Staring 2013 in the Face

20121231-103111.jpg Happy New Year, one and all!

We’re looking back on 2012 with gratitude for all the exciting opportunities that have presented themselves to us this year. Moving our head office to Nova Scotia has been an exciting challenge. We are especially proud of having maintained our global presence, working with clients in Canada, the UK, the US, Germany, and Belgium. And we’ve stretched our heads around product ranges from drugs for atrial fibrillation, to knitting, to mental health, to energy drinks, and back to cardiovascular health again, all the while helping our clients get a better understanding of what their customers need and want.

So what’s on tap for 2013? Hopefully, more of the same. We’ll also continue to manifest our gratitude by finding ways to fight against hunger, homelessness, and poverty here in Canada. By partnering with us, you help us support these important causes. For that, we thank you.

Continued success for 2013,

Megann and Steve

Clear out the Clutter!

Our year-end is the end of July, so as we always do at this time of year, we’ve been de-cluttering. (Some might say Uncluttering). It’s amazing how much stuff we keep because we’re going to get around to dealing with it someday. Or because it seems wrong to just throw it out. We beseech you, do it. Get rid of those articles you have been meaning to read. Throw away those journals that are six months old and you are sure must contain something important. It’s a very freeing feeling to get things that have been simply weighing you down off your desk.

While you’re at it, mid-calendar year is a great time to re-look at your goals and objectives. (Remember those great ideas you came back to work with in January?) What’s working? What’s not? Now that you’ve thrown or repurposed all the stuff that has been holding you back, you can look at your tactics with fresh eyes – and make some real progress.

Don’t know where to start? Here are four great ways to get going:

  1. Start with the obvious – Pick one area that is very visible to you (hint: it might be your desk – but it could be your desktop or your inbox). Give yourself a time limit (an hour) or a number limit (100 items). Work until that limit has elapsed. You’ll be able to see real progress.
  2. Clean the slate – remove all items from an area you want to sort, and only put back what you is either useful, necessary, or beautiful. Let the rest go.
  3. Take 10 – 10 minutes at the end of each workday to put things in order so you have a clean slate the next morning.
  4. One in, one out – Don’t add anything else to the clutter without throwing something away, giving to charity, or repurposing.

Cleaning up our act,

Megann and Steve

You Gotta Have Faith

Last night we went to a launch meeting for the Canadian Augustinian Centre for Social Justice. The Order of St. Augustine is a United Nations NGO dedicated to justice and peace, and the Centre will act as its Canadian Commission. After a kick-off by hosts Brian Dwyer, Lisa Romano-Dwyer and Emeka Obiezu, Regis College’s Jack Costello, shared some very moving thoughts on what’s changed in our world and why we need to change our thinking on homelessness. Stephen Gaetz, told us about the Homeless Hub, and some research that shows the impact of homelessness on our youth.

What’s all this got to do with my business, you might ask? It’s a question of faith. Not just “big-F” faith, or religious faith, but a belief that problems can be solved, or that challenges are surmountable. Everyone in attendance last night didn’t agree on how homelessness could be addressed. Each had their own ideas. But everyone agreed on one thing: that the lack of a basic human need such as shelter, in a country as rich as Canada, should be resolved. They all left the room full of hope, ideas, and a will to do something.

Now fast-forward to whatever challenges you’re facing in your work and imagine…a new product to be launched in complex market? Declining margins in the face of new economic realities? Customers who are looking for a solution that you can’t figure out how to provide? Imagine bringing your team together in a room. If you can agree on the over-arching principle that your problem can, and should, be solved, that’s faith. Bring together a committed team of individuals who believe something can be done, and it will, even if you can’t yet see what that solution is.

Have a little faith,

Megann and Steve

We know what to do, why aren’t we doing it?

Yesterday, plenty of news time and attention was given to Active Health Kids Canada’s Report Card – where kids (and by extension, their parents) received poor-to-failing grades on activity, nutrition, and lifestyle factors. Ironically, we spent at least an hour in front of the computer and/or the television hearing about the findings of the report, and associated commentary from various experts. The most disturbing thing about this is that when we talk to colleagues and friends about the report, they say they know what to do. They believe they understand nutrition. The concept isn’t lost on them that they should be exercising, eating right, and taking their kids outside to play instead of sitting in front of the tube. So when we know what to do, why don’t they do it?

This highlights a problem we often see with research designed to listen to customers. If we simply ask them if they understand what a product is supposed to do, or why it’s good for them, or how to use it, they say, “of course!” If we ask whether they intend to use it, they say, “absolutely!” But it takes more than conceptually understanding the need for a product, service, or activity for an individual to buy it, use it, or take it on board. Here are some key reasons simply knowing what to do (or buy, or use) isn’t enough:

  1. Customers don’t like being told what to do. The need to have an opinion on nearly everything means that people are inundated with advice. Consumers are feeling like they aren’t allowed to think for themselves.
  2. Giving stuff up is difficult. More often than not, the advice that is being dispensed is being framed as what must be given up, instead of focusing on what will be gained.
  3. There’s a rule for everything – and every rule seems to contradict every other rule. Just this morning, on our walk, we saw a public school yard that had a sign saying kids were allowed to play there, but adults weren’t, at least not without a permit. Yet no one lets their kid go out to play alone anymore – so how is that going to work?
  4. Change always costs something. Usually we’ve justified our choices not only to ourselves, but to others. So when we do something different, we have to invest time, energy, and effort in explaining why. The risk that someone will disagree is high. So it’s important to make sure it’s clear why the new choice isn’t just great, but why it’s better.
  5.  Experience trumps ideas. When it comes to achieving change, ideas (good ones, like “I should try this”, or bad ones, like “what if it tastes funny?”) are strong. But perceptions can usually be overcome by experience. The old Alka-Seltzer slogan, “Try it, you’ll like it”, couldn’t have said it better. Making it easy to try can help.

So now that you know some of the reasons why your customer is demonstrating a gap between intention and action, we’ll leave it up to you to decide what to do about it (because we don’t want to tell you what to do).

Trying it (and liking it),

Megann and Steve

It’s a Stretch

So many things can stand in the way of making a personal or professional change—it seems too risky, it feels too unfamiliar, or we can’t be sure we’ll be able to control or accept the outcome.  Lately we’ve taken on some personal challenges to try and get to a new place in our lives.  Our quest for healthier, more authentic living has opened up a whole series of doors, some leading to a thornier path than we might have anticipated, and others pointing the way to exciting growth opportunities for ourselves or our work.  This leads to a sort of change-attraction that makes us actively seek change to a greater degree than we might have done previously.

How did we learn to leave our risk-aversion behind?  First, any change that leads to some sort of accomplishment is exhilarating and empowering.  It encourages us to continue the pursuit additional change—if a little is good, perhaps more is better. Or in other words, a small victory will often lead to more opportunities to succeed. On a personal level, this has been borne out in our family weight loss challenge.  After the Christmas holidays we vowed (along with other willing siblings/victims) to get in better shape and lose some of the celebratory flab we had accumulated over the winter.  So we have lost weight, for some of us, as many as 25 pounds, to date.  We’re all eating better food (and less of it), and exercising regularly.  But a funny thing has happened.  Losing excess weight from the body has altered our minds, as well.  Our attitudes are leaner and cleaner. Some of our old ideas just don’t fit any more. We’re not as interested in eating junk food or oversize portions as we once were, but neither are we as inclined to tolerate out-of-condition thinking or projects with tenuous objectives. Instead, we’re pushing ourselves, both physically and mentally, to work continually toward stronger, more efficient outcomes. Why is that?  Maybe Oliver Wendell Holmes was on to something.  He said, “A man’s mind once stretched by a new idea, can never regain its original dimensions.” 

With that in mind, we’re urging you to consider the challenges you’ve thought of undertaking, but that may have been resting on the shelf.  Dust them off, look them over, and decide if they still seem worthwhile. If they do, spend a little time (not too long!) making a plan, and take the first step.  You’ll be glad you did.

Some tips that we’ve learned during our journey might work for you, as well:

  1. Eat less.  Less of the things that you know are bad for you, and more of the good.  The same goes for work—when prioritizing, give precedence to actions that will help you grow and fuel your passion, and try to diminish the tasks or behaviours that don’t really add value to you or anyone around you.
  2. Move more. Physically, this means planning for a half-hour to an hour of exercise every day. Mentally, learning something new, or finding a way to integrate a new idea into your thinking.
  3. Drink lots of water.  Or in the case of the mind, feed it often with interesting, challenging articles or conversations.
  4. Fibre is your friend.  Health-wise, it helps with digestion and weight loss, and has a host of other benefits.  In work, it’s the stuff that simply must be done, like planning, that won’t always be obvious, but that will keep everything else you are doing in balance.

Here’s to change and challenges,

Megann & Steve

Resolving to be Healthier, Wealthier, and Wiser in 2008

Did you make a resolution to be healthier this year?  To manage your money better?  To learn more or to expand your horizons?  Naysayers would suggest that resolutions are a waste of time, that within a month or two we’ll have lost track, and that all of this effort on resolutions is simply a distraction that won’t help us get ahead.  But we like to take the opposite tack.  Because we are continually looking at ways to get better, and to help our clients be better as well, we have to have hope that all our hard work is worthwhile. We had a great holiday season to finish up 2007.  Steve’s dad, Bob, turned 75 just before the changing of the year, and the whole Willson clan came together for a wonderful family party.  Brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews travelled from around the globe to share this special milestone.  It was a happy time, and also a time for reflection.  Cards and letters arrived from friends and family far and near, telling the story of a year—in some cases fabulously successful, marvellously healthy, or meeting milestones in learning or education.  Some of our circle has not been so fortunate in 2007.  Through all of this, we’ve come to realize that being healthier is being wealthier.  Most of us have taken on a personal health challenge that we plan to address in the New Year (some individually, and others as a collective).  We’re thinking about how better health is the key to better performance, clearer decision-making, more stamina at work, and more positive relationships with friends and family.  Perhaps that means that we’re already a little healthier, wealthier, and wiser than we were in 2007! Whatever your resolutions are for 2008, we wish you all continued success. 

Megann & Steve