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Lessons from America

by Marion Janner May 16, 2012

Up from the Hub archives. Originally published 2009

Have just come back from America. Collected a bunch of ideas, from dog magazines to ice-cream parlours!

1. Best cruise line – Crystal Cruises. Intensive training programme for staff – “they learn to implement Six Star Crystal Basics, a credo that encompasses attitude, communication, competence, style, safety and execution.” I love the idea of these core values being made explicit. In particular, attitude is such a ubiquitous personal skill but one that is rarely stated as attitude. I'd be fascinated to know what the company cover in conveying the appropriate attitude for staff, but it is possible to tease out things like enthusiasm, courtesy, helpfulness, resourcefulness etc. 

2. "Adventures by Disney vacations are packed with activities designed for children, teens, adults and grandparents to enjoy together! Bring the whole family together and share extraordinary experiences like boating to the Mediterranean island of Capri or dining in the Eiffel Tower. While most of our activities are created for the whole family to enjoy together, we have created special experiences too — Junior Adventurers can cut loose at pizza parties and scavenger hunts and adults can enjoy wine tasting or indulge in a romantic dinner. The adventure spans generations!" What's inspiring about this is, as shown in a golden glowing advert, a visit to Machu Pichu which is magical for adults but potentially dull and meaningless for kids, especially young ones, can be made interactive and fun for kids. The implications for the project I run (Star Wards, inspiring acute mental health care) are about being really imaginative about tailoring experiences to individuals, including those who aren't traditional 'consumers' of the service.

3. Creativity, flexibility and above all tenacity are wonderfully illustrated by the American postal service. An article describes this: "The mules are just one of many unorthodox techniques that the USPS uses to get the mail through. Some rural Alaskans get their mail carried overland by snowmobile or dropped from a seaplane. In the Florida Everglades, the mail arrives on a boat propelled by outboard motor. In Philadelphia and other big cities, much of the mail is sorted by robots, giant claws that seize a tray of mail, scan the barcode, and shuttle it with terrifying speed to any one of 12 bins to await distribution. No peacetime organization in the world deploys such a wide range of technologies to accomplish a single job."

4. Then there was an article about “Toronto’s trendiest changing room” in a yoga-wear shop. A sale’s assistant writes the shopper’s name on a wipe-board on their changing room - “my own personalised compartment”, wrote the journalist. One of the things I found difficult about being a psychiatric inpatient was a sense of depersonalisation. This was partly because I was there involuntarily, having been 'sectioned'. But also because of the inevitable loss of individuality that comes from any closed community, especially one run by a huge bureaucracy such as the NHS. Simple things like choosing to have one's name written (attractively!) on one's bedroom door in the ward would help to feel noticed and an individual.