thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

The Last Question First

By on June 24, 2009

Alan Webber's Rules of Thumb is an absolute must-read. It is quintessential to leading your organization through the next day, week, year and beyond. It is game-changing, but simple. It is practical and inspiring at the same time. And it weighs in solidly on thinking like a customer.

For example, Webber's Rule #3 is ‘Ask the last question first.' No effort will be successful without a clear definition of victory. When Webber and Bill Taylor co-founded Fast Company magazine, their goal or "definition of victory" was to have an impact. He challenges us, when we launch a new initiative, to ask ourselves, "What's the point of the exercise?" or "What are we trying to achieve?" as we undertake any new initiative. When the answer involves a clear understanding of the benefit to your customers, your team will have clarity. With a clear definition of your destination, you will be able to know when you have arrived. Hammering out this definition early in the process can be uncomfortable work, but it will help you know the right way to focus your efforts if your customer is central to that final destination.

Rule #2 calls on businesses to ‘Give the voters (i.e. stakeholders) what they want,' as if you are "running for office and every vote counts." Success is based on proving to customers that you care about the same things they care about—"Does it work? and Can we make it work better?" If we learn to measure our performance by these simple scorecard factors, we will win "the heart and minds—and wallets" of our customers and build a community that follows and trusts you. He also reminds us in Rule #15 to engage customers in genuine conversations and to back up this sincerity by being prepared to listen and respond.

The book combines 52 truths (all important) into a system for winning at business. Read every one of them from your customers' orientation because Webber has done an excellent job in framing our business practices this way. However, to illustrate the critical nature of collaboration, Webber's blog http://rulesofthumbbook.blogspot.com/ graciously asks readers to add their own ideas. He proposes that "there are teachers everywhere" if we look for them and share what we know.

It's a powerful manifesto for business growth when we evaluate every decision and new idea based on the impact they will have on our customers. Since his days at Fast Company, Webber has been an amazing advocate for changing business models in the direction of stronger, more sensible customer relationships. He describes the new approach as based on abundance and active learning rather than taking the "low road" of thinking only about your own organization. This new code for business will be built around an honest, generous community of your stakeholders that does not "guarantee success, but permits it." Use Rules of Thumb to take your business to the next level and to make an impact!

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