Business Design. Evolved.

Month: March 2015

5 Service Design Tidbits

A potpourri of service design tips and tricks….

  1. Service Design “best of” book list
  2. Service Design: Practical Access to an Evolving Field by Stefan Moritz (A great starting point).
  3. Service Design: On the Evolution of Design Expertise. An overview of design discipline convergence for service.
  4. What is Service Design? A Thesis by Kristin Fritsche
  5. Designing for Services: A Multi-Disciplinary Perspective. Edited by Lucy Kimbell and Victor P. Seidel.

8 Lessons for the CEO from Cirque’s Mystere

business of mystere

“Only when the questions become more important than the answers will the solutions emerge.”


A while back the folks at Kellogg’s Innovation Network offered me the opportunity to engage in a dialogue that was a genuine treat.  They had talked the director of Cirque de Soleil’s Mystere into letting us get a behind the scenes look at the business of how the people and the show come together.

Here are 8 key lessons for business leaders that I learned.

  1. Customer Engagement: Emotion, emotion, emotion. It’s hard to imagine anyone that would go to Mystere and not find a wide range of impactful and divergent emotions. I found myself at times in awe of the what a human body could do, lost in the visual imagery of the art of the spectacle, laughing at the acts of the clowns, while the engineer in me kept wondering – how did they do that! It’s that power of emotional connection that all businesses wish they could achieve instead of what most businesses do – cutting costs to deny you service (even to point of creating customer terrorists). This was truly an engineered emotional experience.
  2. Talent Selection: The actors are sought from a pool of the best athletes, musicians, and dancers in the world. The “best” isn’t just a mirror of a leader (i.e. the model emulates the leader) but a diversity of thought, geography, and ideas to ensure a level of organic renewal and energy to the show. It’s about bringing the whole person and their creativity to the stage.
  3. Development: Two thoughts emerged as I listened to the Mystere team. First, this was a leadership team that any CEO would be proud of. They have all come up through the ranks, demonstrated their craft, believe in the mission of Mystere and showed a degree of respect and caring for each other and valuing the contribution of the entire team in a way I found something to be proud of. I also learned that they are SERIOUSLY vested in developing critical thinking skills and whole brain thinking.
  4. Process: When a new Cirque show opens there is process that it goes through (akin to new product development). There is an ideation stage to formulate the base product (such as Mystere, O, Zumanity). Then there is a creative process between the director, artists, and technicians to formulate the theatrics by mixing a combination of the three into a “flow”. Then there are the rehearsals – with a heavy dose of safety management (it’s easy to see where a missed move could result in death). The opening is a “perfecting” period to get the recipe and routine locked down, and finally it’s “locked” in. If I recall correctly, the “baking” took 18 months. This is followed by ongoing quality and safety procedures and practices (akin to Six Sigma perfection and OSHA level safety awareness).
  5. Alternative Business Model: Think about what Cirque did to the circus business in general. It elevated the art of the circus actors to new levels, created an accessibility to audiences by recrafting the circus experience as fun, stage, art, and form, and restructured the business economics at a premium to market. Wouldn’t we all love to create the game changer business model?
  6. Innovation logic: New ideas are always looked at to give even a long running show like Mystere an organic nature. As the director stated, each new idea has to be fully worked out and goes through an R&D process that often “leaves a dumpster full of ideas”. While we did not discuss how many new ideas enter the pipeline – it’s many and only a few make it to the end after a rigorous and valued test and learn process.
  7. On-boarding: An artist must first do their own personal homework by watching videos and studying the character. Once they have studied for a few weeks the artistic director will work with them on stage for about 2 weeks (2 to 3 times a week). This time is used so the artist can learn the character movement. It is also a time for the artistic director to see if the artist could bring something new to the character. Then they spend a week working with props and costume pieces. Once the artist is comfortable there is a full show audition – staging with other artists. Then they are ready for the show. It takes an artist about a week in the show to feel comfortable.
  8. Coaching to Win: The KIN attendees watched the last rehearsal of a new member and then saw him in the actual show later that evening. One thing I noted was how the artistic director coached the new actor. There were no incentives, no stick, just a calming guiding hand with the language of any great football coach focusing on how to draw on strengths and downplay and mitigate weaknesses by drawing on the combined strengths of the entire team.

A few lessons for all of us…



Retail Rewind – Where oh Where does the New Store go???

I have now survived my first slog on the Long Island Expressway in over two years (visiting on my job hunt).  This visit had me thinking about my past principles and assumptions about retail distribution (aka store location) design. Whether you are in banking, fast food franchising, or big box retailing,  I’ve tended to look at distribution strategy in the context of where customers – or potential customers – Work, Live, Shop, Play, and Retire.

  • Work – Where are the businesses located and what type are they?
  • Live – This is the primary commute pattern between where people live and work. In metro areas this can be “up” as well as out, which is why big cities can support branch and retail at the “per block” level vs. the “per mile” level.
  • Shop – Anyone in City Planning will tell you the soul of the community is rooted in places like the grocery store, dry cleaner, department store, etc. Some shops are “must have” while many are “wish to have”.
  • Play – Usually, but not exclusively a day versus night (restaurant, movies, etc) or the weekend thing (i.e. Manhattan for work, Hamptons for play). Typically cities close to a beach or lake see stronger two area lifestyles.
  • Retire – Extended patterns that include semi-retirement or snowbird commute.

So I have locked in a set of principles about how to think about this for branch building (Bank of America) and for fast-food franchise development (McDonald’s) or big box (Home Depot).  However, my observations of Australia distribution management (when I last visited my other home in Perth) have challenged some of my assumptions.

For instance, branch density and use of ATMs as an extension of branch seem lower and yet, more spatially oriented than a typical US bank. Customer expectations of what is convenient (relative to branch density) has a longer distance “threshold of pain” before dissatisfaction happens.

Channel management is also quite different. For example, it’s expected that if you write a check there will be a per check processing fee. Every business can be paid through a universal payments hub using a BSB number encouraging higher online bill pay use – somewhat similar to Paypal, but without the apparent middle-man between banks. Small ticket payment cards are prevalent as a way of enabling students to pay for lunches, immigrant workers to be paid, and as an alternative form of payments for those without access to traditional banking.  Currently you will be charged if you use the ATM of an institution you do not bank at (However, the STAR alliance of ATM in Oz, aka Redi ATM is creating a competitive tension).

Last, but not least, growth encourages Australian banks to develop “transportable” cross-country channel management. I have not looked at European banks, or retail more broadly, but I sense we would see a different model as well. So while I do not have conclusions (yet), I have a series of questions that relate to:

  1. How thin can branch – or store- density be with the right combination of “other” multi channel approaches.  For a bank, this can be a “few miles”… for Trader Joes it can be can I get there in 30 minutes.
  2. What is the value equation that customers consider between location convenience and overall cost-to-serve?  If you look at food retailers like HEB and Trader Joes, the value difference is such that Trader Joes customers are COMPELLED (I know I am one) to go to their stores – bypassing at least 25 or more other stores that are “close” in category, and yet the “value” equation is soooo different (try their salted caramel chocolates and you’ll understand).  HEB on the other hand is often within proximity of other stores (less than a mile) and become the “choice” – largely because they cater to a Texas home town feel in the face of other national brands and being ALWAYS about the next best “switching” point-of-pain.  The ubiquity of Bank of America has always meant convenience (even if their in store delivery is sometimes a “bit much”).
  3. Has the current economic situation created a discontinuity vs. past principles of success of how to think about Work, Live, Shop, Play, and Retire?  As a country – and even global economy – there have been a series of value discontinuities created by the sustained nature of both economic sluggishness and terrorism ubiquity and aging population on one hand and the significantly changed new millennial work environment.  Where and how people retire (or semi-retire for the most part) and the virtual connectedness of millennials may in fact enable significantly lower branch density within the context of virtual hub (online), ATM payments, and branch.

It’s time to hit the rewind on the retail models of the past and take a fresh look – even to the extent of looking at location segmentation.

Sigh… more questions than answers…



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