Each container Driscoll’s sells in the U.S. and Canada has a code on the back that tracks variety, grower, and harvest date. Originally a food safety measure, it’s become a way for Driscoll’s to test the market. Consumers can enter their codes on Driscoll’s website and tell the company what they think. People actually do this, and Driscoll’s learns interesting things. Hacking The Strawberry, Bloomberg Businessweek, Aug 3, 2015.
I was pushing a stroller with two little kids in it. I was a new Dad and I often watched as Mom went off with these two little critters being propelled by her in a stroller. It didn’t look too hard, but boy I discovered it was not easy. I would think people would recognize someone with little kids and automatically, as I would, hold doors or otherwise help by getting out of the way. Boy, was I living in a fantasy world.
What I did realize was how great were all those special accommodations that have been put in public places for people in wheelchairs. Ramps on curbs, automatic doors and the like help tremendously when shuttling around small, slightly out of control, children. I had always been skeptical of publicly legislated efforts to “improve” things by forcing businesses, and everyone else, to do things that helped mitigate perceived problems. Too many of these, I observed, only seemed to waste public funds and people’s time without actually helping those they intended to help (huge failures include such things as “The War on Drugs” in my observation). However, pushing my two little kids and negotiating the parking lot, the curbs, and the store doors it became very clear that some efforts had clear benefits beyond those that were targeted. I loved it.
I learned early, especially in the U.S. military, that when a new mandate rolled down from senior management to look for how I could leverage it to not only get done what they think they want done, but also what other problems we could solve with the initiatives. I always had the philosophy that whatever we did should have multiple good reasons for doing it. This came out of the experience that so many initiatives, while sometimes failures in what they originally hoped to accomplish, often had unintended good side effects. Most efforts in quality control, defect prevention, and process improvement had these characteristics. We could leverage the visibility, people and funds to not only do what they wanted (or at least try) but make things run better for everyone.
I recently read of the battle between the city of New York and Uber, the car sharing taxi-like service. The city mayor, as I recall the incident, had made some claims as to how Uber was making the traffic problems worse. The only problem was the mayor had no hard data and was only speculating based upon what people, who were anti-Uber, were telling him. Instead, Uber had real data, gleaned in real-time from the thousands of Uber cars on the streets, and knew better than the mayor what was going on in the streets of NYC. When the smoke cleared (as least in this round) the city and Uber agreed to work together towards a solution and in addition, Uber agreed to regularly share its data with the city. This struck me as another case where the Uber service, though disruptive of established services, might turn out to in fact be a solution to far more than ridesharing alternatives.
Whether it is required codes on our product, mandatory building codes for safety, or upstart businesses that don’t seem to respect existing ways we do business, we want to always look for how that initiative can be leveraged to solve multiple problems. If there is not more than one good reason to kick off a project, then we are probably missing a bet on other projects that can have multiple good reasons for doing them.
Does that project looking for your approval have more than one good reason for doing it?