Monday, March 26, 2007

What’s the Big Deal?

I have to say this was the first time my doctor actually waited on me for a change.

He had asked me to bring pictures of my kids (he delivered my twin boys) to my next appointment so he could see how they had grown. Tucked in my briefcase was a digitally-created scrapbook, complete with a leather cover and lots of journal entries telling the stories behind the snapshots. It wasn’t a big deal, really. Photo books aren’t new. In fact, we’re so used to seeing them that we take this concept for granted.

I learned that was a big mistake.

When I took out my scrapbook, my doctor was instantly impressed and began asking me more questions—not just about my kids but about the process of creating the photo book. Soon, the office staff were surrounding me, peppering me with questions and passing the book around as though it were a pitcher of fine ale. Then, people in the waiting room were coming up and asking questions. There was so much excitement that I was both encouraged and a bit bewildered.

I mean, these weren’t even their kids!

But, it wasn’t about me and my family. They were envisioning this possibility in their own lives and how they could begin chronicling and sharing their own stories. I simply can’t find the words to convey the enthusiasm in that office.

I learned an important lesson that day.

When it comes to inspiring our customers, we must continue to put these new methods of preserving memories and storytelling in front of them. We need to see these items in the way our customers see them.

It’s not just about the products.

It’s about the possibilities.

Getting Out of Overwhelm

There is a downside to going to PMA.

It seems that all those exciting new ideas and concepts gleaned come with a price. We must return to everyday life, complete with staffing issues, inventory problems and the constant juggling of the countless details of running a retail business. This reality can suck the enthusiasm right out of you.

I discovered something that can help.

It’s called the Kaizen Method, which is a Japanese concept loosely translated as ‘slow and continuous improvement.’ As part of preparing for my Long Term Photo Care presentations at the PMA show, I contacted the author of One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way. Dr. Robert Maurer was incredibly gracious in responding to my email, and his book teaches us how to apply this concept to both our work and personal lives.

The Kaizen Way explains how small steps on a regular basis can bring big results. He delves into topics such as how this method can help our brains circumvent the ‘fight or flight’ response so often activated when any significant change takes place and why small incremental improvements are often better than huge audacious goals (think walking on a treadmill for a few minutes successfully rather than failing at one hour five times a week right off the bat).

Come to think of it, this strategy can also help our customers. If they’re feeling overwhelmed because they don’t know what to do with all their digital pictures, we can offer one small step forward rather than a laundry list of ‘what you should do.’ We can show them that they only need to do one thing right now. It doesn’t have to happen all at once, and this realization can help create lasting change.

It’s all about momentum, baby.