We are only gated by our ambition. I was chatting the other day about my heroes and what I found so remarkable about them. I was recounting the first time I met Richard Branson, and what amazed me most was the way he thinks in terms of “Why not?”.

The guy realizes that airplane travel is terrible and that people want a fun and premium experience – next thing you know, he buys two used Boeing 747s and starts Virgin Atlantic. Which by the way, in my humble opinion, is the best transatlantic airline. Why can’t we have an airplane that flies from London to Sydney in a couple of hours, while as a passenger you get a chance to orbit in space? Boom… next thing you know, he starts Virgin Galactic.

Look at Elon Musk, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs – they all had a vision – they saw it and most importantly, they went for it. You might say, ‘Well easy for them, they all started multi-billion dollar companies and have been wildly successful.’ There is no doubt they had the vision, picked great markets and were in the right place at the right time – most critically, they did something about it. Success isn’t born of good luck, it’s born of hard work and ambition.

I saw this quote by Ijeoma Umebinyuo, a Nigerian author:

“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just… start.”

We have so many good things happening at Tahzoo right now. We got started, and there’s more to start… let’s go!

Let’s go be great,


With the Super Bowl this weekend and with our 2018 plans, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about winning as a team. So much of our culture is based on the idea of personal achievement – ‘What’s in it for me? What’s my opportunity? How do I get rich and famous?’ and so forth. Ironically, much of what we appreciate is the group effort: The ensemble cast on our favorite show, our favorite sports team or favorite band. Remember at the anniversary party when Dave shared the video of him winning his first Formula One race? While Dave was driving the car, it took an entire team of people to win that race.

We’re all about helping our clients provide a better customer experience. To do that, it takes a wide range of expertise and a diverse team working in harmony to deliver the results our clients expect from Tahzoo. Our new plan is designed to reward high functioning teams, not individuals. We either win together or we lose together. While some of you may worry about not having the control you want… (What happens if a particular group does a poor job on project?’) As a member of the team, it’s your job and everyone’s job to support one another in service of our clients. You don’t need a title or position of power to effect change or improve the performance of the team.

Leadership is about recognizing challenges and opportunities and then having the courage to effect change. Don’t be the person who sees it and says, ‘That’s someone else’s job’. Take a chance and make it better. I’ll assume most of you will watch the Super Bowl this weekend; remember those teams are playing this week because they had the teamwork, the talent and the willingness to hold one another accountable. I want the same for Tahzoo – we all want to be part of a winning team.

Let’s go be great!

Cinematic Design

We just wrapped up a day of video shooting for the new Tahzoo website and internal training. By all accounts, it was a very well-orchestrated and produced event, special thanks to Don Low and Bryan Fitch. It seemed a fitting conclusion to the week and in advance of my Desk of Brad this week, as I am writing about Cinematic Design. Our Experience Design Practice is grounded in a cinematic approach. It’s an approach that is unique to Tahzoo and separates us from all of the design firms that we compete with on a regular basis.

I am sure you’re asking, ‘What is Cinematic Design?’. It’s a philosophy, a methodology and a series of techniques to guide the consumption of content. Just as a great movie director frames a shot so that you know where to look when you’re watching the movie, cinematic design is about shaping the navigation and presentation of content so that you automatically know what to do. It’s about ‘less is more’, it’s about centering your eye on the content, and making the next step in the process obvious. It’s thinking more about the personalized experience and less about making every option available.

In contrast to the current approach to UX in which every navigational choice is made possible, cinematic design is about creating individual journeys through content, applying contextual awareness and the form factor in mind. Think of it as curated navigation – storytelling in a visual context. When the page opens, or the application loads on your phone, where should your eye go first? How will you know what to do next?

There is a great book called “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman. It’s a fantastic read on how great design is not only aesthetically pleasing but it also informs you about how to operate a device. Think of the fixtures in a shower – it should look great, but you should also be able to easily figure out how to create the right temperature. As someone who has stayed in a lot of different hotels, there is nothing more frustrating than having to figure out how to make the shower work. A website is no different – the design and the operation of the site should be elegant.

In our case, we are tailoring an experience for each person. With dynamic navigation and menuing, cinematic design becomes even more important. We have to create ways of exploring content that are particularly pleasing and relevant. Many of the concepts developed over the last hundred years of filmmaking apply rather nicely to design approach.

There’s a great video entitled, “David Fincher Hijacks Your Eyes”. Please take a moment to watch the video… You’ll really enjoy it and in turn, hopefully, have a better understanding of why some filmmakers give you the feeling of being in the scene and not just a spectator of the big screen – watch it here. Our approach to Cinematic design follows similar precepts; we create immersive digital experiences through visual storytelling. Even if you’re just on the site to order coffee, you should feel in the moment as the story and the experience is personally directed towards you. Over the next few weeks, Don and Bryan will be presenting our approach in more detail.

Let’s go be great!

Looking Glass

What is the problem that Tahzoo is trying to solve? We want to implement technology that enhances the human experience. All too often in marketing, the one size fits all approach brings depersonalized experiences, stealing brand equity with a callous disregard for the needs of the individual. Our Fortune 500 clients have made massive investments in their products and services that are slowly eroded with benign neglect.

I want everyone to take a moment and put themselves at a social event. There is someone who you know pretty well; let’s say you interact with that person once per week. Culturally and psychologically, it is expected that you greet or at least acknowledge one another. It may be a nod, a handshake or a warm embrace, but to not acknowledge someone you know is an offense, plain and simple. So, imagine this person ignoring you or pretending not to know you – what are you thinking how does that make you feel?

When the President and Hillary Clinton didn’t shake hands at the during the presidential debates is was the subject of much reporting and speculation about how much they dislike each other. For many reasons rooted in our evolution, greeting someone is part of the human condition. We are trying to make sure that the practical implementation of technology doesn’t rob consumers of their humanity. We are trying to create experiences that are pleasing and relevant, replicating human-to-human interactions. Keep this in mind while I shift to a different topic.

When was the drone developed and when was the first unmanned flight? Human history is replete with examples of technologies developed for war or in pursuit of a national effort that resulted in commercially viable products. We can credit World War II for advances in aviation that made commercial flying possible. The software created to optimize power consumption for drilling on the Apollo missions became the basis for developing The Dust Buster, a cordless vacuum cleaner. One of the more well-known examples is that DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in 1968 contracted with BBN Technologies to build routers which enabled the first version of the internet.

It took almost another 25 years for the internet to take hold and become commercially viable. If you think of technology as a layer cake – one advancement built on top of another – while there is continuity in the progression, the practical implementation usually comes in a moment of inspiration. An entrepreneur or a visionary sees as a unique combination of technologies to solve a business problem. Let’s take the Xerox Park example: You had a bunch of researchers and engineers inventing the Graphical User Interface… Xerox had the technology, but Jobs and then Gates saw the value. They saw this was going to profoundly change computing… the rest is history.

The misnomer is that when inventions are marked ‘a moment of genius’ or brilliance and the idea ascends to meteoric heights, fortunes are made and the world transforms. While this fits the American cultural narrative, it’s largely a fantasy. What actually happens is that someone sees the practical application of a collection of technologies to solve a common problem. Sometimes it’s just making things easier, sometimes it’s a whole new experience – but at the core, the invention replaces something that already exists or that we were already doing, it’s just better. We were able to walk to our friends, then we rode horses, then we drove cars and maybe soon, we’ll beam over.

What was the last technology revolution in retail related to the customer experience? Sure, we have systems that manage inventory or store operations more efficiently, but something that makes the in-store experience better…? There hasn’t been much in the last 50 years. Arguably now that Point of Sale systems are tied to computers, transactions happen more quickly and a cashier can look up the availability of a product but really… Is that a better customer experience than Amazon can provide with super efficiency?

This brings me to our Looking Glass Product. Marketing to customers, serving customers and managing store operations is something as humans we’ve been doing for thousands of years. The efficiencies of Amazon aside, shopping is a quintessentially human experience. We trade our hard-earned labor for things we need or want… agree with it or not, we enjoy shopping.

Looking Glass is a novel implementation of existing technology to improve the customer experience. With a camera and a digital display, we use visual recognition technology to make determinations about a customer or groups of customers and then modify the content on the screen to meet the needs of the customers. For example, if you’re a middle-aged mom with two kids in tow, rushing into a Starbucks, Looking Glass would present content about the Mobile Order and Pay feature on the Starbucks Mobile Application… “Move to the front of the line with mobile order and pay”. If you’re an Asian man in a duty-free airport store walking up to the Jack Daniels section, the video will feature the Sinatra-branded Jack Daniels created specifically for the Japanese market. If you’re walking with a sense of urgency, we may identify you as having a propensity to action and share different content to someone who is browsing.

Our product delivers this capability built on technology that has been around for decades. What enables our solution is the increases in computing power and algorithms that have been developed in pursuit of bad guys after 9/11. We can collect vast amounts of data, quickly process it, and in real time deliver a differentiated experience. What’s astonishing is how much data science has evolved during the war on terror. There is no real difference in how you predict behavior – its accuracy is largely dependent on having enough data to have a reasonable likelihood of success. With a camera in-store, we can understand and measure how people behave, how they react to various types of content and the conditions within the store. If through a network of cameras I am monitoring behavior to see if someone is acting in a way that might lead to a crime (“propensity to action”) and I can also monitor behavior to see if someone is likely to make a purchase (“propensity to action” )… it’s the same thing. We’re just applying the technology to different business problems. One of the things that is most remarkable is the accuracy of the visual recognition systems to determine gender, age, ethnicity, and sentiment (level of happiness) for every person that passes by the camera. On top of that, we can see how fast the line moves, what was your happiness score when you walked into the store, and what was it when you left.

Looking Glass is a tool and technology to present custom experiences, to collect first-party behavioral data and create enriched in-store experiences. We can tie the online and offline worlds together. It may not be the same thing as talking to your favorite salesperson at Nordstrom, but it’s a big step forward in that direction. When we couple Looking Glass with Artificial Intelligence, well then, the real magic can happen.

I am very excited about what we’re doing and although the application of what we are proposing is novel and unique, it’s founded on technology that has been around for a long time. Sometimes the best ideas are a simple change in paradigm.

The answer to the drone question is that in 1916-17 the first pilotless drone was developed, and the first unmanned flight occurred on Long Island in March of 1918. It only took 100 years for drone technology to make its way to the commercial market. Hopefully we’re going to bring Looking Glass to market fast than that.

Let’s go be great!

The Experience Effect

The Experience Effect is changing how we do business. This is where Tahzoo comes in. No longer does one-size-fits-all content suffice. Today’s leading businesses need to consider everything they do in terms of “The Experience.” This goes for every company I know. If you make three-dimensional products; good for you, but that product is an experience. Look to the iPhone for inspiration, it’s as much an experience as a phone. If you provide a service, even better.

We live in a service economy. Services are experiences, too. Technology has allowed us the privilege of learning what our customers want, need and desire and we can use that information and some pretty remarkable technologies to meet them on their terms. We can speak to them in their language and we can treat them to experiences they really care about. This is what the customer experience is meant to be.

For you and I as individuals, the Experience Effect means we will increasingly define our experience by our ability to share them with our families, with our friends, and with the world. For the businesses of the world, the Experience Economy will mean understanding that no matter what product or service we deliver, we are ultimately delivering an experience, some make that experience something different, something memorable. And lastly, companies must be honest and truthful about the experiences they create. Only when experiences are sharable, different and authentic can they truly transcend.

The Experience Economy is real and it is changing the world. It has already altered every business on the planet and it will continue to do. Now, more than ever, the quality of what we experience is more valuable than the quantity of what we own.

Let’s use that knowledge—and this moment in time—to make millions of people happy.


Look For New Opportunities

We all love serendipity… Ever have a conversation with someone only to find out you have something in common? These common bonds are often the basis of romance, great friendships and important business relationships. If you have a strong relationship with your client, they are always excited to hear that you can support them in other ways. The serendipity happens because you’re communicating and asking questions.

Our best chance for business is within our existing accounts. Assuming that the habits discussed in the prior two ‘Desk of Brad’ notes are well executed, new opportunities will naturally flow your way. At Tahzoo we do a lot of different things, we have many disciplines within the company and learnings from virtually all of our accounts, both current and past. It’s imperative that each of us understand the full range of service offerings within Studios and Labs. More importantly, you need to know how the business objectives of your clients are tied to our service offering. As I’ve been spending more time with you in the field, it’s obvious to me that there is a lot of training and knowledge transfer required for us to be successful.

There are three critical dimensions to finding new opportunities: Know your customer’s business, know their success or reward metrics and know Tahzoo products and services.

New opportunities start with knowing your customer’s business. BCG isn’t in the business of consulting – that’s only part of it. They are in the business of recruiting and relationships. McDonald’s doesn’t just sell hamburgers; they are one of the largest real estate holders in the world. How can Tahzoo services and products be leveraged to create growth and profitability?

The second view of a customer’s business is the demand side business model. How do they generate customers and business? Do they have a direct field sales force? Are they channel driven with distributors? Are they marketing and ecommerce driven? This is important to understand and discuss as we are either enabling the business model, encouraging or preventing disruption, or adding new models to the existing business. Our solutions are either helping them grow faster or create efficiencies, with above the line impact or below the line impact. Either way, every person on the team needs to know how to build a business case for the solution against the business model.

Answers to these questions are something that I expect everyone in Tahzoo be able to answer regarding their clients. The questions are a great basis for starting conversations and enabling a more meaningful exchange of information. I’m encouraging each of you to talk with your clients, and if you’re not client facing that often, then discuss these issues in the daily stand up. We are “Driven by Big Ideas” – we need the best and most thoughtful solutions we can conceive for our clients.

So, let’s go learn about our clients’ business, ask some insightful questions and see if there are other ways that we can help them.


The Present

One of my favorite books to give is called The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson. Think of the title of the book as a riddle.

I had dinner last night with an old friend and we were talking about building relationships with customers. I’ve known some of my customers for years, and many of them have become good friends. There is a great Zig Ziglar quote, “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”

When you call a customer and say, “Hello, how are you?”, listen – really listen… If you can understand what may be happening for them, you can be a sympathetic ear or you might be able to help. All too often, greetings are treated as a ritual and not a real offer to connect, or, said differently, to be present. Go be a good friend to others and they will return the favor.

If you’d like a copy of the book as always, please let me know.