Amazon Is Not Too Big To Fail And Neither Are You

<Reproduced with kind permission from Forbes>

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Self-awareness or sensationalism?

It’s not the first time he says it but last week Jeff Bezos has reiterated that he is convinced Amazon can and indeed will, fail.

“One day, Amazon will fail,” he said, “…we have to delay that day for as long as possible”. Framed this way, this is no longer a case of “IF” but of “WHEN”.

The metrics that show how the company founded in 1994 is now perhaps the best example of success in growing with a purpose and making money while at it, are impossible to doubt. Amazon is winning today by any measurement, its ascension the stuff of dreams not only for budding entrepreneurs but many of its competitors.

Why does it need to then concern itself with this impending death talk?

The answer lies in the myriad of examples of recent history to show that not thinking under those terms is a mortal sin. Giants that thought their size is protection enough against any type of failure have perished in many industries, most succumbing to the pressure of new consumer demands and digitization.

One could fill books with quotes from press releases and shareholder meetings from CEOs that spoke of their confidence in the future right before falling on their sword. Whatever you think of Bezos at the very least, he can always claim this monumental “I told you so” should he have prevented Amazon’s heralded demise. But how will he do so?

Amazon’s Knowledge, Passion, and Courage

Moving away from analyzing why big companies are afraid to look death straight into its hollow eyes we should instead look at what Amazon has put in place thanks to this self-awareness to prevent it.

Amazon values knowledge.

It doesn’t only meticulously insist on the highest caliber of people when bringing in each and every of its now 600,000 employees but encourages them to keep learning and demands continuous proof of critical thinking.

“Memos over PowerPoint”

It’s wildly reported but surprisingly un-mimicked in other boardrooms that Amazon prefers memos over PowerPoint. Every meeting starts with a period of silence where effectively everyone studies the problem at hand by reading a verbose, descriptive and hopefully succinctly all-encompassing memo about the topic at hand instead of looking at a series of slides with bullet points.

“Full sentences are harder to write. There is no way to write a six-page narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.” and having that clear thinking and presentation of the knowledge puts everyone on the same page from the start.

When it comes to passion it’s undeniable that Bezos thinks Amazon needs to have it as a sine-qua-non condition of success.

“Obsess over Customers”  

Reminding his employees that they have more in the way of a higher purpose than their tech giants competitors is a Bezos trademark.

“We have a good story to tell – we Improve the lives of consumers”. He bundles that with the need to elevate the concern for the consumer to obsession level as a basic survival technique and every executive in a large corporation around the world would do well to truly take that message to heart past the mere “customer centricity” empty promises to shareholders.

“There is no work-life balance”

“It’s not a balance, it’s a circle” he argued bemoaning that the idea of balance is debilitating because it involves a strict demarcation that shouldn’t be there. Going against the school of thought that advocates that employees must protect the sanctity of some extreme imaginary boundaries between work and life, what Bezos is advocating is not a state of perpetual work and no relaxation as his critics would like to claim but instead a blend between the two that brings true contentment to a passionate employee.

Finally, let’s look at how Amazon values Courage

“Every day at Amazon is Day 1”

What time in a company’s life better encompasses both enthusiasm and immeasurable courage than the day it starts? Bezos is so insistent that “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance and painful decline. Followed by death” that he does all he can to remind his people to stay in the mental space of Day 1 and even went as far as to rename the building on campus where he works “Day 1” and reportedly when he changed buildings he had the name follow.

It would behoove executives of large organizations to even imagine “day 1” of their company’s life and role play reliving it by vividly and regularly imagining what it would be like to start from scratch – what grit and bravery it would require.


“Disagree and Commit”

Having the courage to make decisions is the cornerstone of innovation and the foundation of speed for companies that want to keep moving ahead.

At Amazon, the focus is intentionally shifted from how correct a decision is,  to how fast it can be achieved and so velocity becomes a key success indicator that is handsomely rewarded.

“If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly thank you think whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure,” Bezos writes in support of the speed demand.

Nothing better signals to employees that there is enough trust invested in them and enough Google-coined workplace “psychological safety” than the expectation of decisions being achieved with speed and in the absence of all the data that would have removed risk.

Decisions are seen as being either “Type 1 – non-reversible” or “Type 2 – reversible” and a balance between the two is encouraged with velocity still being praised in lieu of proportion with passionate debate highly encouraged but cut-off points in the decision making process are encouraged early. It just means “Look, we disagree on this, but will you gamble with me on it?” asking everyone to be brave and invested.

Having the knowledge to frame a problem with considered, literate wording, the need to continuously and incessantly think of the consumers and ways to make their lives better and do so as if you’re just starting out, with the passion of a start-up founder and the courage of a rapid decision maker is what will delay Amazon’s death not its balance sheet and we can seek to stay alive by religiously applying their lessons in winning.

Agile – You’re doing it wrong

Thankfully, in our team, we have to waste no sleep on wondering if any organisation that has a software-connected output needs to do it any other way than by becoming intensely Agile fast.

Even more thankfully, the banks we work with, are crystal clear on that too. They are of course a small minority if we look at all the banks in the world and the only ones poised to develop true competitive advantage by using FinTech and delivering addictive propositions while their competitors still try to work out the connection.

Where we differ, even with these courageous visionaries is the definition of “becoming Agile”.

To some, as I’ve deplored many a times before, it’s a restructuring organisational effort or worse, a PR exercise, whereas the companies who really reap benefits from it in the Valley and elsewhere in the world, live and breath it.

If we imagine a continuum starting at “lip service” and ending in “religion” successful software houses are invariably closer to the latter than the former. And make no mistake about it, anyone who writes and manages even as much as a line of code in their organisation with the intention of making money is a software house. Furthermore, should your organisation be the elusive unicorn that has outsourced its every breath and is not a software house, you should still be Agile.

Nobody argues that fundamentally changing is easy or pleasant so there’s natural resistance even in these shops of best intentions.

Leadership says: “We already approved this Agile thing, it’s being done by HR and IT, we don’t need to know what it is”.

HR mutters: “We already reorganised the teams – isn’t that it?”

The former Prince certificate holders project management and development teams say: “We have a kanban board in the office/we do stand-ups/we have a Scrum master/someone is Product Owner/we are called a ‘tribe” – we’re clearly doing this”

The strategists theorise: “Why are we insisting on all these rules and processes, wasn’t Agile was about being on your toes and winging it”

At every level of the organisation there’s resistance and most of it is perfectly natural.

We are, after all,  asking professionals with years of education and experience to disregard it and go with their hearts and their guts instead. We are asking them to shake every learned habit and form new ones where they have to constantly be on their toes, constantly be curious, constantly dare and constantly and intensely dare. It’s by no means an easy ask, on the contrary it’s hard and exhausting and for now ingrate and we salute the ones who take the challenge on fully and forge ahead.


For these cool pioneers who truly want to get it done – here’s a list of what to beware of in Agile transformations, in order to get it so right that it starts paying dividends faster

If you find yourself spending on armies of Agile coaches and Agile Enterprise Coaches – you’re doing it wrong. You’re only creating a shadow organisation with little chance of it ever dissolving to see yours stand on its own.

If only “some parts of the organisation” are Agile with no plan to roll it out overall – you’re doing it wrong. As we said time and again, Agile is a frame of mind not a software project delivery method, and it’s not only beneficial, but painfully needed at every level of the organisation.

If anyone is the “Still-guy” i.e. “still has a dual role”; “is still expected to be involved in regular projects” or “still works in the old way too” – you’re doing it wrong. This is not a special interest hobby or like that time when you had some office volunteers organise the annual Christmas party.

If you find yourself ever saying “we can’t go ahead with X, the budget for Agile stuff is finished” – you’re doing it wrong. Does that mean the budget for operating is out? Should you close doors? It’s simply a sign that Agile is a thing some department does with some money thrown its direction and not the real change it has to be in the minds of your leadership team.

If anyone is uncomfortable around topics and wording such as “heart/passion”, “purpose”, “courage/bravery” and finds them to be to be fluffy and un-corporate; if you never discuss whether or not your people are trained and willing to take personal responsibility and redefine ownership; if you spent no time on the WOT (Way of Thinking) to get the WOW (Way of Working)  – you’re doing it stupendously wrong.

If you scrolled past this post and thought “not for me, I have nothing to do with Agile” – you’re likely not doing much of anything right.

Bank X – The one with the Bank CEOs

The main reason why we don’t even tell banks about our deep CX creation practice from the get-go- the EXnotUX and the “Money Moments™ not Banking Products” workshops before they start on cultural transformation (or betterment) is that they would be unable to internalise them if they don’t have a ballsy CEO and let’s face it, most don’t.

I’ve talked about Banking Superheroes a lot and there are some inspiring examples in the industry. Typically they aren’t CEO level. In fact, I can only think of 4 bank CEOs who would fit the profile right now. This is both sad and possibly an indicator of organisational mass psychosis in terms of the presentation of a leader and the inability of HR to do better by them that is worthy of analysis at another time.

We also talk a lot about Courage at Emotional Banking and while we are rolling out programs for product owners and tribe leaders we rarely see SVPs of X or Y or even department heads strolling into the workshops. This is presumably because they are busy firefighting and creating very important things and can’t afford the time. Things that are a bigger priority than growing the bravery to turn the world on its axis.

It’s tempting to think there are several different kinds of courage and to arrive to where they have enough to mandate that the bank supercharges emotions on top of human design practice and becomes truly consumer obsessed, CEOs need a different kind of courage, a more CEOy kind.

It would be a lot easier for our firm to sell a “Courage for Strong, Important, Lovely, Supercalifragelisticexpialidocious Bank Leaders” to ensue they are in a room where the same bravery inducing exercises would happen as the ones we pack in workshops for the plebs, but it would also be a PR lie that panders to the very ills of the organisation we accuse.

While indeed CEOs should be Banking Superheroes they aren’t special and they don’t need a different type of courage just maybe, more of it as more is perceived to be at stake on a personal level if they fail.

CEOs with courage see past this year’s commitment to shareholders. They say “Yes this is not immediately tricking down to consumers and may be all but invisible in my time here but I am doing right by this place, I am laying down foundations so that all those that come after me can do the client facing wow-ing you are after. We have purulent wounds and we can’t slap bandaids on them, we have to surgically clean and sterilise them first.”

There are no bank CEOs in position today who do not have the know-how to correctly evaluate the status quo of the bigger picture or lack the ability to know they are simply applying bandaids in lieu of cleaning wounds.


  • Revamping the mobile app in more hipstery fonts and colours? Band aid.
  • Restructuring around agile and organising teams in product tribes without changing the way they think? Band aid.
  • Adding a UXP layer to an aging spaghetti back-end? Band aid.
  • Starting a flanker brand? Band aid.

There are so many more examples.

Anytime worthwhile core concepts around experience, innovation and visceral changes such as Human Centred Design and Cultural Change are used as empty PR exercises in lieu of being fully embraced, that’s malpraxis.

In some ways it’s worst than bandaids, the lack of regard for real change means we apply solid, hard, cold plaster on top of those wounds, giving the patient even less chances for survival. They may limp out of the surgery but will they make it home before gangrene and sepsis set in?

This is not gratuitously morbid, the health of the organisation depends on the confiscation of bandaids and plaster.

videoblocks-surgeon-doctor-holding-a-scalpel-knife-with-blood-on-it_bz9yzxm_g_thumbnail-small01Hero bank CEOs armed with a golden scalpel need to scan every inch of their patient and locate every infected wound and cancer, put them under, then remove them or at the very least treat them quickly. And yes there are many and any long operation is extremely risky, there is no way to ensure they will wake up, but the truth is doing anything other would be criminal.

When a core banking system goes down and the bank is in the press for weeks that’s a glaring issue. It hurts the bank’s reputation and that of the CEO himself. It’s visible and painful but it’s also often times unavoidable and unpredictable so I personally never hold incidents as such where technology itself fails them, against any CEO, although there is a line of thinking suggesting that the right organisation has the right people to better safeguard against technology failing them.

What I find condemnable is when non-accidental failings that were waiting to happen materialise. Not urgently demanding profound change in the soul of the bank is one such temporarily invisible, insidious and catastrophic systemic failing and the CEOs that do not make this a priority are breaking the equivalent of the Hippocrates oath of doing no harm.

A bank asked me just yesterday why they can’t just jump this people betterment malarky and just go ahead and use our CX workshops to create Money Moments™. I told them it’s because even if they could create the most magical of UX while not having worked on Knowledge, Passion and Courage then it would still be nothing but a plaster on a slow festering gangrened wound and I’m hoping their CEO is on a health kick and ready to do grab a scalpel.

Who’s ready to hand it to them?

Holy Banking Paralysis Batman!

The long writing hiatus was chiefly due to being busy but also having to process how I feel about a rather bedazzling find: “Tangible Banking” stood still while I was “away”.

Not all of it of course, there was much done on the launch and proposition of challengers and front-end of neobanks but for traditional, big retail banks time shockingly stood still. A time they hardly afforded to lose to begin with.

As some of you know, I left the very practical side of things – selling and designing a core transaction and data FinTech product for banks who desperately needed it as it could dramatically change the consumer experience- about 18 months ago to do the “Less Tangible” banking stuff and ask them to stop and think of the consumers’ feelings and take introspective long hard looks at their organisations. One would argue I moved from a “doer” to a “thinker”. Some would argue I moved from being FinTech-er to being a professional finger pointer. Call it what you will, I spent that time writing as a banking consumer advocate, advising lots of FinTech companies how to approach if not defeat inertia and even working with a handful of genius banks who “got it”.

A couple of months ago I went back to “Tangible Banking” by working closely with a company who also has an amazingly smart and technically briliant product to dramatically change the consumer experience, this time on the onboarding side and I was blow away by where banks had gotten in the time that I was “away”.

Nowhere much.

Reaching out to some of my old clients and prospects I heard the same complaints and excuses and I attributed them to natural moaning needs of unsung heroes – bank employees who stuck it out during this FinTech palooza and tried to make these organisations move. A task worthy of Sysyphus.

Sadly, as I got a deeper understanding of what exactly their organisations have brought to the consumer in the time I had joined the “Intangible Banking Fixers” brigade, the complains are genuine – nearly nothing substantial can be pointed to and some of the same projects that were slow moving back then are still around whether on hold or being resurrected now. The big worthy ones. The ones about IRL data access, the ones about replacing spaghetti back-ends that prevent change, the ones about vision that is truly digital, the heavy stuff.

Look, I get banking inertia caused by “Business Prevention Departments” (J.P. Nicols Perpetuity TM) as much as the next frustrated doer or thinker in the industry, and I realise to my FinTechMafia gang this is another article on “same stuff I’ve been writing about since 2000” but this is a whole new level of ludricous, when I left “tangible banking” there was impossibly much buzz about how banks were “finally getting somewhere” and heaps of really solid projects in the works and they have all but vanished.

Here is who and what I blame:

  • Blockchain. Yes it’s complex and yes it’s potentially revolutionary but did everyone in every financial institution have to drop everything else they were thinking of to read and learn about it?
  • The slow pace of industry innovation. Just look at a Finovate Buzz words card and you’ll know nothing much was offered to the banks from the FinTech innovation side of things in the last 3-4 shows. This is partly because there is state-of-the-art front-end and no easily approachable back-end proposition fodder out there, but also because FinTech needs to make a buck and pushing the innovation barrel too far ahead of the banks makes no ROI sense.
  • The inability to catch-up of knowledge houses. 6-7 years ago the big consulting giants were woefully behind in offering any kind of serious strategic guidance to big retail banks in digital and top product designers stood in for them. They still are and they still do.
  • The FinTech commentator inflation. A few years ago there were 30-50 voices internationally who stepped in for the knowledge void created by the analysts and consultants. In the last 2 years that number has immeasurably exploded and while in the future that will be great for the industry as it will filter into real value and some of the newcomers are providing that already, it’s simply just massive noise for the banks for now, furthering their confusion.
  • The Great FinTech Distraction (TM). The mere number of Innovation Labs, Funds, Incubators, Aggregators, all other “-gators” says it all. How is one to focus on getting things done when one is not sure what the next best thing is and needs to keep on scouting?

Much as I would rather find reasons to praise the big retail banks and distance myself from the mindless bank bashing that some have taken up as a sport, for the reasons above, I feel everyone dropped the ball and allowed a vicious sort of analysis paralysis to take over. Let’s pick it up again and get going on that Free-to-Spend project from 2001.

Top UK Banks – As Seen on TV


TV Adverts are not Branding, dear Banks – but if they were…

seen When I write I sit down and pour it out. Many of you remarked that it’s sometimes not even proofread and I’ve taken to forcing myself to re-read once before I publish so I avoid that level of disrespect, but nonetheless it’s not my style to work on a piece for days, it either “flows” or it’s not worth writing. Not this once. This one needed a lot of research. Some of it was pleasant but most of it was painful.

I’d recommend you save this article for some evening when you can pour a cuppa, put your feet up and open each link in a new tab because we all know what happens once you see one YouTube video…

It started from having caught my first Nationwide commercial in a cinema this weekend and having found it moving.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 06.28.20

The only other one I could cite off the top of my head that I liked was HSBC’s “Museum of Procrastination” -which I loved so much I wished they’d hire that ad agency to run the whole bank- while all I could remember of Lloyds was that it had black horses. Having lived in the UK for over two years now and making a living from examining banks this was a situation I needed to correct.

I watched a good 80-100 commercials from the major UK banks (and one day when I retire I may do the same for all the major international retail banks) and at first intended to be utterly exhaustive (and was not, the likes of Coop and other smaller banks and building societies were left out) and diligently organized on scoring them based on audience, targeting ability, likability, clarity, etc. As I was going, I realized my scoring system is far from foolproof and I am not conducting a scientific study here so that good intention was replaced by “How it made me feel” as sole determining factor for the following top so feel free to sharpen those “but we won an award with that one” pitchforks.

TOP 8ball1


8th (and last) Place: LLOYDS

Whose idea were the creepy horses series, guys? this is as failed in its artsy pretentious tone as Barclays asking Samuel Jackson to talk about chickens. Not that it’s your only painful one – the Take a Second campaign is cringe-worthy – no one will give me back my 3 minutes of having to see this

While the low production value such as the Filling Station TV advert and the Clubs ones kind of work and functionally do what we expect them to – tell us we can get features, this brand new one is absolutely taking the cake as the worst I’ve seen: not only is the angel of death horse back again but the Mad World Donnie Darko sound track makes it extra creepy! Please stop!

7th Place: BARCLAYS

If you can afford Hollywood why not use it? I hadn’t seen the Big one with Sir Anthony Hopkins or the Samuel Jackson series but neither made me feel anything at all.

Here is one that made me feel something. The LifeSkills campaign. A mixture of emotions – none positive. Mainly awe at how far removed I must be from the millenials that are the target market that I can not comprehend how they would find it anything but patronizing and condescending. – not to mention it is just objectionably badly made.

I had to dig to the end of the internet to find this very old Truman Show inspired Barclays commercial that was not bafflingly bad and dig out the only funny one from Pingit but neither rocked my world.

6th Place: RBS and NATWEST

I found the following – the NatWest 1991 advert, that one time when RBS was funny on the old Less Talk campaign and multiple NatWest haters who bothered to make songs about their dislike

But this Bills Reward account advert is not bad at all as it’s all too relatable, don’t we all have that one light switcher-off-er in the house?

And this one is absolutely on point on what it feels like to pay with ApplePay (when it works) even if that’s universal to all banks who offer it and nothing to do with NatWest in particular as compared to this Lloyds one for ApplePay that’s perfectly pointless

All in all I was stunned to see that for all the care Lloyds and HSBC take to try and make their portfolio discernable individually with various degrees of success, RBS and NatWest do none of that and are one big lump messaging wise.

5th Place: TSB

This gets me dizzy but it’s worth seeing as a –true- story of community banking ethos. The current cartoons are underwhelming but clear and some may like them although the new pointy characters are not as endearing as their Disney like predecessors of a few years ago. All in all middle of the road and non-objectionable but with somewhat of a brand identity hence why they deserve an entry of their own.

4th Place: Halifax

If you dig as far back as 2008 you find their corny but cute Something New or Who let the dog out series but then they had their Howard Brown light bulb moment and it all changed for Halifax – a coup to make a regular employee a star – what better way to get people to feel intimately engaged in the story?

These days their X-tra kind of person series are sweet and well executed and their Jargon Buster series is the only serious financial literacy attempt I’ve seen.

 3rd Place: Nationwide

I admitted already I liked the BestDad commercial, a lot. By the way watch this behind the scenes which is a strike of genius on the part of the agency as it’s sweeter than the commercial in itself

And then there are the Annoying Bank Manager series and the iconic Ladies Little Britain one

The only negative is that when I found this commercial for Impulse Saving it spoke to me so much I downloaded their app! But evidently got nowhere with it as the Impulse Save thing is only available to customers and I have to go to a branch to become one and bring 100 papers yadda yadda– such a missed acquisition opportunity, there was no reason not to let me set a saving goal before I signed in!

2nd Place: HSBC, First Direct (and Atom!)

I went looking for this – and I still think it is a strike of genius that resonates with anyone but before I could enter another search term the next video YouTube served me was “Panorama – HSBC the Bank of Tax Cheats” which has 20k views as compared to the 4k the actual commercial has which seems a bit unfair.

Nonetheless I dare you to watch these two oldies on the importance of local knowledge and not laugh – the infamous Eels one and the Flowers one

There is a concerted effort at the heart of what HSBC does to both tell stories and position themselves as local and yet connected. This sadly still doesn’t make them a brand, simply a strong name with a good marketing story or this quality of effort and thought would have trickled down to their customers who meanwhile endure painful digital experiences. Their ad agencies and Wealth and Retail Marketing department should stage a coup and take over the whole thing and force their digital into this century of technology– heaven knows they need it.

HSBC won awards for their genius Airport series and if one has to choose a bank that did amazing on marketing it would be HSBC in particular with their FirstDirect efforts. Whether you love or hate the Black and white Platypus series you can’t deny Mark Mullen is a marketing genius and if you’re not convinced go to Atom’s website today and click on “Uncomplicated”. Go on, do it, I’ll wait. Exactly! THAT is why this category includes all three of these names.

First Place: Santander

Adverts can be of two kinds really – either funny or heart string pullers and while most other English high street banks seem to dabble in both sequentially, Santander manages to do both at the same time and that makes their overall message powerful. Who can deny that their keep on getting a little bit more out of life” is sweet and more importantly how genius of a line is this one? “Dads, keep on dadding”

Then there is their continual effort and an experimentation with viral tries – if you haven’t seen the campaign look it up as the #SecretSantander stuff is SO endearing I’m proud to be their client this one from 2014 and then last year’s

They say it’s “Simple, personal, fair” – heart stringy but then they also add a bite with “it’s what a bank should be” and that spirit can be felt across the brand.

And if that was not enough, there is one major reason why Santander wins this one for me and if you watch none of the other ones watch this one – it will make it all worth it, believe me –

To be fair, none of all these made me feel like my favourite bank commercial or rather, bank-brand commercial – this one from CheBanca! but then again someone suggested the other day that “it is preposterous to presume such corny debauchery could be presented on English screens” and that can well be the case.

Lastly and most importantly again: marketing is not branding dear banks, it’s only a part of the overall impression you leave us with.

The length of the phone queue and the music played meanwhile is branding, the carpets in the branch are branding, the words you choose when answering a customer on Twitter is branding, the way the mobile app feels helpful or annoying is branding, what your CEO looks like is branding (maybe Lloyds should have fared better now that I say that…). All of it. Everything you do translates into an experience and how that experience makes us feel is what your brand is like to us. I know you’re not confused about this dear banks, as it’s a fairly simple concept so don’t be using it as an excuse to be lazy and leave this to your Marketing department which clearly already has enough trouble trying to make non-horrible adverts.

EX – the antibiotic to cure Infectious Organisational Paralysis in CX professionals

My “EX not UX” Emotional Experience method is generating quite a bit of interest these days and I am considering potential partners to help me bring it to more industries than banking and make it part of a bigger organisational culture
change suite as part of my “it’s all about the people and keeping it real” obsession. This means that I spent some more time reflecting on what I am aiming to achieve with it while preparing for the last two workshops of which an upcoming one with a large UK bank’s team of extraordinary designers.

The goal of the EX workshop is not to teach human centric design or empathy design but to attemptto make those who are involved in strategy, CX, digital or design prone to naturally, intrinsically create more empathic experiences. It aims to demonstrate the value of deeply and bravely recognising and analysing emotion and gearing their creative process towards enhancing the positive ones and minimising the negative ones.

How do I do this? I spend some time covering the theoretical basis of both the respective industry (in Financial Services it’s a solid2-3 hours of what’s new in FinTech, in Retail it’s a CX perspective, etc) and the basics of why creating delightful experiences is desirable, but then spend the remainder of the time honing attention, observation and empathy as skills through immersive experiences, open dialogue, exercises and roleplay. This is evidently a big ask for a room of 25 people over 2 days and I don’t aim to defrost all the Elsa’s and convert all the Grinch’s to enjoy Christmas, but people are surprisingly human and naturally empathic given half a chance.


Once they understand there is a clear business benefit in being open, caring and feeling and this is not somehow done at the expense of the company but in its best interest, they embrace it with revigorated gusto.

Two days is a long time to talk about feelings. It can get uncomfortable. In fact, the more real we get in personal examples or deeper understanding of someone else’s point of view, the more uncomfortable, but ultimately, what I aim to do with the EX workshop, is show people it’s worthwhile to stay in this state of discomfort if it allows you to understand each other and your consumer in ways you wouldn’t have done before.

I want the teams in the workshops to have an emotionally charged experience themselves so there are props and colours and exercises that often probe deeply into their attitudes and some would argue these are more like group therapy sessions than they are workshops for UX and Design professionals and in a sense that’s true. These teams are typically not where organisations are sick and need therapy, they are vibrant and knowledgeable but even these echelons of creativity are infected with acute corporatitis (also known as infectious organisational paralysis) where they’ve found themselves half courageous and half passionate and the other half has been muddled into stiff language, agile wireframes and rapid prototyping. The EX workshop is like an intensive course of antibiotics to create enthusiasm and reignite that passion.

Everyone should walk out of my EX Workshop a human factor expert with a degree in emotional ergonomics and they will then know how to design their own Wizard of Oz to translate this new confidence in their pre-existent skills into transformative user experience design. IDEO can teach them their Empathic Design method, I only aim to eradicate the corporate culture bacteria that doesn’t let them open their hearts and minds to deeply caring about their consumer’s feelings.

I want them out of there feeling as if they just finished a sauna session (only with more clothes!). Cleansed of the corporate BS and silly Business Prevention Department (JP Nicols TM) objections; relaxed; brave; rejuvenated; supremely passionate and ready to take on the organisation if it won’t let them design and innovate to fit their customers’ emotions.

If all know that if we design to create delight and happiness we’ll all be better off. I can only hope that one day my 5 year old son wouldn’t even know he’s banking or that it was a satisfying happy money invisible experience, as he has just sent 200 pounds to his “New Car Deposit” savings account by simply wishing he drove one like the Top Gear one he’s watching and approving the transfer with a dreamy nod.

You can read more about Emotional Banking here and EX not UX here

Why Banks should “go and love” themselves


For the past few years I’ve been dismissing the FinTech apocalyptical statements where banks will vanish and been fervently defending them instead. I helped build a product to transform consumers lives but one meant to reach them through the bank as the best channel, so I have intimately grown to know many bellies of many beasts, so #BankBashing always meets with an eye roll from me when one of my fellow commentators reaches for it, as it’s the eternal obvious, easy to sing, villain song, but with all that disclaimer I’ve decided to get my “what’s wrong with the banks” article out of the way early this year not for populist reasons but because I believe I’ve boiled down what my top reasons as to why they deserve to “go and…. love” themselves (to quote a popular song).

Because they are self-loathing 

“My many weaknesses are beginning to show their heads. I simply must get this thing out of my system. I’m not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people. I wish I were. This success will ruin me as sure as hell. It probably won’t last, and that will be all right. I’ll try to go on with work now. Just a stint every day does it. I keep forgetting.” –  John Steinbeck’s private diaries

Many argue banks are not even remotely as angst ridden as they should be but I’m glad that’s the case, insecurity is paralysing and paralysis is the last we need. If anything, they are too quick to repent after the Occupy Wall Street moments.

The argument is that banks are organisations who, for very little effort as compared to their counterparts in retail, have achieved enormous amounts of fame and money in a short interval of time. That it’s underserved. That they were dishonest about it and that bankers got fat bonuses for no reason. Banks seem to be self-aware and readily critical enough to agree.

Yes, banks are organisationally the fraud we think they are, but if you won it all and think you don’t deserve it and it will all end at some point – what would you think if someone came and said you need to change, to do better, or others will win? Ready for action or willing to hang on to your chair, not move and not breathe until the ship sinks?

Because they lost their religion

They meant well one day a long, long, LONG time ago, didn’t they?

The branch manager listening to Trudi’s dream of taking Gary on that promised cruise before he passes, was compassionate and concerned with how to make it happen not calculating if a remortgage is more profitable to the bank and his sales bonus than a consumer loan.

The guys designing those ghastly first websites knew they weren’t to replace that bank manager but may save people a call or a trip to the bank. The execs we can never find the names of these days all started wanting to change the world one way or another did they not?

And then everyone individually and the bank collectively lost their religion.

Likely at the end of countless yet emotionally costly personal lost battles, yes, but lost it nonetheless.

Bankers are still humans who want to do well and want to do well now but in banks their ability to achieve any instant gratification plays out internally easier through abject office politics than it does externally in changes to consumers.

Because they create human tragedies

Have you ever heard a banker answer direct questions about whether consumers want X or need Y and whether others – challengers or big established digital banks are a real threat? You should. It’s a feast of inconsistency and self-contradiction in multiple sound bites.

“Oh please, as if consumers even want X!”;

“We can’t measure if they need Y, we don’t have the back-end to get that data!”;

“We know just how bad the mobile app is but without changing all our systems we can’t do any better”;

“No one would trust Z with their data!”;

“Why would W even want to enter banking?!? There’s no money in it!”;

“New banks have it so easy, ah if we could start one tomorrow we’d make it rock!”

I could go on. It’s a mishmash of excuses and self soothing internal jargon delivered with either theatrical passion or staggered words depending on how good an actor the banker is. Yes, it’s an act because no matter how we want to vilify tens of thousands of people working in the industry, we can never dispute their level of intelligence and that level sadly ensures that in the back of their minds, they are aware these arguments are intensely intellectually disingenuous and that, is a tragedy.

Tolstoi himself could write a novel about the tragedies of the Frustrated Innovation Manager, the Used-to-Care Head of IT and the Ex-Dreamer Director of Digital Strategy. Maybe call it “The PNL of Love/Hate”.

Because they don’t praise and foster BB&H

Wars, world hunger, intolerance, global warming. This is a potentially exhaustive list of things banks are not responsible for. What’s NOT their fault.

Mobile apps being sluggish and serving no real need beyond a skewed, and nonsensical view of one’s balance, antiquated back-ends causing online blackouts when customers most need their money, having built products consumers have to try and mould their needs into, instead of seamlessly fitting into the rhythm of their lives, the subprime crisis and most of world’s economical issues are all, sadly, the bank’s fault but if you sum up the above the one thing I hold them responsible for, the one thing they could change within the blink of an eye with enough good will and passion is: culture.

I wrote about this before. What I passionately believe will save banking is not new and innovative technology, it’s people. The right people with their B(rains)B/C(ourage)&H(earts) uncompromisingly on display for others to see and grow theirs in turn.

Banks do need to start loving themselves enough to give themselves a serious shake-up and breath new life into their journey. If not, they truly need to “go and love” themselves.