Laiserin's LemmaTM—Greetings from Denver: Of Palaces and Superpleasing
(lemma: a short theorem used in proving a larger theorem)

The Brown Palace hotel in Denver, Colorado is everything a truly grand hotel should be - and more. At every turn, one's perception exceeds expectation, for a result that is "superpleasing." Like great hotels, great design organizations succeed by superpleasing their clients, as outlined by David Maister in his classic book, Managing the Professional Services Firm. Can we apply Maister's ideas to create superpleasing information systems, software, and services?

Palatial Recovery from a Bad Trip
A stay at the Brown Palace is so delightful that it makes traveling to and from Denver almost worth braving the nightmare inefficiency of the Denver airport's security "system" (the airport's perverse exercise in queuing theory, combined with its absurd remoteness from downtown Denver, lends considerable appeal to return bookings out of Colorado Springs, or COS).

What makes the Brown Palace so special after over a century serving guests? Yes, it's conveniently located, historically significant, and ever-so posh. The hotel achieves a near-perfect balance of classic gentility and hypermodern amenity: liveried bell staff usher arriving guests through the nine-story atrium lobby (first of its kind) while a tuxedo-clad pianist entertains Denver matrons daintily nibbling tea sandwiches; yet high-speed Internet access is provided at no additional charge in the guest rooms (complete with the rarely provided and technically accurate instructions to configure SMTP settings for sending mail through the hotel's server).

Nice as all that may be, what sets the Brown Palace apart from all but a tiny handful of competing establishments worldwide is the ability of the staff and the property—working as a system—to anticipate and fulfill guests' needs, often recognizing and satisfying the need even before the guests themselves are aware of needing anything. Not only does this deliver perceived performance far in excess of expectation, it also creates a sense of true delight (a rare commodity indeed).

Successful design organizations and their technology providers have much to learn from this example. As services management guru David Maister points out, superpleasing is one of the most rewarding yet least utilized business development strategies for any service business. Much of Maister's work predates the ubiquitous application of information technology to professional services, so it might be instructive to ponder the possibility of technology that helps deliver user/client perceptions in excess of expectations.

Don't Laugh: Some Sup-Positions
Infotech performance perceptions that exceed expectations? Before you say "har-dee, har, har, har" think about all the information that is mangled, wasted, or lost during the typical design/build/operate lifecycle of a building or the design/manufacture/service lifecycle of a product.

> Suppose that information could be captured, reused, and redirected to meet needs that clients/customers didn't even know they had (or were afraid to express for fear it would lead to lengthy, costly extras that were "NIC—not in the contract").

> Suppose the design process involved data-intensive 3D and 4D (space + time) models that spun out visualizations and simulations far in excess of the contract documentation the client paid for.

> Suppose that integrated analytic tools enabled more effective use of consultants' time and yielded more efficient design solutions in less time and at lower cost.

> Suppose that interactive as-built and as-bought project and product information could be delivered alongside the traditional plans, spec, and owner's manuals that the client has paid for.

> Suppose your client said "I didn't know you could do that; I hadn't realized this was included; I never expected to get all this valuable stuff as part of the process."

The point is, technology tools and applications for superpleasing design clients do exist and have existed for years; designers just refuse to use them. A quarter century of arguments on behalf of internal efficiencies, process improvements, expanded service opportunities, and the like have barely dented designers' implacable resistance to changing their old production habits.

Maybe it's time for design organizations to remember that they exist to satisfy their clients and customers, and that superpleasing is the best way to transport customers from satisfaction to delight. Delighted clients become loyal clients and proselytizers of your work among their peers. Instead of finding yet another excuse why all that new technology "doesn't quite work for us yet," isn't it time you started thinking about how it could be applied to exceed your clients' expectations right now?

Let me know what you think.

Editor and Publisher, The LaiserinLetterTM
Analysis, Strategy and Opinion for Technology Leaders in Design Business

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