Startup Survival Podcast

Episode 3.2 - Applying Surprise

January 25, 2022 Peter Harrington meets Dr Claire Hookham Season 3 Episode 2
Startup Survival Podcast
Episode 3.2 - Applying Surprise
Show Notes Transcript

Why is surprise such a powerful emotion and how can you use it in your work to attract customers and build brand loyalty?

In this episode, listen to the charismatic Dr Claire Hookham explain how to create lasting surprise that works with customers and consumers.

Dr Hookham worked at and completed a PhD with one of the world's leading entertainment brands. Her insightful experience allows her to share and explain how authentic surprise is created and how the creation of this emotion impacts future behaviour.

Full of energy and ideas, this episode is a must-listen for anyone seeking to develop their creative thinking skills.

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A bit of podcast author background...

UK-based Peter Harrington set up his first business following graduation in York in 1989. He has since started and grown several companies in various sectors including research, marketing, design, print, educational software and consultancy. Over the last 30+ years, Peter has employed over 1,000 people and experienced many highs and a few lows including burglaries, floods, fire and of course the most recent pandemic.

As well as being the CEO with the SimVenture team, Peter is also an Entrepreneur in Residence at London South Bank University.

Big thanks to LSE Generate, the SimVenture Team and Seajam Moths for supporting the Startup Survival Podcast.

Find Guest details and all Reference Sources

The full podcast series together with additional materials, guest details and hyperlinks to all episode reference sources is available on Peter Harrington's Blog 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to Entrepreneurship'.

Startup Survival Podcast

Series 3 – Episode 2 - Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:12):

Hello and a warm welcome once more to the Startup Survival Podcast with me, your host, Peter Harrington. Series three entitled Strength of Feeling is an exploration into the world of entrepreneurial emotions. In the first episode, my special guest, Alan Donogan revealed his thoughts on the issue of anger. It was a crackling start to the series and in many ways, the perfect lead into this podcast, which is all about

Speaker 1 (00:44):


Speaker 1 (00:46):

Sorry, I couldn't resist. I blame Duncan

Speaker 3 (00:50):

And I blame Pete,

Speaker 1 (00:52):

Whatever. Anyhow, this episode with the help of Dr. Claire Hookem, is going to examine the issue and value of surprise. And as importantly, and please forgive the split infinitive, how you can authentically generate this emotion in your startup entrepreneurial world. In just a minute, Claire will be here to share some of her fascinating experience of working and studying with one of the world's largest entertainment brands. She'll be talking about how this global powerhouse of an organization uses surprise to add delight and magic to the customer experience. I can't think of a better person to provide insight into the value of surprise and how this touching emotion can have such a positive impact on people's lives.

Speaker 1 (01:45):

In preparation for my interview with Claire, as well as this podcast episode, I felt it was important to understand surprise a little more. Interestingly, my brother, who is the CTO within the Simventure team suggested I get the book, the art of game design, because perhaps unsurprisingly, surprise is a key component in games. The book's author, Jesse Shell also designed and developed interactive theme park rides and multiplayer games for the very same company where Claire worked and studied. So, what does Jesse have to say about surprise? Well, quoting him directly from the book. Jesse says “surprise is a crucial part of all entertainment. It is at the root of humour strategy and problem solving. Our brains are hardwired to enjoy surprises”. And he goes on to say, “in an experiment where participants receive sprays of sugar water, or play water into their mouths, the participants who received random sprays considered the experience much more pleasurable than the participants who received the sprays”. According to a fixed pattern, even though the same amount of sugar was delivered. Now, I have a sneaking suspicion. The pleasure experience by people was to a significant degree affected by the critical issue of expectation, but expectation isn't for now, because that topic will be explored when we cover the subject of happiness later in the series. For now, let's get back to the issue of surprise and more importantly, let's get Dr. Hookem onto the show. Claire, welcome, welcome. Welcome to the Startup Survival Podcast.


Speaker 2 (03:34):

Thank you for inviting me. It's an absolute pleasure to be here.

Speaker 1 (03:38):

Hello, Claire. Now, before we explore the issue at hand, can you share a bit more about your background and, and what you do?

Speaker 2 (03:46):

I can. So, I'm currently the associate Dean academic for quality and enhancement at the University of Salford in the business school. And previously to that, I've worked at whole university business school as an associate Dean in education and the Deputy Director. And before then the University of Liverpool as an enterprise champion and university teacher. So, I've had lots of different roles in three different institutions of lecturer and senior lecturer and student experience of learning and teaching related roles, and primarily linked to my scholarly background of management studies.

Speaker 1 (04:21):

Thank you. So, you are a business management and education specialist and you've chosen to cover the issue of surprise. Can you tell me a bit more about the reason for your choice?

Speaker 2 (04:33):

Well, I've got quite an interesting PhD topic. So, the one thing I didn't tell you about my background is that I'm a former cast member of Walt Disney World in Florida. And the time that I spent as a cast member was actually the basis and the field work for my PhD, which was a study of the corporate culture of the company and how they use storytelling methods or indeed methods of surprise for their guests and cast members alike.

Speaker 1 (05:03):

So, I take it. You are a big fan of Disney.

Speaker 2 (05:05):

I am, yes. And we first went to Disneyworld when I was 11. So, I went with my family and just completely fell in love with the theme parks, with the brand, just with the, the whole purveyors of pixie dust. That everything was magical. Everything was incredibly clean. It was incredibly organised. And it was just stepping into a completely different world. And I loved that. I loved being in America, and from chatting to people there, I realised that actually they employ British people to go over there for between 12 and 15 months to represent their country as part of the world showcase in Epcot. So, it felt like a really nice way to work for such a huge company and live in America in a very safe and organized way. So, I promised myself as an 11-year-old that I would work incredibly hard finish university. And I would actually take my gap year at the end of my education before I went into the, the big wide world as a grown up.

Speaker 1 (06:06):

Before I come onto the subject of your doctorate, can I ask how many times you visited Disneyworld, you know, before starting your academic work?

Speaker 2 (06:15):

I went to [Disneyworld] as a guest on family holidays and things like that, probably five or six times to the Florida one and probably about another four or five times to Disneyland Paris.

Speaker 1 (06:26):

So, I imagine Claire, ahead of you starting work, you'd fallen in love with the magic and wonder of surprise that Disney offers.

Speaker 2 (06:34):

Yeah, definitely. I mean obviously grew up with the movies and the TV shows. I think it really helps that my family were really into it as well. So, we, we completely were fell under the spell of the Disney magic, so that, that really helped. And, I actually worked at the Disney store before I went to work at Disney world as well. So, I had a little introduction to, to working for Mickey before I got on the plane to go to Florida.

Speaker 1 (07:00):

And from Disney's perspective, you sound like the ideal employee.

Speaker 2 (07:05):

Yeah, I think so. I mean, part of my PhD was actually looking at whether Disney employed Disney people or whether they make Disney people through their training methods. And I think we'll probably talk a little bit about that if we can later on. So, I think it's really interesting that the training methods that they use to, to ensure those incredibly high standards of customer service continue for the duration of your employment. So, but I, yes, I think that when they saw me and, and understood how much I enjoyed the brand and enjoyed the products, and I'd also done quite a lot of academic research about Disney as well, because prior to being a cast member, I'd just completed an MBA in human resource management of which an element of that was international business. And I'd use the Disney company as the focus for that module. So I had done lots of reading into the, the business behind Disney and, and how they get that, those levels of magic and how you can be guaranteed such a fantastic experience in any of the theme parts you go to in any of the world. So, I think I was absolutely beguiled by what was going on there.

Speaker 1 (08:15):

Claire, before we deep dive into surprise, can you provide some context and share with the listeners what life was like as a cast member at Disney Florida?

Speaker 2 (08:25):

Yes, absolutely. So I was there as an International Cast Member, so I was part of the international program. So, Disney world is made up of four theme parks and then other, other things such as restaurants and water parks and, and various other entertainment complexes within the Walt Disney World Resort. And I worked in a theme pack called Epcot, which stands for experimental prototype community of tomorrow. So, it's a theme pack based around space exploration, telecommunications. And then the other half of the theme park is a world showcase. So, there's are 11 different countries represented around a manmade lagoon. And one of those countries is the UK. So, the idea is that you can walk the world within a day, and within each country is a pavilion and it's got shops and restaurants, and some have rides, some have theatres to really make you feel that you have visited that country that day. And part of that really rich experience as a guest is that you have to be native to the country or a presented to be a Disney cast member within that pavilion. So, if you have got what they call a, an onstage role. So if you're an onstage cast member where guests will see you, you have to be native because they want that true representation of obviously our accents, our experience, to be able to talk about our customs, to be able to talk about our country with, with a real authenticity, even though lots of the guests did actually think that we were just Americans pretending to be that, that role, which was, which was quite funny. So, I was there for 15 months as a, as a cultural representative. So, I worked in the UK pavilion on the food and beverage side. So, I worked in the Rosen crown dining room and pub. So, I was waitressing, I was bartending, I worked in new Yorkshire county fish and chip because obviously heard my Yorkshire accent and thought, oh, we want authenticity. Let's put her in the chip there for a while. Yeah, so, so that was the basis. And then if we had any dignitaries come over, so we'd have a lot of former presidents of the United States and we'd have the CEO of Disney who was Michael Eisner at the time. He would often come to the UK pavilion because we had lots of privacy in the beer garden. So, celebrities could hide there without lots of other guests seeing them. And from a security perspective as well, obviously secret service members could be there to protect. And it was a great view of the fireworks.

Speaker 1 (10:59):

And, and did you wear a traditional British costume? Whatever that may be?

Speaker 2 (11:04):

Yes. I think if you maybe think Mary Poppins, you wouldn't be too far away from the traditional costume. I mean, obviously it's not modern-day clothes that we would normally wear in Britain. But yes, it was kind of floaty blouses and, and sensible skirts and the, the guys wore pantaloons and shirts. So it was, I would say turn of the 20th century. So very much the 19 hundreds view of what British people would wear and lovely mob caps in when we were in the chip hut to, to hide our hair as well.

Speaker 1 (11:36):

And on a really busy day, Claire, approximately how many cast members would be working in the pavilion and, and how many people would, would visit.

Speaker 2 (11:44):

Gosh, that's quite tricky to work out. So, I would say on the food and beverage side potentially up to maybe 30 or 40 cast members and on the merchandise side, maybe 10 to 15 though, so that they had fewer cast members on the merchandise side of the pavilion. It was obviously they were working in the shops and selling the merchandise and selling British chocolates and things like in football shirts and things like that. Whereas the food and beverage, it was an incredibly busy restaurant, so we'd have lots, and we'd also have three shifts every day as well. So, there'd be lots of us coming and going. Just the intensity of the physicality of the, the job roles we were doing as well. And in terms of guests, well, the fact that it's a world showcase people were walking through the pavilion all the time. So, we would be talking thousands of people every day would pass through the UK pavilion. And probably up to, I don't know, maybe two, 300 dining in the restaurant every day. So, it, it not an insignificant amount of guest interactions that we were trained for


Speaker 1 (12:56):

Claire, let's get onto the main theme of this podcast. Surprise people go to Disney to live out a dream and to make that happen. I'm sure Disney offers many surprises. Are you able to share some examples of what they do and how surprises worked into the Disney customer experience?

Speaker 2 (13:15):

I think what's really important is state is that surprises actually the core element of the Disney philosophy on customer service, obviously in Disney terms, we say guest service because it's, everything has got theatrical terminology. But it's absolutely the central point. However, surprise at Disney is 100% scripted. It, nothing is left a chance it's all built in. And the reason I say that is that the expectation of guest service within, within Disney world. And in fact, within the Disney company, is that you will exceed guest expectation at all times. So, Disney state that their main competitors are anybody else who serve customers. So, it's not that their main competitors are other theme parks or, or the animation studios or other shops it's anybody else who serves customers. That's what they strive to be and the way they achieve that is through the element of surprise.

Speaker 2 (14:13):

So, for example the, the first thing that I would say is that they have a very, very clear framework for those high expectations and they call them the guest service guidelines. So, Disney has seven main guest service guidelines that every cast member at the Walt Disney world resort is taught on their first day. So, before you go to the UK pavilion in my, in my in my case you go to the Disney university for three days to go through generic Disney cast member training. And in those three days, you're taught about the heritage of the company, the history of the company and the philosophy of the customer service. And you are taught those seven guest service guidelines, and you're given a little card that's a little bit like a credit card size, and it has those seven different points on it. And it's all things like make eye contact and smile, seek out guest interaction preserve the magical guest experience, which means not talking about the things that go on backstage, not talking, you know, not being dragged into conversations about, you know, how does Mickey possibly get from magic kingdom to he's in the parade and then he's and greet the next time.

Speaker 2 (15:24):

So, it's preserving that magical guest experience at all times. So, by having that framework for high standards that are taught within your first day at the company before you're taught the operational side of this is how you are a waitress at Disney world. This is how you carry your tray. This is how we deliver food. This is how we sell things. Disney really put in upfront and centre, the importance of those high standards. And within that is built in the element of surprise. So that every time you surprise your guest by maybe giving them a complimentary dessert or fixing a problem over and above what they would expect to the guest, that's a surprise, but to the cast member that was always going to happen. And in fact, it's probably happened 30 times today already.

Speaker 1 (16:14):

It's amazing. Isn't it surprise by basic definition is an unexpected unscripted event yet for it truly to work in cut through in people's minds? In this case, Disney guests, a huge amount of planning and forethought is needed.


Speaker 2 (16:28):

I think the way, the, another way of thinking about it is if you think of a surprise birthday party, me as the organizer, everything is planned. It's, it's planned to perfection. The timing of everybody's arrival, the food we're going to eat the decorations. We're going to have our, how I'm going to get you there as the birthday boy. So, all that is completely planned, but then you arrive, and you get the surprise. You see everything for the first time you see everybody who's there for the first time, what food we're having, what gifts you've got. So, but the planning that goes into that is the important part. And, and I always say that actually working at Disney was the most magical experience I've ever had, but it was also the hardest job I've ever had because to maintain that level of surprise and magic. And don't forget everybody else's on holiday and really that's my job. I'm, I'm there and I'm still having a real life and I've still got washing to do and food to be cooking and things like that. But you've got maintain that, wow, this is, this is special just for you. I am here today as a Disney cast member to make your day magical.

Speaker 1 (17:34):

What you say, Claire makes so much sense when you think about it. Now, when preparing for this interview, you mentioned a very interesting phenomenon related to surprise at Disney, you called it everything talks. Can you share a bit more light on this subject?

Speaker 2 (17:50):

Everything talks is a Disney philosophy. But that basically means attention to detail. The idea is that everybody watches, Disney. Everybody wants them to mess up. Everybody wants them to make mistakes. So, Disney don't allow any mistakes in that way to happen. So, the attention to detail is the, it's the idea. So, if we use the, the world showcase, for example, so there's 11 countries represented. Now, Disney want you to feel that you have had 11 unique experiences that day, that you have visited by the sites, the sounds, and really importantly, the smells of each country. So, as you're walking through each of the pavilion, the first thing that changes is the ground because Disney psychologists have said that your brain tells the way in which your brain clocks that you're in somewhere new is first and foremost by your feet. Now you think it would be things that you saw, but actually it's, it's very much that the terrain has changed.

Speaker 2 (18:48):

So, you know, so for example, coming from the French pavilion into the UK pavilion, it changes from a very flat surface to a cobbled surface because of course the UK pavilion is, is setting those, those kinds of 19 hundreds era. So immediately you're entering this oldie Dickensian world of cobbled feet of cobble stones for your feet. Should I say. And then that's when the rest of your sensors pick up on the fact that, oh, this has changed. I'm in a completely different country now. So, there'll be mushroom speakers hidden in bushes and in the flower bed. So, you can't hear the music, but actually if you're listening really carefully, they've got Gilbert and Sullivan playing. They've got very quintessential, British music playing. And as you are walking through, so it's this, the, every, the attention to detail is down to such a minutia that actually guests don't realize it. And they start humming along with things without even realizing that they're not listening to the Accordion music, that they were in the French pavilion anymore, and they're walking on something very different and that the sight and sounds are incredibly different. But that goes to everything else as well. So, it's making sure that the way in which Disney cast members dressed are, are perfect every single time. So, they have a notion of the Disney look that you have to look a certain way and before you, what they say step onto stage. So, any area that a guest can see is stage any area that they can't see is backstage. So anytime you step onto stage, there's a mirror before you leave to check that you've still got the Disney look and the most important part about the Disney look is the Disney smile. So, whatever you've got you leave it backstage. You put on your Disney smile, and you walk out on stage to provide that Disney magic. And that's really where the attention to detail comes.

Speaker 1 (20:37):

And, and can I ask, did you ever walk out onto the stage and not be a hundred percent properly dressed?

Speaker 2 (20:43):

Never. I would never walk out onto stage. It's just drilled into you really from those early stages at the Disney university. And you feel such a pride of being a Disney cast member, that, to wear that, that costume, which obviously we would call a uniform, but in Disney speak it's costume to wear that costume is such an honour and to where the Disney name badge as well. Because they're very, very so, so I dunno if you know this actually, but Disney was a first ever company to use name tags or name badges. And now we see them everywhere. We see them in Tesco or other supermarkets are available. But that was a Disney thing because Walt wanted his Disney cast members to be very approachable, but always with first names, he did, he hated Mr. And Mrs. And, and all those other titles. He said, the only misters that we have at Disney are Mr toad and Mr Smee. Everybody else has first names. So, you'll only ever see first names on name badges. And, and actually just coming. This has given me an opportunity to talk about that attention to detail and everything talks. You will never see a Disney cast member without a name tag, even if they've forgotten to take their name tag, to work that day. Cause there are draws backstage that have draws full of name tags that either say Chris or pat, because obviously that can be either gender or, or nonbinary name. So, you'll, they'll always have them, but that's such an important Disney's approachable with your first name would never dreamt of stepping on stage without full Disney and all important.

Speaker 1 (22:21):

It's impossible whilst listening to Claire, not to hear her infectious smile. Like Claire, I've always been a great believer in using first names as well as using business titles only when required formalities, especially in the world of startup, hinder communication and slow down our ability to find common ground and build trust. But the emotion of trust is for another episode, let's get back to Disney and, and let's get back to Claire. Claire. You've mentioned that word magic quite a bit, and I know you are keen to talk about how magic moments are used at Disney to create surprise. Can you elaborate

Speaker 2 (22:59):

In Disney speak magic moments are scripted interactions with guests. However, the guest doesn't know that they're scripted. So, each location. So, when I talk about location, in my terms, that would be the Rosen crown dining room had a magic moment for the afternoon and for the evening. And this would be an event that happens every single day. In fact, you're often scheduled to do the magic moment as part of your work allocation. So, when you, when you clock in, they say, okay, you're in the fish and chip hub today, or, okay. So, you're in, you're in the Rose and Crown pub today and one of them might be, and it's your responsibility to the afternoon magic moment. So, it's a scripted interaction, but the secret is, and the surprises that the guest doesn't know it's going to happen. So, the afternoon magic moment for the Rose and Crown would be that we would choose one child every day to be the junior chef.

Speaker 2 (23:53):

So, we would have a Disney chef jacket that said junior chef on. And as they walked into the restaurant, we would say, Mickey's just spotted you coming in. And he wants you to be our junior chef for the afternoon. And obviously the child was thrilled. The parents were thrilled cause it made for a wonderful, wonderful photograph. And then we would sit them down and we'd make them feel special. And then we would get the real Disney chef to come out from the restaurant and would sit with the child and find out what they wanted for their dinner and would sometimes make them something a little bit off menu as well. And then we'd present the child with a certificate to say that they were the junior chef of the Rose and Crown, obviously not saying that there's a different junior chef every single day, but we made them the junior chef of the Rose and Crown.

Speaker 2 (24:36):

And then obviously lots of photo opportunities. So that was the afternoon magic moment. And then in the evening the magic moment would be to help Mickey start the firework. So, there was a firework display at nine o'clock every single night. Now obviously as cast members, we know that the fireworks actually the first firework goes above the Rose and Crown and lands in the middle of the world showcase lagoon. So, we would say, oh my God, we would choose a child every evening and say, oh my goodness Mickey's delayed. He can't start the fireworks today. He's stuck over at the Hollywood studios; can you help us out? You know, you look like a really special child and I'm sure you've got the Disney magic. And then of course the child thinks this is amazing. And then we have a light at wand that we would use, and we'd give the child, and we would say, okay, I'm gonna help you. And I need you to press that button when I tell you to, and that will start our firework display the, this evening. But obviously because we heard the firework display every single evening, we would know from the tempo of the music when it was about to start. So, we would guide the child and discreet the finger over the button as well to make sure that it happened on time to make sure the timing was perfect, but we would practice this. So, you know, same with the junior chef and the, the starting of the fireworks. This would be heavily scripted. We would practice it to make sure it was right. And some, some people were better at it than others. And then they would find that they wouldn't have to do it anymore if they didn't quite get the magic moment. Right. So that was one side of it.


Another side is a take five. So, it's little bit like a magic moment, but it's slightly less scripted. It's more of an ad hoc going above and beyond. So again, an attention to detail and sometimes it can be what we call guest recovery. So, for example if you are walking through the UK pavilion and you see a, child's just got an ice cream and has dropped it, you would immediately go over to the child and say, it doesn't matter. We're gonna get you another ice cream. It doesn't matter at all. Don't worry about the clean up. You go to the ice cream cat to the front of the queue, get the ice cream, fix it with the child. Then you would call for custodial to come and clear the ice cream up. And obviously wouldn't take any money from the guest. And then you'd fix the paperwork when the guest's gone and when the ice cream spill has been being cleared up.

Speaker 2 (26:54):

So that would be an, that would be an element of a take five. So, it could be about guest service recovery and providing excellence in guest service recovery. And to be honest, in that, take five in incident, you wouldn't just give the child an ice cream, actually, you would see if there was anybody else in the, in the party who also wants you just get ice creams for everybody, whether they wanted them or not. Or it could just be choosing something magical that if somebody calls themselves a princess and you go get them a Tiara and let them wear that for the duration of the meal. So, it's, it's about exceeding guest expectation at all times. And I imagine if I was a Disney cast member right now, it would be all about doing things that would be Instagramable or would be, you know, photographable for social media.

Speaker 1 (27:35):

Of course, Claire surprise and social media are totally made for each other. Any organization micro, small or large that can generate authentic surprise through careful thinking and planning has the opportunity to publicize and share its work through customer social media channels. I should add also here that there's a ton of invaluable information on how to do this in the book called contagious by Jonah Berger, which I also referenced in episode three in series one. But, but Claire, before I ask you to share what you consider to be the learning points from this episode, can I check, did surprise always work at Disney?

Speaker 2 (28:18):

No, no, I don't think it did actually. And a lot of that was down to national culture so often. Obviously because Disney are relatively prescriptive in the way in which they train their cast members and the language we use that whether that be body language or verbal language, they would sometimes have great ideas and, and very well-intentioned ideas of keeping things very thematic. So, keeping things very British by scripting interactions with guests. And one example was they wanted us every time a guest left the Rosen crown. They wanted us to say the same thing every time. So, they left with a kind of an Oliver you know, an Oliver/Dickensian moment, you know, “cheers mate”. And it wasn't until that we, the British cast members went back and went well, not only is that really informal, actually we feel quite uncomfortable using that, but actually “cheers” means thank you and not goodbye.

Speaker 2 (29:19):

And, and I think that that was a little bit of a cultural misunderstanding. And we had similar instances with new food that they would bring to the menu that they'd seen on a TV program and thought that that was quintessentially British. And we said it really isn't. And actually, would you believe in the British pavilion, the highest proportion of guests were British? So, they would be the first to call, call out the, the Disney chefs and say, we would never eat this. Like, what even is this, you know, keep it simple. We want fish and chips. We want bangers and mash. So no, it didn't always go well. However, it was nice that we could have the opportunity to feed back and say, look, trust us, we're British. All right. We might not have lived there for eight, nine months, but we still, we, we spent a large majority of our lives there. And the other good thing about Disney is it's constantly innovating. So, they have another philosophy is keep moving forward. And it was taken from a quotation that, that Walt once said about actually Disneyland in California, that it would never be built. It would never be completed. It would always be changing. It would always be morphing. And we keep moving forward with new innovations, with new ideas. So, Disney never rest on their laurels. They're always pushing forward to what they can, what they can do to make things better.

Speaker 1 (30:43):

So, Claire, you've talked about how Disney creates guest service guidelines, how everything talks and magic moments, et cetera, people listening will want to know how they can incorporate what they've heard into their own thinking, their own businesses. What, what advice would you offer?

Speaker 2 (30:59):

I think a lot of the Disney way can be translated to entrepreneurial startups. It can actually be, it, it could be escalated to huge businesses as well. There's lots of lessons to be learned. So, I think for me, the, the key messages are in terms of if we think of the, the guest service guidelines. So have a framework for high standards, have that framework for knowing what you want to achieve and that everybody in your company knows that. And that actually you take the time to train people properly and also keep up with that training to reiterate it at every, every cost. So, it should be the vision that you've got for the company. And if you're gonna build in that emotion of surprise as well, think consciously, think about how are you going to build that into your training? So, when we were trained at Disney, they were surprise elements.

Speaker 2 (31:44):

So, they would give us little free gifts. They were throwing little quizzes. So, it was actually surprising for us as cast members. So, entrepreneurs could do that in the training of the people or, or actually just each other, just, just always, always have that going above and beyond, which leads into that. Everything talks and attention to detail go over, and above customers notice different things. Customers notice if your packaging is different from other companies, they notice if you put in a, a little packet of suites or, you know, depending on how big your business is, if you have the time to write a personal note, I know that lots of people who sell things on Etsy do take the time to real personalize those interactions with guests or a follow up email, that personal interaction can't be understated. And actually with, with the algorithms we've got for emailing and things now that that can be built in quite automatically, but still personal. And the same with the magic moments in take five, think about how you could script an interaction with your customers to make it, to make them feel special. And that would actually come out of nowhere. So, you know, as something through the mail, an email, just to get that level of surprise, and also that reminder about your brand and about your company

Speaker 1 (33:04):

And from your experience of making guests at Disney feel important and special, what was the impact? What were the consequences?

Speaker 2 (33:12):

I think that's why people have such an emotional connection with Disney, because almost anybody who's been to Disney world can tell you about a personal interaction, they've had with a Disney cast member, but they just probably thought that, oh, they were a really nice cast member. They were obviously having a really good day and don't understand the level of planning that goes into each of those interactions. And hopefully they don't understand that probably that happened lots of times that day in different ways as well.

Speaker 1 (33:38):

And in your opinion, how valuable is a script?

Speaker 2 (33:42):

I think you can script things to look like a surprise. You know, you can have the thoughts of how you would like an interaction with a customer to go. So, I, I think, you know, don't think that surprise just means that you just think about something and you do it that actually you can plan these surprise interactions. And you should plan these surprise interactions because again, it, it builds brand loyalty and it builds that emotional connection between your customers and your company,

Speaker 1 (34:14):

And linking back to the issue of cultural surprise, not having the intended impact at Disney, the message of trying things out and learning by assessing what works and what doesn't is an important one.

Speaker 2 (34:26):

The message is learn and change if things don't work, but also use the resources and the experience and the knowledge that you've got within your own company. So don't be afraid to ask people for their advice and their thoughts about something. And even if you think actually as an entrepreneur, it might not be what you want to hear. You've got a big wealth of experience and not just professional experience. You know, you may have a wealth of experience of people from their real lives, their personal lives as well. You don't know what they could bring to the table if they're given the opportunity. So let people have that opportunity to talk. And be part of that, that experience,

Speaker 1 (35:05):

Claire, this has been a fabulous experience. Being able to talk with you and peer behind the curtain of Disney theatre, I've learned so much, but I'm also curious to know what Disney taught you, having worked there and completed your PhD. How has the experience impacted your academic career?

Speaker 2 (35:24):

I think the experience primarily it was twofold first and foremost, having a set of guidelines and expectations and being clear in those expectations that I want to set for people who I'm leading. So, having a very clear sense of what we're trying to achieve, what will, what will success feel like? And more importantly, what will we do after that success? So again, guiding people and leading them and constantly reiterating that this is the vision, this is the mission, this is why we're doing things. And secondly, it's the idea that when we get there, we will be using that success, that success as a springboard, it won't be the end point. So again, with the philosophy of keep moving forward

Speaker 1 (36:11):

And, and finally, do you use surprise at work

Speaker 2 (36:15):

Are use surprise in multiple ways? I, I sometimes use it in terms of kind of informal interactions, maybe meetings. I might surprise them with a box of donuts or a co doing a coffee round or something like that, just to maybe light the mood. And I also use surprise a lot in presentations or maybe lectures, although I don't get the opportunity to do as many lectures as I used to do. I always make sure that there's an element of surprise if only to keep my students awake while they're listening to me lecture, but maybe surprise video or a surprise photograph clip, or just a, just a moment that they will remember throughout the lecture.



Speaker 1 (36:56):

Claire, thank you so much. There is just one final question I need to ask you. Do you have a resource, a book or film maybe that accompanies the theme of this episode that you'd like to recommend to listeners?

Speaker 2 (37:12):

I really like the book that's called The Disney Way: Harnessing Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company. And I will make sure that I give you the full reference that you can put along with the podcast and it's Bill Capodagli,

Speaker 1 (37:28):

Bill Capodagli, what a great name to help people find the book. Can you just spell his surname?

Speaker 2 (37:35):

C A P O D A G L I. And again, it's called The Disney Way.

Speaker 1 (37:42):

Brilliant. And thank you again. Well, Claire, sadly, I must let you and your wonderful smile go. Thank you so much for being a special guest here on the Startup Survival Podcast. Your time and wisdom is so much appreciated and I'm sure listeners will really value what you've shared.

Speaker 2 (38:00):

Thank you for having me

Speaker 1 (38:06):

Well with a nod to Paul Weller’s That's Entertainment. To be able to go behind the scenes and discover how the best of the best create surprise is a surefire way to learn how to use and adopt fundamental principles by incorporating thought through surprise into your venture. You create those moments of magic and delight that people remember and share with others. Therefore, when you think about it done well surprises at the root of any sound marketing campaign, because you are presenting people with the unusual, the outstanding, as well as increasing the chances that customers will repeat purchase. You are providing the perfect nudge and content for social media messaging and the beauty of it all is that it's likely to cost you nothing but an investment in time. Like the previous episode. I really hope that in some small way, this podcast has shed some light on key issues and provided you with a fresh set of reference points.

Speaker 1 (39:08):

Of course, if you think you have valuable insight to share on a specific emotion and you are listening to this podcast in the early months of 2022, then you may be just the person we are looking for to feature on this show, to find out more about being a guest than visit forward slash podcast guest. In the next episode, I'm off on a digital ride to Cape Town, South Africa, where I'll be talking with the fascinating Steve Gwen, Steve is much travelled and having led a global adventure company for many years, he'll be talking to me about developing self-belief. If you enjoy listening to humble soul sharing, adventurous stories, don't miss my conversation with the gen and always caring Steve Gwen. So, all of this just leaves me to conclude this second episode. Thank you again to Duncan for your wonderful production. Thank you, Cilla, for all your editorial support and research. And of course, thank you to our special guest, Dr. Claire Hooken for offering so much insight on the subject of surprise. Don't forget your podcast feedback is not just welcomed. It's needed, share what you really like and let me know what needs to be improved. I'd love to hear from you. My name's Peter Harrington, and this has been your Simventure sponsored Startup Survival Podcast. Go well, stay safe and thank you.