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05 / Human Experience in Products

Hosted by Sean Flaherty



Headshot of Kate Oneill

Kate O’Neill

KO Insights

Kate O’Neill, “tech humanist” is founder and CEO of KO Insights, an award-winning thought leadership and advisory firm helping companies, organizations, and cities make future-aligned meaningful decisions based on human behavior and data. Author of 3 books including PIXELS AND PLACE: Connecting Human Experience Across Physical and Digital Spaces, Kate speaks regularly at industry conferences and private events, providing keynotes, participating in panel discussions, and leading creative brainstorming workshops for groups of all sizes. Her expertise has been featured in CNN Money, TIME, Forbes. USA Today, Men’s Journal, the BBC, and other national and international media.

As companies implement more technology and automation into their products and services, it’s all too common to shift their focus towards the numbers and forget that customers and users are human beings with problems, frustrations, and joys. In this episode, Sean and Joe talk with Kate O’Neill, Fortune 500 tech guru and adviser, about her experiences with the internet and how she uses human-centered design to improve an individual’s experiences with products.

We should always be thinking of the human side of technology and software, considering how our users feel, think, and how to best communicate with them, to give us an advantage in how to better serve them, Kate O’Neill says. In the end, what we’re really selling is experiences. She calls this shift in focus in tech towards solving human problems the “digital technological disruption.” Kate does this work every day and shares a number of tactics for introducing more human-focused experiences into the software products you work on. She says, “if you want to go broader, probably the better option is to think about going deeper. How can you add more value to the people that are already your customers?”

Sean, Joe, and Kate also discuss:

  •  Methods for measuring success in building human-centric products
  • Building trust, loyalty, and advocacy within a capitalistic system
  • Brands that are succeeding at conveying meaningful strategy

…and more in this episode of Product Momentum.

Read our blog post here

Sean: [00:04:55] All right, so cool. So today we have a really great guest, Kate O’Neill, the underscore Kate O’Neill. So Kate, thanks for joining us.

Kate: [00:05:08] Thanks for having me. Thanks for the definite article with the underscore. I really appreciate that.

Joe: [00:05:16] Yeah, it’s the audio emphasis. So cool. So we met you and got to know you through a recent ITX conference we ran, but you’ve really been in the tech space for quite a while and have a couple books out now that we’ll talk about, but could you just introduce yourself for the audience and let them know how you got started, where you are at now?

Kate: [00:05:34] Yeah, so I definitely have been in the tech space for quite awhile. It’s been 20 some years or whatever. I got into it almost by accident because I was a linguist by education. I was a German major heading up the language laboratory at the University of Illinois at Chicago when I saw the graphical web for the first time, and so that dates me right away. But it blew my mind, and I just thought this is, this is everything. This is going to change the world, this is just phenomenal outstanding. So I just, I learned that I could actually build a Web site for the language laboratory, and so I just got crazy with it, I got excited and did that. It turned out to have been very early on in the sort of departmental Web site process, perhaps even the first departmental website at the University, and it got noticed by a guy in Toshiba in California and eventually they recruited me to come out and build their intranet for them which turned out to be the first departmental internet that Toshiba had.

Kate: [00:06:35] So I got on this role of doing these kind of firsts. And it was all just based on just curiosity and passion and seeing the possibility of what technology could do in these contexts, you know, to sort of create connections for people and opportunities for people to engage with brands and with departments and all the different entities that were trying to reach their their constituency. So I did that for Toshiba and then fast forward a few startups, because I did a bunch of startups, and I ended up at Netflix in one of the first hundred people there and created the first content management role for them which was pretty awesome. It was a great place to be and I loved my time there. So that’s that, and then I got to see the early days of Netflix, like a fighting all-out bloody battle with Blockbuster, and winning. So that was great.

Kate: [00:07:34] And then fast forward a bunch more years, I started my own agency, [meta]marketer, doing analytics and strategy, and got to work with cool companies like Adobe, Symantec, the Grand Ole Opry…this is great stuff. And now I do professional speaking and I’m an author, as you mentioned. I advise companies, mostly Fortune 100, but also high growth startups, all kinds of companies, really, on how to keep the focus on the human even during big digital transformation efforts. So how to make their business more successful and scalable through the digital technologies while also providing what I hope people embrace as more meaningful human experiences. So that’s the long, long version of this story. But there’s a lot of fun twists and turns out there.

Joe: [00:08:26] No, it’s great, very cool. And I think there’s one Blockbuster left, hanging on.

Kate: [00:08:33] Is it in Oregon?

Joe: [00:08:37] Is it? I can’t remember, I thought Alaska, somewhere out there though.

Kate: [00:08:40] I think it might be in Oregon, and I think, Sean, you’re in Oregon right now.

Sean: [00:08:45] I am in Portland, so I’ll have to go look for that today.

Kate: [00:08:47] Sean that’s your mission.

Sean: [00:08:49] Just for nostalgic purposes.

Joe: [00:08:53] So your new book is called Tech Humanist. And you’ve had a book before, Pixels and Place. What kind of inspired you to write Tech Humanist though?

Kate: [00:09:05] Yeah, so when I wrote Pixels and Place, it was meant to be a focus on this whole connected space of physical and digital experiences and how things like the Internet of Things and wearables and sensors and beacons, and all that type of technology is really merging the experiences of online and offline and digital and physical, and how there really doesn’t seem to be as much of a distinction as there ever was. And I touched on automation, and I touched on artificial intelligence in doing that work, but as the next kind of year unfolded, during my keynotes and other interviews and opportunities to discuss it, I found that one of the things I kept coming back to was that the world is increasingly automated as well, and there’s increasingly an emphasis on how businesses use technology to scale what they’re trying to do. And a lot of what’s happening is not necessarily done with a mind toward how that’s going to play out when it actually reaches this kind of tipping-point of scale where the world around us is almost entirely automated. And what does that look like for being a human in a world that’s almost untried entirely driven by machines?

Kate: [00:10:19] So I think business can really use technology and be very successful with it. And I think as humans who run businesses, it’s in our best interest to think holistically about how to make that technology serve the business objective while also serving the objectives of humanity in a very integrated way. So that was the gist. I wrote a manifesto, as one does, in mid 2017, that was called the Tech Humanist Manifesto, and the response to it was just so overwhelmingly good, I just felt so encouraged that other people were kind of thinking the same thing, that feedback was, you know, “you articulated exactly what I have been trying to figure out how to say,” and it was just so so exciting to think that there was almost like a movement waiting to happen. So I took that momentum and did the work, put the research together, and put this book together.

Kate: [00:11:14] So my hope is that what it does is create a model, a methodology, kind of a framework that business leaders can use to think really well about the strategy that they’re using, create is great, you know, profit driven experiences, or sorr, or profit maximizing experiences, that are good for the business, that that make everybody successful and happy within the business, but also that are creating these meaningful experiences for all the humans that are inside and outside the company interacting with those experiences.

Sean: [00:11:48] So I would argue that your timing for this kind of thought leadership and thinking is perfect.

Kate: [00:11:54] It’s great to hear.

Sean: [00:11:56] In theory, when you think about the evolution of how humanity has used technology to serve itself right, how we’re using it, you use the word digital transformation disruption. There’s a ton of words being thrown around the business world over the last five to ten years around what this actually means, but it is all about changing the way businesses operate to focus more on solving real problems for real humans in real context, which is what your thinking is all about. Stop me if I’m wrong.

Kate: [00:12:26] No, no that’s that’s a great articulation. Can you just come around with me and do that explanation everywhere we go?

Sean: [00:12:33] Sure.

Kate: [00:12:34] I think that’s a great opening for me to clarify too that I think digital transformation is this funny term, too. Right, like we’ve been talking about it on some level for maybe a decade or so. You know, it’s kind of surfaced here in there and the CIO spaces, and you know, kind of I.T. infrastructure spaces. Everybody knows that there is more and more need to digitize the operations of the business, the logistics, to kind of connect the dots on the supply chain, make sure there’s visibility and transparency through the supply chain and through the enterprise. And there’s incredible efficiencies that come from that.

Kate: [00:13:13] And then the opportunities that happen, you mentioned disruption too. The opportunities that happen when you think about platform disruption and the app driven service economy. The what can happen with using digital tools and data to try to surface opportunities that exist in marketplaces. There’s just a ton of rich opportunity there, both to make money and to make human lives more convenient and to make some interesting quality-of-life improvements for for some human beings. But I think where we end up too, one on one hand, one of the problems is I don’t think that some of those solutions necessarily look at the whole picture of humanity and aren’t necessarily thinking about all of the humans who are affected by some of those disruptions.

Kate: [00:14:02] And the other side of it is that digital transformation is almost like a misnomer, right. Digital is kind of missing the point. It’s really this data that’s driving this transformation, the underlying data that connects all these different pieces of the operation. And it’s the data that comes primarily from human interactions with those systems. So it’s us. It’s our human data, it’s our behaviors, and it’s our preferences and our purchases and our movements through space and all kinds of our behavior that’s generating that data that business is harvesting to make its decisions, to craft its algorithms to drive these things forward. And the important thing about that is to respect the real humanity that’s part of that data. So to create these experiences that acknowledge, and pay tribute to, the rich humanity that that data represents. So even when we talk about digital transformation, we’re really talking about data transformation, and fundamentally, we’re talking about human data that’s part of that. So every discussion about business, digital transformation, I feel needs to have a kind of core understanding about how much humanity is part of that discussion. And I think it’s very easy to abstract away from that in those discussions. So I just want to infuse that humanistic thinking in the boardroom at the moment of those decisions.

Sean: [00:15:34] That’s great. I think another way to frame that might be to say that it’s not really a digital transformation it’s more like an experience revolution, like we’re really…

Kate: [00:15:42] Oh man you’re good at this!

Sean: [00:15:45] Really, thanks. The transformation we’re seeing is around the focus on how we’re solving these problems in very technical and meaningful ways for people and that’s what we have to figure out. So our podcast here is really about building software products to interact with humans in solving those problems. So we want to try to get a little more tactical with you and get some ideas from you that might spark some of our listeners, our community, to build better human products. So do you have any specific advice for tactics, things that we might experiment with, or ways of thinking that will help us build more tactical human connections into software?

Kate: [00:16:31] Yeah I think there’s a number of specifics, or tactics, that I can suggest. And one way that I frame this is, in Pixels and Place actually, I introduced the integrated human experience design methodology, which my friend Jeffrey Zeldman lovingly calls IHED. I was talking a lot about the concept of integration as a whole is talking about adaptability and kind of learning from your iterative process, a whole bunch of other constructs that are part of that.

Kate: [00:17:08] But the thing that I think is the most tangible sort of specific takeaway that product thinkers can think about is how to find the meaningful metaphors of the brand and of the interaction and then how to make the experiences that are part of the product and part of the the extension of the product, all the interactions and micro interactions in and around that product, how can it resonate with those metaphors? How can it dimensionalize those metaphors? So, you know, even like a micro copy that happens within interactions, or onboarding that happens to a product or to an app, are really critically important in establishing that there’s this sense that there’s a shared understanding between the company or the brand or the product and the user of the product, the human who is the user of the product, right, that there’s some sort of shared understanding. Because a shared understanding is the key here, I always go back to this model of communication, that communication kind of fundamentally exists in three parts. It’s what the speaker is trying to communicate, the message itself, and then what the listener receives. And anywhere that there is an overlap or a shared understanding between those three parts and that’s where meaning exists.

Kate: [00:18:32] So I feel like that’s a very transferable model to thinking about product to thinking about experience design to thinking about anything at this kind of tangible level where you’re actually out there trying to create the things that people are going to interact with, and thinking that there’s an there’s an intention behind it, there’s what the business is trying to do through the product, and then there’s the actual kind of interface itself, the product itself, and then there’s what the person who is using that product experiences of it and like what their sense is of the whole thing. And you’re trying to create as much alignment there as you possibly can. And part of what helps do that is this dimensional thinking, this way of of creating this sense that the metaphors are intact and you’re enriching them as much as possible.

Kate: [00:19:22] One of the examples that I think helps clarify this is, one of my favorites is really Snapchat and their launch of the spectacles product. So you could argue whether or not it was a raging success, I mean any sort of profitable or a revenue centric measure I think, you know, it looks like a success in that in the sense that it drove tremendous amounts of adoption and traffic and so on. Long term, who knows whether that’s going to continue to be a product that survives, but the understanding that they had of what they were trying to create and the sense they were trying to create in the people who were using and buying this product was really intense. Like they understood that they wanted to create these standalone store fronts. I happened to be working on a project that was a block away from the one in New York City so I got to walk past everyday that it was happening, which was a couple of days I guess. People lined up around the corner, around the block, from this storefront, and literally every time I passed (a few times a day) people were snapping selfies of themselves in the line and it was literally a spectacle. It was something that people were excited to share, you know, in this sort of selfie context, this Instagram-able, Snapchat-able, kind of context that we all so familiar with now, the “share or you didn’t experience it” kind of existence. So they were doing that. And then of course, you know, if you actually went into the storefront and interacted with kiosks, it was a whole other thing. It’s very visual, it’s very novel and original but it was like no sort of typical storefront where you’re looking at something on a shelf and going to a counter. You’re going to a kiosk and the kiosk is there to guide you through the process of buying, show you options, and even that, taking a picture of you in the kiosk, it’s all still focused on this photo-oriented experience of the world. So in every possible way, they just did such a brilliant job of thinking about what they were trying to have people experience and making it as dimensional and rich as possible. So I mean, I think it doesn’t have to be a profound interaction. It just has to be one that actually connects in a resonant way with the people that it’s trying to connect with.

Joe: [00:21:54] Yet it makes a lot of sense, and you know, you mentioned the copy in your product, for example, over the last several years we kind of see like 404 pages having a fun copy and actually like acknowledging I “oops something’s wrong, we’re not just showing you a nasty error, let’s help actually get where you wanted to go,” and have it understand that you’re a person there. Because we’re always talking about the users, or the customers, or the clients, or things like that. At the end of the day, it’s always people, there’s a person that that’s talking about. So I think the copy is a great example. We see designers, product people, business stakeholders, all rallying around the copy more and more nowadays rather than just try to cram it in at the end once a product is built.

Kate: [00:22:39] Yes. It’s so funny you mentioned the 404 pages, I actually had that in my notes to prepare for our discussion today and I hadn’t quite touched on it yet. But that is exactly right that there’s this whole 404 phenomenon, or page phenomenon, that injects personality into this error page is something that, even then as you know, there have been roundups of like the best, most creative 404 pages out there, which is hilariously absurd to think that people are like going out of their way to go visit error pages on websites just because they express some element of the brand’s personality so well.

Joe: [00:23:16] It’s kind of a good test if the company quote unqoute, gets it, in terms of communication and knowing who you are. But so I guess without, you know, calling out any companies specifically, unless you want to, but any reasoning or kind of traps you think companies are falling into where they’re missing out on this, they’re just kind of not hitting the mark. Is it just laziness, they don’t know what they don’t know? Why is this still happening nowadays and how can we avoid that?

Kate: [00:23:48] I think I probably won’t call anyone out unless something comes to mind that seems like it’s a really specific, great example. But I think in general, what I seem see happen is that companies seem to go off the rails when they start trying to be all things to all people in some way. Like it’s like they’ve lost track of who it is that they’re really trying to be connected with and they’ve spread the spread themselves too thin, or they’re going after some kind of growth that isn’t meaningful anymore, that doesn’t of keep them in alignment with who is really kind of resonating with their product.

Kate: [00:24:25] So I mean, it’s a pretty natural tendency, I think, to want to broaden your scope of influence, and widen your reach, and make more money, and all of that. That’s totally understandable and it’s certainly the impulse that’s driven in corporate America through the sort of overriding capitalistic model that we work within. But, you know, sometimes adding that one feature or that feature set or making that one spin-off product model or whatever it is, is just enough to water down the alignment that you may have had with your core audience who just loved you, who totally thought, you know, you got them, you understood what you what they were about.

Kate: [00:25:10] So I think that one tendency that I would really discourage companies from playing to is, if you need to go deeper or broader, or sorry, I guess I should say that the other way, if you want to go broader, probably the better option is to think about going deeper. Like how can you add more value to the people that are already your customers so that they are going to tell other people who are like them, who share some sort of attribute with them? How can you find that sort of dimensional connection that there’s like an affinity attribute that if you add a feature to your product that’s going to add value to your core users, it’s going to bring in this additional set of users that are excited about what you do. And I think that’s a much richer experience for everyone and a much richer opportunity if you can find it and I think that’s just the hard work of it is trying to find what that what that core feature set is, what the expansion possibilities are in ways that don’t diminish the meaning that’s shared between the company or the brand and through its product with the humans that interact with the brand through that experience.

Sean: [00:26:32] That’s a great answer Kate, thank you for that. You’re really speaking our language here because we’re all about building loyalty and advocacy and I think that’s part of the formula, is really, once you’ve landed a customer how do you make that customer a customer for 100 years? Make sure that you’re taking care of them and building real loyalty through value.

Kate: [00:26:55] Well it”s what you see happen when you do it right. You know, you see the metrics go in the right direction. If you’re doing the right work of connecting with the audience who cares, the people who are really getting value from your product, then you should see retention numbers and loyalty numbers go up, you should see churn go down, you should see cost acquisition go down, you should see all of those metrics moving in the right direction because that’s what happens when you actually offer value.

Kate: [00:27:31] And it’s so funny because I think, I choose this language of meaning and meaningfulness to to speak about, and I think it sounds like I’m talking about something very like sort of touchy feely and feel good, and it, is but it also is a very practical kind of idea because it translates into the kind of results that any business leader wants. If you want the growth, you want the loyalty, because it’s more profitable to keep a customer than to gain a customer, right, like generally speaking, or to have to go out and buy a customer, in a sense. You want the ability to see churn go down. You don’t want people leaving. So you can figure out these ways that you can model what’s meaningful and then actually figure out the data model too that tells you for sure that you’re making the right decisions, that you’re doing the right things, and that there’s something that’s really happening through all the different touch points that you’re having with people and that’s bringing you back insights about how you can continue to improve and add value for people, but that you’re that you’re doing it right, that you’re adding meaning. And hopefully that means that your work is more meaningful too.

Sean: [00:28:48] You touched on something there that reminded me of a quote I wrote down from Pixels and Place. I’m going to read it real quick, ready. “Don’t allow your algorithms to be subservient to the profit motive.” And I love that quote because it pretty much sums up everything you just said.

Kate: [00:29:05] It does, it is so much more succinct than what I just said.

Sean: [00:29:08] It’s your words. But anyways, we try to we try to live and build our entire business around that, helping companies to figure out, how are we going to take your clients, your customers on this journey through software? And you also touched on KPI so I want to talk about that real quick. We have a framework that we call the loyalty ladder, and it’s really around setting three core KPI’s for every software product. How is it building trust? How is it building loyalty? And how is it building advocacy? Because we believe that if we can get every user on that journey, trust loyalty advocacy, that we will be on the way to building that hundred-year sustainable relationship where they’re going to come back to our software product forever and in the future to solve those problems. Have you seen any other powerful KPI’s around this stuff, around meaning and building real human relationships through software?

Kate: [00:30:03] So I think that the work that I’ve seen that really seems the most meaningful and exciting to me about KPI’s and metrics in general with product work and with strategy and design work and all of that kind of tactical, hands on, work of creating the experiences, tend to be either proxy metrics for something more abstract. Like meaningfulness is something very difficult to measure, right. It’s going to be nearly impossible to come up with some measure that truly represents meaningfulness. But you can come up with proxy measures that within the context of what you’re doing give you a sense that you’re on the right track.

Kate: [00:30:46] And I think about things like memorability, which is often measured by how how well somebody retains your brand when they see it again, or you just mentioned trust and advocacy. Advocacy is a great one, how often are people referring you? How often are they sending other people your way, or can you see what kind of chatter is going on in social about you, and is it positive? So there’s a lot of that kind of stuff, but I also come back to, you know, Jim Collins and the Good to Great sort of framework of the the hedgehog principle, and what really is unique about what you’re doing? And being able to come up with this kind of complex construct. Jim Collins in Good to Great talked about the profit-per-x, you know, the denominator that’s really your thing, like what you’re doing that’s unique in some way.

Kate: [00:31:49] And I learned, I was at heading up customer experience and product development there, and we did this work of trying to come up with increasingly nuanced understanding of what we were really optimizing for. So for example, when we first started on this work we kept talking about increasing the number of sales, the units we were selling, or talking about how much money transacted through the website everyday. But after a while, through some discussion, we started talking more and more about the subscriptions because that was more the meaningful unit of what was actually happening. People are buying magazine subscriptions, so in order to make this more contextual and relevant, let’s not talk about it as just money or just orders let’s make sure we’re kind of bringing in that one little nuance of subscriptions. But then there was another facet that was like, “well really we’re talking about, if we want to optimize this for a customer-centric point of view, we need to switch that and not talk so much about subscriptions, but rather about subscribers.” How many subscribers do we have interacting with the site everyday and coming back, and what’s happening with that? What’s our profit per subscriber, not our profit per subscription? And then one further refinement was, you know, a lot of what we understood about the model of our business was that it was really only successful, and we had really only done our job, if people were renewing the subscriptions that they bought from us. So the profit per denominator became renewing subscribers over time, profit per renewing subscribers.

Kate: [00:33:30] So you can see how that evolution is showing this process of becoming increasingly customer centric and increasingly a finer point on getting that nuanced understanding of what’s really making the meaningful connection and how can even just that little bit of thought, that little bit a shift toward that language and that model of the measurement, can make such a huge difference in the way that you’re aligning programs, and what priority you’re assigning to features, and what kind of road mapping you do to make sure that you’re getting the right things to happen that moves the needle for the company and also creates the most meaningful experiences for the people.

Joe: [00:34:12] Very, very cool. So putting myself in the shoes of a listener, let’s say I’m a CEO of a small company, or I’m in charge of product at a company, and I’m listening to this and I’m like, “wow we’re really messing this right now, we’re totally off.” Because it’s really overwhelming to think about how to fix all this at once, what would be like a good baby step that they could take to get started? Like, if they’re done listening to this, or tomorrow, and how can they maybe like crawl there rather than run there?

Kate: [00:34:44] You know. I actually think that the best step that anybody who finds themself in that sort of situation can do is, it sounds like a big macro step but it’s actually something that brings so much clarity that it’s worth doing, and it’s not that hard, trying to come up with some concise articulation of the company’s strategic purpose. That’s what I keep coming back to in my work is that the shape that meaning takes in business is purpose. And it’s this aligning kind of force that when a company understands what it is that they exist to do and are trying to do at scale, then they can actually really make much better decisions about the priorities that they set and the resource allocation that they have and everything that kind of flows from that. And it even informs digital transformation efforts because it has to be understood at this top level of strategy before operations can really align around it, and brand and marketing and experience design can really align around it, and data strategy flows through it, and technology deployments should really be informed by that same sense of strategic purpose.

Kate: [00:36:05] So all of that stuff eventually does need to be kind of in alignment and thought through, but even just doing the work of trying to come up with that one concise articulation of strategic purpose can make an enormous difference on the remaining decisions you make that day and in where where you put emphasis in prioritization and goals, even. So, you know, to be clear about what I mean by strategic purpose, I always love to use the example of Disney theme parks because they’re sort of the gold standard of strategic purpose, articulation. And they talk about “create meaningful experiences” as being their strategic purpose and everything kind of flows from that, and you can see how that works operationally. If you’re someone who’s on the front lines of customer service it makes a big difference, but even if you’re if you’re doing product development work that’s a little longer range or if you’re doing operational work that’s an financial or accounting or whatever, everything can come back in some dimensional way to that understanding of “create magical experiences.” So it’s a very helpful aligning philosophy that guides the company and guides the efforts within the company. That’s what I would say that people that could stand to do is spend 20 minutes today just trying to put into three to five words what it is the company exists to do and is trying to do at scale. And even on a product level, I believe that’ll really make a difference in a very short amount of time.

Sean: [00:37:44] I love it. Good advice. So some specific questions, and then we’ll wrap up. And by the way you ruined my last question; I was ready to ask you what company could you give us as an example? That was great, Disney is a great example.

Kate: [00:37:58] Oh, yeah, yeah. I’m sure I can come up with a few others, but were you going to ask another question?

Sean: [00:38:05] Yeah. Give me an example of a specific software product that you recently used that you felt was connected to the meaning for the company that it was built for.

Kate: [00:38:16] It is a tough question. You know, it’s funny the way my brain works, I don’t often hold on to specific examples and I have to go back to the writing I’ve done. I don’t have one off the top of my head. I think there’s been quite a number of of companies and brand experiences that I’ve had in the last few weeks or months that have seemed like, “well this one facet of the interaction is really good, and I’m really pleased that they made this thing so nice.” But then usually there’s something that’s like, “ugh, it didn’t get the rest of this right and it would be nice if the attention that was paid over here was also paid over here.”

Sean: [00:39:00] So movement in the right direction, but nobody’s got it quite perfect so that it’s become memorable. Which is great for me because it mean there’s a lot of opportunity in the world.

Kate: [00:39:11] Yeah there is a lot of opportunity in the world.

Sean: [00:39:14] It’s great.

Kate: [00:39:15] You know, you were talking about companies that do a great job of keeping meaning in the forefront of their strategy and how I used Disney as an example, but I think another one is, the kind of classic is, Southwest Airlines has never failed to come through in dimensional ways about meaningful strategy. And it goes through every facet of their brand and their operations, their experience. I mean they think about the way that they even set up the company to be operationally efficient by having all the same airplane models so that pilots could fly them all, so maintenance crew can take care of them all. They do these short hops, is their model, which means that they can they can keep their schedule very on time. Everything is so streamlined and so thoughtful, and of course the value proposition is that there a low cost airline, but that’s not really what’s happening at an experiential level. Because what’s happening is they’re sort of handing that over to customers kind of with a wink and a nod, going like, “you want a low cost airline, right?” Like you’re willing to trade frills like assigned seats and meals and things like that for being able to pay a little less and have a more no frills experience. And we’ll have a little fun with that, like we’ll do the safety announcements in a rap, or something goofy, and those stock ticker is gonna be LUV, luv, right. Like it’s all so richly understood at a really really holistic level. So I mean, I think there they have that sort of gold standard that I come back to you when it comes to thinking through every facet of how the company comes to life in different ways for people as they interact with it. And even their app, everything about what they do is a rich translation of that understanding. So there’s one great example for you.

Sean: [00:41:21] We usually ask our guests, Kate what’s one number one book you would recommend that people in our audience read? You’ve mentioned Jim Collins and his hedgehog principle and Good to Great. One of my favorites is The Speed of Trust, great book. Is there any other books that you’d recommend? Obviously your own, which we will recommend as well.

Kate: [00:41:51] Of course, yes, mine. I’m very excited about about my new one being out on the market and everything. But, no, you guys were talking about your loyalty ladder and the trust and advocacy, and advocacy, you know, of course translates into something being so remarkable that it’s worthy of discussing with people. It’s like worthy of being a representative of. And I think the best sort of standard bearer of that and that the people who are having the most informed conversation about that right now in the market that is current to today are Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin with their new book Talk Triggers. And the best thing about this book is that it has alpacas on the cover, so you can’t go wrong one way or the other. Absolutely Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin’s new book Talk Triggers I would highly recommend people look into to get a real understanding of that word of mouth marketing and how really doing the right things, doing things right, and making the experiences as dimensional and rich as possible will translate into this advocacy that you talked about.

Sean: [00:43:02] Alright, you sparked one more little thought here. You mentioned you started out as a linguist which I find fascinating becauses words fascinate me, because I believe that at the core of all culture is really words and how we define them and how we use them, right. And advocacy is one of those words that’s very important to my business, to what we do here at ITX. Here’s how we define it, I’d love your feedback on how we define the word advocacy. I believe advocacy is when your customer is willing to invest in the future of your product or service. Not necessarily in your business, but in the product or service that you’re offering, they’re willing to invest in that. And that could come in many forms, it could come in the form of a referral, as we would traditionally think of as an advocacy event, but it could also come in the form of unsolicited feedback. When they’re willing to step out of their day and write you a note, put thoughts on paper that is constructive, I’m not talking about complaints, but constructive feedback that will help you improve your product or service, that’s like gold to your business.

Kate: [00:44:02] That’s true.

Sean: [00:44:02] And that’s a sign of a real advocate. So we’ve catalogued a bunch of behaviors that we believe are advocacy behaviors and they all kind of boil up to this investment in the future of your product or service sort of definition. What do you think about that?

Kate: [00:44:17] Well I love it I think it’s a beautiful kind of way to think about the value that’s being transacted between brand and customer, right. I think a lot of people think of there being value that happens one way, right. Like if people pay you money, that’s the show of value. But you’re talking about a much more nuanced understanding of value that says time and attention and interest is also a form of value that humans show each other as well as the brands that they enjoy. So that’s a really nice dimensional kind of approach to that. And I love too that it’s investing in the future of the product and service because there’s a sort of deferred belief going on there, right, like you’re saying, “I believe in you enough to think that paying a subscription to you or giving you this feedback now is worth my trust in doing so because you are going to translate it, you’re going to to turn that around into something that’s going to improve my experience and others experiences and it will have been worth my time to do so.” So I think that that’s a beautiful articulation of that.

Sean: [00:45:35] Thank you.

Joe: [00:45:35] Cool, so one more question and then we’ll wrap. So at this point, would you consider Sean and I to be Tech Humanists?

Kate: [00:45:48] Would you like to call yourselves Tech Humanists? Because that’s what matters.

Joe: [00:45:52] I’m changing my title right now.

Sean: [00:45:55] Of course you would.

Kate: [00:45:56] So this is a really fun thing that’s been a change for me is that when I first started, when I wrote the Tech Humanist Manifesto, I had been sort of using this term loosely for myself for a while, and I decided with that manifesto that I was kind of boldly declaring that I was a Tech Humanist. I hadn’t seen anyone else use that term, so I thought like, “this is really important. I’m putting my stake in the ground.” But it became very evident to me with the feedback I got from writing that and sharing that, that other people felt that too, and it was so important that this not be my term, that it be our term. That we are all tech humanists if we want to be, and this is something that I’ve said many times in front of audiences, when you see this book come out and it’s called Tech Humanist, I want you to feel that I wrote it for you, not just for me. Although I did write it for me, but I did write it for you. I wrote it so that you would see your name, your description, in the title of the book, and know that this book is about you and how you can make the world better for all of us.

Kate: [00:47:03] So I think it really is, you know, Sean, I think you’re the one who said early on that this is the right time for this discussion, and it really feels like it is. There’s such a tipping point about to happen with automation and with artificial intelligence and every little bit makes a difference. Every little bit of everybody within their product teams, within their companies, within everywhere that they are part of making decisions about data and digital technologies and experiences, every little bit of recognizing the full complement of humanity that that’s part and parcel of what goes into that experience and who is going to interact with that experience, all of it is going to make a difference at scale at some point in the not too distant future. So yes, I absolutely want you to be Tech Humanists right along with me. So thank you for asking.

Sean: [00:47:58] Alright. Well thank you, Kate. I think that wraps us up. Your work is profound, it’s refreshing and different, and it’s really important.

Kate: [00:48:06] Thank you so much.

Sean: [00:48:07] For the world and especially for our industry. So keep after it. And for readers, or listeners, rather go Tech Humanist if you do nothing else.

Joe: [00:48:17] Where can they find it, Kate?

Kate: [00:48:18] Right now just Amazon and then it will be available in bookstores everywhere pretty soon. So yeah, check Amazon, and absolutely spread the word. I’m so excited to share this with the world.

Joe: [00:48:31] Awesome. Well thanks so much for joining us today.

Kate: [00:48:33] Thank you both.

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