Saturday, September 23, 2023

Let the Future In

3VERB Dives into the Next Decade

The author Graham Greene once said: "There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in." That sentiment is certainly true for me. Sometime around 1982 a generous neighbor noticed my intrigue with the Sinclair ZX81 he had somehow managed to acquire and gave it to me. It still was the age of room-sized mainframe computers — their reels of magnetic media struggling to allocate and retrieve data — but the small computer sitting in front of me represented a tectonic shift in both the nature of computer technology and culture: It was now a "personal" computing experience in every regard. Indeed, my involvement with computers at that moment in time would become the single thread that has persisted through every creative, educational, professional, and interdisciplinary endeavor since. That small computer had, as Greene noted, "let the future in." I was a young kid at the time, but it was the only invitation I needed to dig in with real aplomb. I learned to program: first BASIC, then COBOL, and since — in now 20 years running 3VERB — HTML, ASP, PHP, Javascript, SQL, Liquid, and currently Python, among less-notable others.

I reflect on this now because this very moment — TODAY — feels so similar to the challenges and wide-open opportunities presented first in the early '80s, then again in the late '90s with the advent of the internet. In 1982, of course, consumers embraced "personal computing" as we collectively ditched the humming IBM Selectric typewriters and replaced them with Apple desktops, then Dell laptops. By 1999, we had entered the age of "connected computing," wherein Berners-Lee's World Wide Web allowed us to bypass stamps with a fancy "e-mail" system, trade equities in an instant, and shop from boutique stores around the world. Going forward from 2023, though, we're sure to encounter another, artificial-intelligence-fueled, fundamental technology shift in what I've started calling "extrapolated" computing: The inline-computer interaction that will finish your sentence, suggest distinct healthcare or wellness direction, and take the mystery out of how micro-interactions with consumers this week might affect your inventory projections in six months (given the additional complications of the macro-economic conditions, of course!). 

This next "extrapolated computing" phase will arm knowledge-workers with the tools — I use this word  purposefully —  of the same revelatory efficiency provided by, for example, the lithium-battery-powered cordless drill in the building and construction industries a few decades ago. Plainly, AI-based "power tools" for critical thinking will provide huge advantages to those who understand and embrace the technology while, undoubtedly, leaving behind those who insist on the tradition of running an extension cord.

So what does all this mean for 3VERB and our clients? 

First, we'll work actively to scout and vet the latest technologies, AI or otherwise, that matter to your business and set the stage for greater brand visibility and eCommerce efficacy. As I've likely mentioned, I'm half-way through an 8-week MIT executive course on designing and building AI products. It's enlightening and exciting. It's my intention to follow that course in the new year with a similar, complementary course to better understand how those same product development ideas snap into and support operational business processes.

Second, and maybe more importantly, please know that — regardless of the technology landscape or  tools du jour — the core ideals and constructs that differentiate 3VERB remain the same. I'm as  committed as ever to engendering the collegial and cooperative creative process, building sustainable brand value and sales through integrated cross-platform campaigns, and insisting on clarity in each step from the line-level code I first learned as a kid to your big picture strategy for tomorrow.

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon writes on music, business, and creativity at

Friday, March 17, 2023

I Got You

The Power of Observation and Prediction in Customer Service

When colleagues visit Chicago, the first stop is usually downtown. I'm proud of the city and a walk from North Clark or along Michigan Ave reinforces that: tourists on their way to "The Bean," the start of Route 66 (America's Highway) across the street from the Art Institute, the striking orchestra musicians playing outside Symphony Hall just down the street from the bucket drummers, and Frank Gehry's band shell falling apart in frozen motion. But, as you've undoubtedly heard me say, "When it comes to Chicago, the joy is in the neighborhoods." That's true of the music venues, but also of the inland parks, and, of course, the restaurants. avec may have a location downtown, but if you want the best risotto you've ever had, you gotta find the little Italian place tucked so inconspicuously across the street from a Tastee-Freez ice-cream stand at the edge of Humboldt Park.

A few weeks ago, Peggy met some friends for drinks at Lula Cafeone of my all-time favorites in our neighborhood – on a plain ol' Thursday night. She hadn't expected it, but the place was packed. Lula is such a unique, wonderful, community-centric spot, though, that in retrospect, it shouldn't have been a surprise to see a crowd, especially as pandemic restrictions and concerns have eased. On entering the restaurant, she scanned the room for an open table – none were obviously available – then nudged her way over toward the bar figuring that she might be able to turn the two open seats into small space for three friends to visit. A few minutes later, a staff member from Lula – having spied Peggy's predicament – caught her eye and, like magic, said: "You lookin' for a table for three?" Peggy nodded. The astute Lula employee said: "I got you," then led her across the restaurant to an open table. I see you. I get you. I got you. Problem solved.

So, how did this perfect, little, meaningful customer service moment happen to happen at Lula Cafe on a cold Thursday night in February? The answer is easy: This happens every night at Lula Cafe; Peggy just happened to wander into it. Good companies, good restaurants, and good people read the room, practice prediction in these moments, trusting in the power of their intuition and observation, and looking for the opportunity reach out when they can know they can be helpful. The next time a client shows up with an impossible design challenge, or a last minute change request, or seems hesitant and uncertain, I'll remember the power and impression left by those three simple, definitive words: "I got you."

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon writes on music, business, and creativity at