I’m a huge fan of learning from great organizations. One of my favorite things to do is to take church planters, pastors, and clients on field trips to learn from those who do it best. I have done this several times and there is always a ton to learn.
Recently, I took 5 church planters to Disneyland (it helps living close). First, I took them to 5 places in the park that tell the Disney story, as well as create teaching moments. After we made our 5 quick stops, I provided them with observation questions to get them thinking, asking, and observing.
Here’s a sample of some the questions and instructions I provided them:
- Look around and make some general observations. Remember to look with “new eyes.”
- Ask, “What does Disney know/do that we could learn from?” Keep in mind that we often miss the genius of the familiar.
- Ask the “why” questions.
- Describe your experience (both good and bad).
- Describe the environment.
- How does this place make you feel?
- What can you learn from your experience that can be integrated or used in the ministry you’re currently doing or will be doing?
- Describe the different emotions and experiences you had.
- What do you learn about vision and dreams? Attention to detail? Customer service?
- With everything ask, what does this mean for me?
After a few hours of observing and playing, I gather those participating to debrief and ask, “What did you see, what did you hear, and what did you learn?” The depth of conversation and observations deepens the more people you have. Collaboration is the best process for learning, so creating a collaborative environment is key to best outcomes. Send people out in groups with observation questions designed to maximize the learning experience. The questions you ask will guide people’s thinking and the outcome you hope they experience.
If you want your organization or leadership team to get new ideas about things like customer service, the importance of values, branding, etc., then send them out armed with their observation questions and instructions. When they get back, be sure to debrief and ask, “What can we learn from these observations, and what would it look like for us?”
Here are my top 10 organizations to learn from:
- Disney – Customer service, great environments and experiences, values, leadership, branding, fun and vision
- Southwest Airlines – Driving values through an organization, enduring a crisis, advertising, fun
- Panera – Creating an environment and experience for people, values, quality
- Nordstroms – Customer service, sales
- Apple (the Apple Store) – Branding, customer service, change, creating an environment for people
- Starbucks – Branding, values, management, pride, change
- In & Out Burger– Quality, simplicity, hiring, values
- Chick-fil-A – Commitment to excellence, values, telling a story
- Google – Simplicity, fun, loyalty
- Trader Joe’s – Branding, Customer Service, Identity
Things to keep in mind as you do this:
- Learning best happens when it’s collaborative
- Learn outside the box – We tend to focus our learning on the same books, models, and organizations
- Control the experience, not the outcomes
- Do your work ahead of time – Don’t just show up and expect to learn
- Record everything and get your observations to everyone