Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cross Pollinating: Uncommon Service and Conviviality

I am spending time synergizing Frances Frei and Anne Morriss' Uncommon Service with Wendy Pollock and Kathleen McLean's Convivial Museum.

It is at the intersection of these two works that I hope to be focusing some of my work in the coming months and years, assessing the balance and importance of the visitor experience and the "content piece."

It is the shared experience that seems paramount in the present day, and our museum field is telling us this, right?

On the other hand, what are we, if we are not educators?  Illuminators?

It is, in fact, at the intersection of these two things --conviviality and uncommon service that the transformative outcome can blossom.  This is the perfectly tepid-to-steamy bathwater environment where good things grow; where we are cleansed and revitalized.  From here, we can shock, teach through participation and invigorate.  

The quality of aliveness we see in these images is what we call conviviality. We chose the word "convivial" for several reasons. Its roots—together and being alive—characterize what we think is a major role and responsibility of museums: to be places where people can share their common humanity and to offer opportunities not only for learning and social engagement, but also for reflection and solitude in the presence of others. 
Pollock and McLean from Museum 2.0

Uncommon Service lays out a prescription for how to move your business toward a customer focused reality.  
To tell you the truth I am only 1/2 way through Uncommon Service, but the authors lay out a pretty clear set of goals and how to get there:

Great service, it turns out, is not made possible by running the business harder and faster on the backs of a few extraordinary people...Once you accept the idea of trade-offs -- and break the addition to service heros -- the inputs into service excellence are much easier to consume.  We lay out these inputs in a framework we call the four service truths...: a service offering, a service funding mechanism, and employee management system, and a customer management system. 
Frei and Morriss Uncommon Service p. 5

I discovered the book through recent, strong guest post on Museum Geek by Janet Carding.

Per Suse Cairns who runs Museum Geek, "This post is written by Janet Carding, Director and CEO, Royal Ontario Museum, who very generously offered to share some core takeaways from attending a Harvard Business School executive course on Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management."

Y'know, as another thought, one must be struck at how women are taking over.  And we are likely better for it. People speak of the ability for women to have multiple-minds -- a higher level of mindfulness all around.  This is what I think we all need to strive for - the mindful museum.  Janes has used this term, as has Gopnik.  Theirs is more about thinking, which is essential; and I think we need to augment that term with an enhanced understanding for visitor experience and customer service.

I shared this same line of thinking with an important teacher in the field and an admired colleague when we were catching up at the last Western Museum Association meeting in Palm Springs.  She said, "I think you have a big woman up inside you."   (In line with previous, well, dare I say, slightly back-handed compliments?) I was positively overwhelmed.

Having grown up in a home of strong women, I felt like I had perhaps reached a state of higher understanding - or at least perceived as much by trusted, professional friends. Thank you, Dr. Madsen-Brooks!

I am also interested to see what will happen when two extremely significant boy-toy corporations, founded in very different eras -- HP and Yahoo! -- are now being lead by two important women like Meg Whitman and Marissa Mayer.   They both have huge jobs presently -- to right those massive vessels.  What will we all have to learn from them and their experiences? For better or for worse.

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