Jim believes you can ascertain much about someone’s makeup by knowing that person’s favorite childhood book – the one recollected as having been read over and over, again and again, as a kid. What is that temperament-telling book for Jim? A little something called Stop. Look. Listen. It’s no wonder that Sally Harrison-Pepper, author of the definitive book on street theatre, Drawing a Circle in the Square, calls Jim “a professional observer.”
Jim’s appetite for understanding the structural underpinnings to day-to-day patterns of human behavior is insatiable. The result? Non-stop. Inquiry. Ingenuity.
His creative thinking is rooted in extraordinary business instruction and work experience. Jim is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and an alumnus of Procter & Gamble. Prior to co-founding Strategic Horizons LLP with Joe Pine, Jim was head of CSC Consulting’s Process Innovation Practice. In that capacity he became a certified trainer in the Six Thinking Hats and Lateral Thinking techniques of Dr. Edward de Bono; at one point, Jim had trained more people in the United States in the latter coursework than any other instructor (a function of Jim integrating creativity skill-building into the process redesign methodologies of his consulting practice).
Jim treats nearly everything as (what de Bono calls) an arising provocation. A visit to Build-A-Bear Workshop® with his two young children leads to Jim see experiential possibilities for “paying labor” (in lieu of paradigms of paid labor and unpaid volunteer). Encountering a coin-spiraling funnel experience at The Forum Shops in Las Vegas, with proceeds going to a charitable cause, prompts Jim to coin the term “narcithropy” (as opposed to philanthropy). Daily reads of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Cleveland Plain Dealer, serve as fodder for uncovering underlying economic and societal trends at play today. A magazine stand is his intellectual candy store.
Interestingly, Jim files his clipping in pure chronological order, not by preconceived subject titles, so new news storylines can be ever reconstructed as research. Jim uses such sifting and sorting as a means to simulate serendipity as a deliberate creativity device. He employs many other self-developed techniques, including occasional sleep deprivation as a means of intentionally fostering “fuzzy thought” (an idea hatched when reading David Gelernter’s The Muse in the Machine: Computerizing the Poetry of Human Thought). Jim’s passion for lateral thinking and unrelenting energy are touchstones for helping companies uncover the next truly big idea. His longest-standing client, Whirlpool, has engaged Jim since the late 1980’s. Go google “Whirlpool Insperience,” “Whirlpool Real Whirled,” “Whirlpool Quality Express,” and “KitchenAid Experience Greenville” for a sampling of the string of big ideas that Jim instigated there.
Today Jim labors to help numerous industries and companies add value to their economic offerings. He is a frequent speaker at conferences and trade shows sponsored by professional associations, industry councils, and magazine publishers, as well as at internal company events and executive education programs. To no one’s surprise, some meeting planners have also retained Jim to help design the overall conference or seminar experience at which he is engaged to speak. Jim’s consulting for clients includes ongoing advice, episodic workshops, company-specific Learning ExcursionsEM , or emergency interventions.
Jim’s thinking has been published in many of the world’s leading business publications, including the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, and Investor’s Business Daily, among others. With Joe Pine, he is of co-editor of Markets of One: Creating Customer-Unique Value through Mass Customization, a compilation of ten HBR articles accompanied by a Pine & Gilmore introduction (Joe and Jim contributed four-elevenths of the volume’s contents) and co-author of The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, both published by Harvard Business School Press. The latter has now been released in eleven languages: English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian, German, Dutch, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian – but not French. (Jim says, “Phooey on the French.”)
Jim has now turned his attention to the next phase in the maturing Experience Economy — how in a world filled with ever more mediated and staged experiences, an increasingly unreal world, consumers are now making decisions based on how real they perceive various offerings to be. The outflow of those ideas are found in his latest book penned with co-author Joe Pine, Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, published by Harvard Business School Press in late 2007. The book was honored as one of the Top 10 business books of the year by Amazon.com editors. And of note, TIME magazine soon after featured Authenticity among its “10 Ideas That Are Changing The World” cover story, for which Jim and Joe were extensively featured.
Jim is a Batten Fellow at The Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia. As is his custom, Jim treats every new client engagement (or in this case, university appointment) as impetus to select some new book to read: consulting for Batesville Casket yielded the delightful discovery of essayist Thomas Lynch; retention by the Professional Audio Retailers Association (PARA) to craft a conference talk entitled “What If Your High-end Customer Is a She” prompted a read of Faith Popcorn’s EVEolution; a year-long experience design project for a major software firm uncovered Robert Riefstahl’s Demonstrating to Win! And what book landed in his lap as a result of Jim’s fellowship at UVa? Why, Gary Wills’ Mr. Jefferson’s University. (Jefferson, of course, fancied the French.)
Jim previously served as the 2002-2003 Dean Helen LeBaron Hilton Endowed Co-chair at the College of Family & Consumer Sciences at Iowa State University. He has also lectured at Case Western’s Weatherhead School of Management, Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, and Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Applied Science and Technology.
On a more personal note, Jim’s musical tastes tilt toward what partner Pine calls “singers who don’t sing,” namely the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, David Gray, and Wayne “The Train” Hancock. Jim enjoys Coke over Pepsi, Vans over Nike, and anybody over the New York Yankees. For over fifteen years, Jim has been a Cleveland Indians season-ticket holder; his favorite admission-fed experience occurs each summer on Saturdays at Jacobs Field in Section 140, Row R, Seat 10. A few years ago, Jim’s wife bought him an “Authentic” 100th Anniversary Tribe jersey. Jim thought (laterally, of course) about what name and number to have sewn on the back and decided to affix his own: it reads “140-R” atop a larger number “10”!
Differentiating Your Business in the Experience Economy
How does any enterprise prosper today? The key is offering compelling experiences that engage customers in a personal and memorable way. Offering goods and services is no longer enough to differentiate one’s business. In this talk, Gilmore not only describes the shifting dynamics in how value is being generated in advanced economies, he shares a portfolio of specific methods for staging revenue-generating experiences. And he illustrates each technique with exemplars that demonstrate how to create experiential value in very practical terms. Audiences walk away with insights on experience innovation as well as a rich set of tools for staging such experiences.
Designing Experiences in the Digital Age
Addressing the tension between the physical and the virtual, this presentation opens with a short “pre-show” (think Pixar short-animation before the main feature film) that vividly visualizes the impact that “life on the screen” is having on the consumer landscape. What follows is an eye-opening survey of today’s consumer landscape via “A Year in the Life of Doug & Cheryl”-using one fictional couple as a Design Persona to help executives and managers see the world differently, through the eyes of everyday people. Then the bulk of Gilmore’s talk outlines six core approaches for successfully designing experiences in the digital age-customization, gamification, subscription, admission, transformation, and randomization-in a most thought provoking session.
Thinking about Leadership Thinking
Leadership requires ongoing thinking about the very leadership principles and practices employed to inspire, direct, and encourage an organization’s people as they work together toward common goals. In this talk, Gilmore walks through eight sources of useful thoughts to help leaders refresh and renew their own thinking about leadership. Each serves as a resource for future study as various issues are explored-ranging from assessing personal and professional friendships, orchestrating group dynamics, scanning cultural trends, improving observational skills, identifying future talent, seizing marketplace opportunities, enriching self-awareness, and fostering curiosity.
Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want
Everywhere one turns-in business marketing, political campaigns, non-profit charities, educational initiatives, even religious institutions-one sees appeals to and claims of authenticity. People want real food, real cities, real experiences, and real causes. Why? In this talk, Gilmore traces the history behind this contemporary consumer desire for authenticity, frames a discussion about different genres of authenticity, distinguishes the “real-fake” from the “fake-real,” and surprisingly introduces steps for deliberately gaining the perception of authenticity by, ahem, rendering offerings real. Really? Really.