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What does the term “culture” mean? For many, it is possible that they envision the word representing a race, ethnicity, or religion. The reality is that culture is actually much more complex than most realize, especially when it pertains to a business or organization, and what defines culture at a business or organization is how they serve customers and significantly improve the world.

In this month’s Opportunity Hour: Conversations with the Masters, I had the privilege to meet with a longtime friend of mine and esteemed colleague Scott McCain. Scott is a customer experience and sales expert who prepares companies and individual contributors to create distinction from the inside out and achieve iconic status—something we want to explore thoroughly in today’s blog.

Both Scott McCain and I have a similar goal: help clients create more compelling connections, provide ultimate customer experiences, and stand out personally and professionally in lasting ways. To do this, we both know that a company must become both distinctive and iconic, but how? We have solutions for all!

Greatness Is a Facade Without Being Distinctive and Iconic

In the past, many businesses and organizations have been coined as being great. Without trying to painstakingly define what the term “great” actually means, the generality is that they made a lot of money or perhaps made a product or service that disrupted the world positively.

But what’s interesting is that within years of those businesses or organizations achieving perceived greatness, each one found themselves in a dramatic decline. What could have possibly happened to cause such a downturn?

First and foremost, I have identified that these businesses and organizations all failed to anticipate disruptions by identifying Hard Trends that were shaping their futures. Secondly, Scott has identified that they were good and even great entities, but they were not iconic and distinctive organizations!

So what happens when good just isn’t good enough and, moreover, what are some insights into how a business or organization can sustain greatness by becoming truly iconic and distinctive?

Create a Distinct and Iconic Customer and Employee Experience

Scott McCain explained during this month’s Opportunity Hour that becoming distinctive and iconic in your industry all goes back to how both customers and employees experience your business or organization.

This is where that concept of culture comes in. For instance, Scott made a reference to the popular coffee chain Starbucks during our conversation. He noted that a local coffee shop or smaller coffee company may be distinctive in their area, but Starbucks has become iconic as well as distinctive as a result of the culture they foster both internally for their employees and externally for their customers.

Scott and I believe that both a distinctive and iconic culture should transcend the categorization of an industry. Starbucks has become both distinctive and iconic for creating an internal and external culture that many businesses and organizations in diverse industries want to emulate.

The good news here is that there is really no secret behind how to create a great customer and employee experience to become distinctive and iconic—it is rather simple, really! According to Scott, customer experience is about the emotion that an individual customer is left with and tied to that is the feeling an employee gets from working at the business or organization.

You Cannot Copy and Paste Culture

Distinctive and iconic business culture cannot be copied verbatim.

While we have all heard the phrase penned by Pablo Picasso, “Good artists borrow; great artists steal,” this is not a ubiquitous application as it pertains to culture. For this concept, Scott discusses Southwest Airlines and their distinctive and iconic humor during in-flight safety instructions that has helped them stand out greatly in the industry.

If American Airlines or United Airlines were to try their hand at this, it would likely come off as repetitive and not have the same effect. Duplicating what has already been done before and expecting the same if not better results is madness, and to relate it to real-world examples in the entertainment industry, Scott takes us back to the Sinatra days.

While Frank Sinatra was crooning, many wondered who the next Sinatra would be? Well, it was Elvis, who was nothing like Sinatra! And then we wondered who would be the next Elvis, and it turned out to be The Beatles who again were nothing like Elvis. This continues down the line with Michael Jackson following The Beatles, Garth Brooks following Michael Jackson, and so forth.

The point here is that the same thing cannot be done twice, but that there are boundless opportunities to become distinctive and iconic by connecting an Anticipatory mindset to your corporate culture and to use Hard Trends to determine what you can do to be the next disruptor of your industry and the world!

Don’t Just Meet Customer Expectations  Exceed Them!

Scott McCain agrees: Meeting and more importantly, exceeding customer and employee expectations is an ideal way to create a distinctive and iconic business and organization culture.

All business leaders and C-Suite executives should ask themselves if they feel they have built their company’s culture around a competitor they benchmark against. If you are only offering enough to keep up with the competition as opposed to being the trailblazer in your industry and the world, you will only barely meet customer and employee expectations.

Anticipation and an Anticipatory mindset as a business leader always allows you to look far enough into the future to see the Hard Trends that will disrupt you, your employees, and, most importantly, your customers. Knowing what is ahead makes risk-taking much less risky, and then you can double down on being both innovative and creative. This is how you become distinctive and iconic!

Additionally, learn to communicate not just facts about products and services to employees and customers, but create an emotional user experience that resonates with them indefinitely, just as Starbucks and Southwest Airlines have in their own way.

So, does your business or organization have a distinctive and iconic culture? Find out how you can create one with my Anticipatory Organization® Model today!

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