Welcome to session four. We're working on the zoom out part of our zoom in, zoom out creativity framework. This session is about benchmarking. Benchmarking is a key tool as you take your challenge or your idea and you zoom out and scour the world for any possible idea, fact, method, technology, process, that can help you implement your idea and make it highly successful. Let's talk about best practice benchmarking. This is largely a management tool, it's used by all great companies. It can be used by every individual. It's defined as the process of identifying, understanding, and sharing best practices, and in business, it's a way of looking at what you do in your company, and then measuring that against some sort of benchmark, best practice, something that other people do, other groups, and they do it better and let's see what they do, and let's learn what they do, and bring it back and apply it to our own company or organization. It's a way of uncovering gaps in performance and it's a way of improving. Benchmarking is not just about what big companies do. It's not just about looking at processes and organizations and trying to make them more efficient. Benchmarking is a way of defining a challenge as an individual, and then zooming out, scanning the world, you can do this through the soles of your feet by actually traveling, and travel, incidentally, is a wonderful way of strengthening creativity and gaining ideas because, when you visit other countries, you see how people do the same things that we do, but in very, very different ways. Benchmarking is an important part of the zoom out, and it's something that we should make part of our life, almost on a daily basis, t1o be curious about what is going on in other parts of the world and how do other cultures, societies, and ethnic groups, how do they do things, and what can we learn from them? It's a way, also, incidentally, of changing our mindset about the world, because there are a great many ways to do things. The way we do things in our own little town, country, city, they're not always the best or ideal, we can learn much from other people. Benchmarking is a mindset. It's a mindset for each and every one of us who wants to be creative and to do the zoom out part the way it should be done, in a productive fashion. The mindset where we observe everything, everywhere, everyone, all the time. Our eyes are peeled in a sense, looking for ideas that we can use. Benchmarking is always done way beyond the particular area that we're working on. Sometimes you find amazing ways to strengthen your creative idea in unusual places. So, I once worked with a company and the CEO told me, I insist that you do the benchmarking exercise with our managers only within our own industry, and I had to point out that we already know what everybody does within our own industry because that's widely known, and we're not going to get any great ideas from it. The only way we're going to get good ideas in benchmarking is if we benchmark outside our own narrow little industry, looking outside our own little tiny plot of ground. We need to think dynamically about benchmarking. We need to think about the future, not the past. Not what people are doing now and what they did in the past, but where are things going? Where are things moving? What are the trends? What are people likely to be doing In the future? We need to think about moving target. In soccer, the great midfielders, or football, great midfielders pass the ball, not to where the striker is. They pass the ball to where the striker's going to be in the next second and a half, and they somehow know that. Benchmarking is like that. Where is the striker going to be? Where are things going to be in the world in the next two, three, four, five years? [COUGH] Let me give you an example of benchmarking that I did with a company, and it's a really high tech company. We took the company to a hotel in south Boston. We did a workshop. The workshop was on innovation, creativity, improving customer service. The session we did was on how do we improve service for the company, it was a software company, and we said, you know this is a big hotel, and a lot of things are going on here. Let's benchmark customer service here in the hotel, and the reaction of the managers taking part of this software company was, man, what possible relevance could there be to customer service in a hotel when we're a software company? But we said, trust us, let's do this. So we organized the managers of the software company in pairs and we sent them off to benchmark the 22 different processes going on in the hotel related to customer service. One of the assignments was especially popular, benchmarking the bar, but we only can only have one couple who are doing that particular one. So we found there are 22 processes in a hotel. The guest enters the lobby, they're greeted, there's check in, a bellboy, possibly taking a shower, advice about restaurants, how can I get breakfast, check out, and then there are other processes like choosing your hotel, making a reservation, traveling to the hotel, parking your car, just walking into the hotel, going to your room, looking around the room, getting some assistance, calling home, using the business center to print something, fitness, working out, getting our car, heading to the airport, and then measuring satisfaction. Were you satisfied? There are a great many processes that hotels engage in that are part of customer service, and we can observe each of them carefully and learn a great deal because, in the end, customer service is customer service. We learned a lot from that exercise where managers were persuaded. This hotel had 13 different events going on at the same time, including our event. We were one of 13, and there were weddings, and receptions, and workshops, and a great many things, and everything ran smoothly, the food arrived, the coffee arrived, and watching how this was managed and orchestrated, we learned a great deal about customer service, including some things that could be used to improve customer service for a software company. So just to review, creativity is widening the range of choice. Creativity is creating something novel and useful. You widen the range of choice for people by creating something novel, and then if it's useful, if it brings them happiness, or better health, or longer life, or speeds up a process, or saves them money, or creates value somehow. If in a sense it is useful, then they will choose it. So you widen the range of choice for people and then you offer it to them and hope that indeed, you're right, and that it is useful, and they will choose to use it, and the point here is of course, again, I reemphasize this again and again, you never really know in advance. The only way to find out if you have indeed widened the range of choice in a way that people choose your creative invention is by offering it them and seeing how they react, how they respond, and whether it indeed does create value, and by observing that process, often you can make crucial changes in your idea that, in fact, turn a failure into a great, great success. This ends session four. I hope you'll come and join us again for session five.