Learning to Seek Inspiration and Serve Others

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Lesson from the Father of Apple

A few years back, I read an article about Steve Jobs that pointed out his (obsessive) love of beauty, simplicity and design. Throughout his life, he actively studied and surrounded himself with external examples of each of them. And, perhaps most importantly, he intentionally brought these qualities to all areas of his life – in particular, the products that his company designs.

While I read articles about famous people all of the time, this one stuck with me for some reason. (Sorry! I can’t locate the exact article now, but this Smithsonian magazine article approximates it.) And from it, I took away a resolution to surround myself with the qualities that I want to bring to the world – positivity, curiosity, aliveness and, in particular, service.

Learning from Others that Serve Well

For the sake of brevity, I am going to focus on service. As a learning program designer, I (along with the Bon Education team) am ultimately in the business of service. Everything we do, from the way we respond to emails, to the curriculum we write, to the way we facilitate learning experiences should serve others, especially their learning. As a result, I am keen to surround myself by great service so that I can be inspired to bring equally great service to the world through our work.

Here are three examples of great service providers I’ve found and what I’ve learned about service along the way – lessons that I aim to apply to our work at Bon Education:

1) Din Tai Fung

If you are in search of the perfect steamed dumpling, search no more! No matter what branch you visit, Din Tai Fung (a global casual dining restaurant chain with a Michelin star to boot) will be crowded with happy visitors. The world-class dumplings are artfully and consistently produced by hand, and the staff work like clockwork ushering visitors in and out quickly (without feeling rushed). The moment you sit down, staff come with a basket in which to put jackets and purses (in order to protect them from drips of soy sauce or slurping soup), children’s utensils are provided and then quickly replaced (as babies chuck them to the floor), tea is poured and orders are taken. As food comes to the table, care is taken to keep it hot and explain what it is. And, when it is time for the check, it is produced and processed within two minutes so that satisfied guests can leave quickly and hungry guests from the queue outside can enter.

What I’ve learned about service from DTF…

Good service may come organically, but great service is studied, planned, practiced and then rhythmically and artfully performed day in and day out not just by individuals, but by entire teams.

2) Disney

Throughout my entire life, I’ve made a pilgrimage to Disney nearly every five years. I’ve been to Florida a number of times, Tokyo DisneySea and most recently Hong Kong Disneyland. On this past trip, my husband and I marveled at Disney’s attention to the biggest and smallest of details. From curb cuts on every sidewalk, to stroller rentals and covers when it rains, to time indicators and interactive wall installations while guests wait in line, Disney has thought through all of the little pain points a guest might have during a visit and sought to mitigate them. Perhaps my favorite service at HK Disney is “the sticker.” All employees (from bathroom janitors to managers) walk around with pockets filled with character stickers. Any time a child looks sad, restless or joyful, Disney staff are empowered to go up to the young guest and give him/her a sticker – a small gesture, but one that was received with welcome hands by our little ones.

What I’ve learned about service from Disney…

When it comes to serving others, little pain points matter. Identify them. Design to correct them. And empower all team members to embrace and act with a service mindset.

3) Shangri-La

Living in Dubai as an expat, I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to visit a number of stunning hotels both within the UAE and abroad. While the world is filled with many five-star hotels, what distinguishes the good from the great is the service. On a recent visit to the Taipei Shangri-La, I was taken aback by the staff’s constant ability to handle all guest situations with ease and grace. When the breakfast buffet was over, instead of telling guests “Last order. We’re closing up at 10:30am” (as what happens at most hotels), the restaurant manager said, “I hope you are enjoying your meal. I just wanted to let you know that we are going to start putting away the breakfast food so that we can prepare for lunch. If you would like another plate, we welcome you to get it now. Please do not feel rushed to eat. You can stay in the dining room as long as you’d like.” Or, when I went to the concierge to get directions to the National Palace Museum, the lobby staff immediately came to speak to my young children, so that I could focus on getting directions without worrying about my little ones running off. Thank you!

What I’ve learned about service from Shangri-La…

Constantly manage others’ expectations so that they understand what is going on. Learn to delight people when they least expect it.

Intentional Inspiration

Steve Jobs’ habit of surrounding himself with the qualities he wanted to bring to the world is a wonderful reminder to constantly seek inspiration and learning through our day-to-day experiences. The world really is one giant classroom!

To intentional inspiration,

CEO, Bon Education

 Image available under CC License by Mahender G

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