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Vacation reading inspires renewed commitment to customer-focus

I was on vacation recently and did some pleasure reading. I read a cool book on astronomy called A Briefer History of Time. It’s about the history of the science that has gone into making discoveries about the universe. You may recall from past entries how much I like the history of scientific discovery. We can draw a lot of parallels from these stories to inspire our quest as customer advocates.

In 1687, Sir Isaac Newton made perhaps the most important scientific discovery of all time when he published his theory of gravity. It built upon the work of Copernicus and Galileo who were the first to suggest that perhaps the Earth was not the center of the universe. His theory, while not perfect, was essentially correct. When it was employed, time after time and observation after observation, it helped explain many of the key questions of the times. Looking back today, it’s hard to believe that Newton’s genius was not embraced by other leading thinkers of the time. They would dwell on the few discrepancies in his observations as well as criticize the man himself as a way of delaying the acceptance of this important theory, thus delaying the breakthroughs in science that it could explain.

This story sounds very familiar to what I see play out in companies that are trying to make their cultures more customer-focused. While we know that listening to and acting upon customer feedback is a good business strategy, it’s almost sure to create some resistance in the organization. Instead of working on the essentially correct insights, much too much effort goes into discussing where the insights are wrong or a waste of effort. Sometimes, they even attack the messenger personally, too.

Helping your organization become more customer-focused really is an exercise in scientific discovery. Just like Isaac Newton had to overcome his detractors, so too do we. Keep the faith and keep pushing your organization. It’s worth it.

Originally published in Customer Connection July 13, 2009.

About the Author

Steve Walker

Steve Walker

As the third generation of Walkers to lead the privately-held research and consulting firm, Steve is focused on creating shareholder value for Walker’s clients through customer intelligence and customer strategies. Steve was named president of Walker in 1994 and added the CEO title in 1996. Then, in 2006, Steve was named chairman of the board.

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