• April 1, 2020

Required Reading: How a Lack of Innovation Can Lead to Nincompoopery

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In his book, Nincompoopery: Why Your Customers Hate You—and How to Fix It, John Brandt, CEO and founder of The MPI Group, shines a light on the ridiculous organizational structures that make employees look like nincompoops while driving customers crazy. He also offers an anti-nincompoopery plan based on innovation, talent, and process. CRM editor Leonard Klie caught up with him recently.

What is Nincompoopery?

It's the corporate stupidity that drives customers crazy and keeps everyone—customers, employees, managers, and business owners—from getting what they want. It's what happens when you expect a company's service or product or process to work, but it doesn't, and nobody can fix it, even though everybody knows what's wrong.

You describe three types of nincompoops. What are they?

1. Woe is all of us: These nincompoops say, "Nothing will ever change, all our customers/managers/employees/etc. are denser than neutron stars, and you are just wasting your time." These people have given up. Be polite but avoid them; although mostly harmless (they don't care enough to cause mischief), their negativity will suck your soul out through your nostrils.

2. Woe is you: These nincompoops say, "You don't know enough." They have given up and gone backward on the evolutionary scale. They believe that because they can't be successful, no one else should succeed either. Run from these people. You can't succeed with confidence saboteurs around you.

3. Woe is change: These good-hearted nincompoops say: "OK, maybe that could work, and maybe I could even like that change, but…that would be hard. How could we ever do that?" These people might act nincompoopishly, but mostly they're hoping you will show them how things can be better. Listen to them, soothe their anxieties, and embrace them. With the right leadership, coaching, and encouragement, they'll reinvent customer value, the culture of your firm, and your bottom line.

You state that innovation is key to an Anti-Nincompoopery plan. What are leaders getting wrong when it comes to innovation?

Many leaders think of innovation as a shiny new product or service that incorporates a major advance in technology. Leaders at great companies think about innovation differently. They've learned that while customers love new products, they appreciate other components of customer value even more.

Customers are turning to companies that focus on innovation through a simple lens: How can we make our customers' lives simpler, happier, less stressed, and more productive, by removing or solving multiple issues with a single solution?

What advice would you offer to business owners trying to be more innovative?</p

If your organization doesn't have a program in which every employee—from CEO or owner to frontline worker—spends some time with a customer at least once per year, you can't innovate. And this time can't be spent pitching or selling or attending the big game together. You have to figure out how to work directly alongside the customer, in his workplace or home, observing how he operates in his environment. This is the only way to identify nagging problems and new challenges that you can solve via innovation.

Too many leaders rely solely on satisfaction surveys or Net Promoter Scores to judge how well their organizations are doing with customers. It's nice to get a good grade from your customers on what you did yesterday, but how does that tell you what they might buy tomorrow?

How can you prepare employees for moments of truth, and why is that important?

It's important to define what constitutes a moment of truth. It's not a routine transaction; it's when stakes are higher—when a customer is emotionally invested in both the outcome and in being recognized as an individual. In these moments, the difference isn';t what happens to customers but how they are treated as it happens.

The only way that we create a difference at any individual customer's moment of truth is by the investment we make in talent, training, and culture. That difference, for good or bad, will determine our bottom lines for years to come.

If readers take away one thing from reading your book, what do you hope it would be?

I'd want them to realize that with a little bit of strategic thinking and a whole bunch of empathy for customers and employees, they already know how to lead change and eliminate Nincompoopery.

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