Creativity, Consistency, and Compliance

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Idea architect Jeffrey Cufaude got me thinking with this post on balancing creativity and personalization with standardization and compliance. He talks about companies like Disney and Southwest airlines that give a general directive, like "make a little magic today" or "get this safety information across," but leave it up to the individual to figure out how to do it.

I think this is really hard for a lot of organizations, because it means management has to trust its people to be able to put their own stamp on something while still toeing the company line—which isn't always easy to do. And it's hard for a lot of staffers, because, let's face it, it's easier to just comply with corporate policy than it is to find creative ways to make customers happy.

And I expect it's even harder for a lot of meeting planners. I'm not say that you all are control freaks (ahem), but I do know that you tend to like to make sure every detail is perfect. Letting go of the reins a bit to let someone else figure out how to keep the registration line moving instead of what you know will work can be really hard. And, as Jeffrey points out, there really isn't a whole lot of room for creativity in some jobs, where compliance is infinitely more important than personalization or creativity (his examples are flight attendant announcements versus airplane maintenance).

Of course, it's never an all-or-nothing proposition. I'd say that, even while I'm a firm believer in checklists, that doesn't mean that you can't inject a little of yourself into how you cross each item off.

Anyway, I'm curious to know how you handle the balance with your staff? How does your organization manage to keep enough consistency that your customers/clients/members/attendees can be confident in the quality of what you will provide, yet still allow you to customize their experience so you can still surprise and delight them?

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