The true value of any philosophy/tenet is proven when its concepts can be effectively applied outside their area of original intent. One of my colleagues, Joan, shared her story of how the Thinking Like a Customer mindset/philosophy and other Delta Point tenets (Words Matter, creating a safe environment, using soft words) helped create an impact within her community—far removed from the typical selling interaction. I think her story is worth sharing.
Joan became involved in a volunteer organization that is a coalition of different churches, synagogues and mosques that work together to improve their community. They collectively identify the main issues facing their city and then as a group prioritize and decide which ones to tackle.
Joan became active in the “jobs” committee which conducted research including internet searches and interviews with key community stakeholders to arrive at a recommended suggestion for tackling the city’s unemployment problems. Their solution was unique because the most common ways to attract employment growth usually focus on high paying jobs and an educated workforce. Their volunteer organization decided to focus their efforts on the most neglected part of the city—where high employment, high crime rates and low education levels are prevalent. This volunteer organization decided that addressing the needs of the most underserved residents of the city would likely produce far ranging domino effects that would target gains in employment but also foster decreasing crime rates and raising high school graduation rates.
The fruition of the committees’ efforts culminated with a presentation of their recommendations to the community leaders in front of an audience of over 2,000 community members. Obtaining support from the Mayor and other elected officials in a public proclamation is what drives the change initiative. The committee members recognize that as individuals they have little or no power but that working together, great things can happen. The key to successfully implementing their recommendation for the jobs committee was getting their Mayor’s buy-in.
This proved to be more of a challenge that originally thought—and here is where the application of Thinking Like a Customer and other Delta Point tenets played a significant role. This jobs committee recognized the need to ask the Mayor privately first before asking him to commit to at this large gathering. (After all, you don’t want to waylay a potential supporter and important leader of your initiative). Along with another committee, representatives met with the Mayor to present their findings and recommendations. That initial meeting did not go as well as expected for the Mayor did not know that the jobs committee would be part of this discussion. With that less than audacious start, the jobs committee representative presented their recommendation on creating employment in this underserved section and the Mayor agreed to support it. However, the following day, members of the Mayor’s team contacted the leaders of the jobs committee to indicate that the Mayor may have spoken prematurely before he truly understood the request and he may not be on board after all.
This concern dominated the thoughts of the jobs committee as they prepared for their presentation in front of 2,000 members. If the Mayor refused to commit to what they were asking at this large gathering, there was the real fear that this initiative would die a premature death. One of the group leaders had written a draft of what the committee leaders would say at the assembly and all were invited to provide feedback.
After reviewing this draft, Joan introduced some ideas of how to improve it—hoping to increase the likelihood of obtaining the Mayor’s buy-in. She explained the tenets of Thinking Like a Customer and Words Matter and how the committee needed to think of possible ways that the Mayor would hear and react to their proposal. She began to make other suggestions, such as capturing interest with their opening. And began asking questions such as, “What would be the best way to persuade the Mayor to adopt our solution when he is also heavily invested in addressing this problem of unemployment through other methods and solutions?”
There was a change in focus for the committee members realized it probably made sense to think like the Mayor. They realized that they should acknowledge the efforts that the Mayor had already made to tackle this important issue. They then began to apply the DPI tenet of Words Matter—using soft words to suggest what they want the Mayor to commit to rather than using stronger words which would likely sound like they were making demands.
The result was a complete revision of the draft of how the committee was going to publicly describe their recommendation to the Mayor in front of the assembly of 2,000. There was still a great deal of consternation as this date approached because the committee leader continued to receive daily phone calls from the Mayor’s office that the Mayor may not be able to support their initiative.
The way that the committee presented the findings seem to make a difference. Incorporating Thinking Like a Customer/Words Matter, the first presenter commended the Mayor on his focus on collaboration, on creating jobs and revitalizing the downtown. She mentioned his history of working on similar initiatives in previous public service roles and included an emotional element. The speaker emphasized the importance of the Mayor’s support to be able to convene a meeting of all the disparate groups—the major first step in adopting this initiative—because the anchor institutions, public and private foundations and groups charged with creating jobs all said they would come to this meeting only if invited by the Mayor. The presenter shared afterward that the entire time she was speaking she was watching the Mayor’s reaction—he was smiling and nodding. When it came time to ask him to support their recommendation, the Mayor unequivocally stated “yes”.
This initiative is still in its formative stages. But among the committee members there is the feeling that if the presentation had been done differently—the way it was originally structured, they likely would have encountered a different outcome and would not have been successful. Because the process is still ongoing, we don’t know the end result yet. But it is gratifying to see how these Delta Point tenets can help empower individuals to drive change that can benefit communities and change lives.