When a powerful commitment to your customer’s satisfaction is met with creativity and innovation, there is direct access to breakthrough performance.
This kind of breakthrough takes diving fully into a customer’s world and responding to what you discover, with creativity and commitment.
What does it mean to delve deeply into a customers’ world?
In the beginning, it means suspending what you already know and listening freshly. This means cultivating a real curiosity about your customer—who they are and what you don’t yet know about their unexpressed needs and desires.
Adidas exemplified this kind of commitment to breakthrough performance in their response to a large and very public failure.
Starting in 1970, Adidas designed a new official soccer ball for every World Cup Series. Then, in 2010, the players publicly condemned that year’s Adidas ball.
Faced with how to respond while planning for the 2014 series, Adidas had two choices, they could:
- Rebrand and repackage the 2010 ball for the 2014 World Cup (which would incur a minimal cost outside of production).
- Invest significant resources to improve the product, (which would also protect their brand reputation).
The company chose number two—investing significant resources to create a product that completely fulfilled the players’ needs.
They realized that to take the path of choice #1 would lead to a predictable outcome. It would simply be re-doing what had been done so that it was at best “good”.
The new commitment required breakthrough performance on several fronts, extraordinary creativity and going completely outside what was predictable.
- The first breakthrough required was listening in a new way. To do that, Adidas took a deep dive into their customer’s world. For over two-and-a-half years they listened to 600 of the world’s top players from 30 teams in 10 countries.
- After completing this long process, they then applied what they had discovered to the creative design work.
This kind of creativity takes being able to see beyond any existing constraints.
With an enormous commitment of time, energy and resources the Adidas team kept stretching far beyond ordinary limitations. They even utilized wind tunnel research and other unusual methods and ultimately redesigned the entire ball.
What are some of the outcomes of this combined customer commitment and creativity?
- Wayne Rooney, a top soccer star who had publicly criticized the 2010 ball, is now publicly a “big fan” of the new ball.
- In the market place, the ball is scoring big as well. “The new ball is selling right now for $160 to $170. And Adidas can’t get them out fast enough,” says John Eric Goff, Professor of Physics at Lynchburg College and the author of Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports
Breakthrough performance often involves this kind of powerful commitment to an outcome, even when the pathway to the outcome is unknown.
Are you committed to a breakthrough for one of your customers or clients? How might you support them with a new, deep and open listening?