients. I was thoroughly impressed with the staff and the facility, and am definitely interested in conducting research using their space in the future.

Dr. Andy Hines was the renowned guest speaker for the event - he is a futurist and Program Coordinator at the University of Houston’s Graduate Program in Foresight. He has written five books on the topic, and to say he is well-versed in the field is an understatement. The 4-hour workshop helped me gain a high level understanding of how to anticipate and influence future changes. To help teach the methodology, he guided us through an activity where we selected a specific topic and mapped out the different possibilities of future change within that topic.

Throughout the workshop, it became clear how closely marketing research and foresight go hand in hand. In much of the research we conduct at April Bell Research Group, our job is to help clients understand new possibilities for product development through the lens of their consumers.  Some of the methods Dr. Hines teaches are very similar to our current brainstorming techniques (mind mapping, design thinking, etc.) where we help clients create new visions for the future.  I also learned some new methods that will help facilitate learning with our clients.

Overall, the experience was a memorable one. It was great connecting with QRCA members, and most importantly, getting a glimpse into the study of Foresight.