The Value of Delight

The third core value that we discovered with Kim’s help is Delight. Delight as a value is interesting to me because it depends on the others, but to me it is no less important. Let’s review where we’re at:

Our primary core value is Integrity, in as much as we care about how our actions now can have an effect on people later.

The second value is Excellence, in that our ability to execute minimises the gap between our intentions and their impact, allowing us to be intentional in what we do.

Delight is a layer that runs through these, in as much as it allows us to think about bringing joy to people’s lives, and ultimately, to pursue fulfilment. Fulfilment can be many things to many people, but to me the ultimate fulfilment is simply helping other people.

It’s right about here that I begin to think of all of the pitfalls that can come in adhering to this core value. Of all the platitudes, a commitment to delight is the one that I see most often used manipulatively, superficially, or just plain inappropriately.

The Unexpected

At a conference recently, I was asked what organisers can do to create more memorable experiences for attendees. I think perhaps that the person who asked was looking for a set of tactics, but all I could offer was this fuzzy strategy:

One of the most common disappointments in life is when we enter into something with certain expectations, only to have them dashed. We might go to a café with delightful branding, only to find out that they serve no better drinks than out of a machine.

Conversely, we might go to a hole-in-the-wall, to be greeted by a friendly barista, a spotless clean prep area, coffee beans with clear and proud provenance, and a cosy corner to enjoy it all. It’s always nice, but here, our expectations weren’t set at all, and it almost feels like a missed opportunity.

There’s a third case: the café that has a great looking brand, and when you go in, it’s better in ways that you hadn’t anticipated. Maybe they support local artists and have their work on display. Maybe they sell their own blend. You go in with decent expectations, but you end up being delighted in ways that you didn’t expect.

It’s this third case, the realm of the unexpected, that the value of delight is most apparent to me. It’s when everything else is taken care of, when the value of what’s being provided is apparent, but there’s another layer that adds to the experience in ways that enhance the basics.

What it’s not

As illustrated above, my position on delight is that it’s icing, it’s a condiment, a seasoning, added and sprinkled, that augments and enhances, rather than forming the basis of whatever it is that we do.

Delight isn’t simply friendly words and exclamation points used to market a product that has been created solely with a view to extracting money from people. It’s not bright colours and adding design trends on top of a design that hasn’t been carefully thought out. It’s not a band-aid to mask lazy execution.

People are remarkably adept at detecting bullshit. One particular type of bullshit that we can pattern-match near instantaneously is marketing that doesn’t match what it’s selling.

As such, delight isn’t just something that you consider at the end of a project. It should be present at every step.

All The Way Down

Extending the seasoning analogy from above, just like great cooking, sprinkling a bit of salt and pepper at the end of cooking a tough piece of leathery meat won’t do much more than get you a piece of salty leather.

Delight as a value goes all the way down. It’s about working with people who lift us up rather than bring us down. It’s about taking pride in the work we do and sharing that pride. It’s about caring about how things are made, and how people use and interact with the things we make. It’s about wanting to make those people’s lives better.

These are the things that I believe bring about fulfilment, and can also contribute to a fulfilling experience for the people that we deal with.

What Brings Me Delight?

I try to reflect on the things that bring me delight, and I try to pay that forward. It’s invariably an interaction with a person, or a reminder that a person cared enough about a detail to implement, to put a bit of care into their design that I appreciate in a small way.

On the obvious side of things, it’s delightful service. Genuine warmth, not superficial friendliness. Being out with my kid and being asked whether to bring their food first. A comped coffee here or there, just because (not filling in a superficial stamp sheet), if I’m recognised as a regular. A support interaction with a piece of software that fixes something for me in a way that I hadn’t anticipated.

But the non-obvious side of things is also important. It’s the warmth that comes when someone is enthusiastic about what they’re doing, independent of it being their job. It’s knowing that my kid is genuinely welcome, not just being tolerated. It’s knowing that the coffee I’m drinking has been sourced from sustainable farms, where the supply chain is as short as possible. It’s choosing software made by people whose values I identify with.

Summing up

Integrity is about minimising the potential for harm. Excellence is actually doing what we say we’re going to do. And delight is about how it all feels.

Fundamentally, delight is bringing real value where folks don’t expect to find it.

Right now, my belief is that the above lens is a good one to create the kind of team, company and product that we want Tito to be. We care about people, and as we grow, we want to make sure that we act with the impact we can cause in mind, particularly on the most marginalised folks. We care about quality, and we’re committed as we grow to ensure that the standards of the things that we make and do increase.

Finally, we care about that something else that’s hard to describe. We care about happiness, joy, and fulfilment. We don’t know exactly what tactics to specifically employ to achieve them. I do believe though, that by being mindful of our impact, being intentional about our quality, and caring about the people we work with, work for and meet in the future, that we stand a chance of being a net positive contributor to our local community, to the communities that use our product, and maybe even to the world.