Archive for February, 2011
MIRIAM: Oh, Barney, put it in the freezer.
MIRIAM: Put the onion in the freezer for a few minutes before you chop it. Then it won’t make you cry.
- Barney’s Version, 2010
A few weeks ago I went to see Barney’s Version with my girlfriend. I’m a fan of Paul Giamatti so I expected a great performance. Even still the movie was beyond my expecations. Terrific piece of work and I highly recommend it.
A great scene comes about halfway through when Barney (Giamatti) is cutting an onion in the kitchen with onion-induced tears streaming down his face. His wife, Miriam, comes into the kitchen and feeds him some classic advice: if you put an onion in the freezer before cutting it, then you’ll be tear free. Barney seems amazed and impressed by this discovery. However, a few scenes later, we find Barney chopping onions again, still crying…he didn’t do the freezer trick.
How many times do we find ourselves in the situation where we know how to stop the pain, but for some reason we go with what we know, even if we know it’s the wrong choice?
A former colleague articulated the business version of this to me a few years ago: “It’s like we’ve lost our keys, and we know we left them in the kitchen, but we keep checking the garage because the light’s on out there and it’s just easier.” Classic line. There was so much truth there.
While working with Jim Collins I found that, in most cases, this type of corporate behavior wasn’t an issue of vision, but rather one of execution…or maybe just the willingness to execute.
The trick: create a stop doing list. These serve as a consistent reminder of specific actions that hinder our advancement. They fight against our natural inclination to stick with comfortable, rather than successful, behaviors. Jim talks about it here, and it works wonders.
The common practice for building strategies for work (or for life) is to write down a plan of what action we have to take to hit our objectives. Makes sense. The problem is that this has strong potential to tack additional responsibilities on top of previous bad habits. Not a recipe for sustainable success. A stop doing list forces you to be explicit in what you’re no longer doing so that you can focus on, and likely achieve, your new goals.
Try it with yourself, and try it with your team. They will appreciate you taking some work off their plate, especially in cases where that work is no longer relevant. It’s a great exercise with huge payoffs.
Be SMaC (Systematic, Methodical and Consistent) with your stop doing lists. This way you can throw your onions in the freezer and clear some space for more rewarding behaviors.
A quality user experience is the most talked about but under-executed functionality of a product or service. It’s also the most important.
It’s true that many users will step through broken glass to use your product if the value proposition is strong enough to them, but this isn’t sustainable and will only a create a niche market of users with no visible growth prospects (granted these users will likely be more dedicated than most). Trust me, this is where my company has sat for quite some time, and it’s a struggle that we fight every day.
I was recently helping my girlfriend think through growth options for her printing company, and it all came back to two questions:
Simply put, understand what value new customers seek as well as what value returning customers want again.
An example of failure here is with hotel.com’s iOS app. The app’s main function is “Find Hotels Near Me.” I’ve used hotels.com for years. It’s my first stop when booking a hotel for an upcoming vacation. I could be wrong, but I would guess that most of hotel.com’s audience has the same use case that I do – upcoming vacations…not real-time bookings. Creating an app for the purpose that it serves makes no sense given the value that the site provides to its average user.
When thinking through the placement, price and delivery of your product or service you have to think about what value the user is buying, which may or may not be the same as what you’re trying to sell.
At Second Life we make a good chunk of our revenue by selling 3D land (kinda like 3D web pages). However, most of our users are buying 1) the ability to meet and engage with people that share common interests or mindsets and/or 2) the ability to create a world limited only by their imagination.
In many cases, buying land is the best way for our users get this value, but the land itself isn’t actually what they’re trying to buy. There is a fundamental disconnect. A tough problem to solve, but we know that this disconnect can’t persist.
In a recent TechCrunch article Alex Rampell provides a great framework for thinking through the value that your service offers. I’m going to be using it for a presentation I’m putting together this week, so thanks Alex!
Here are his 5 attributes to consider:
- Price (actual price to consumer + “friction” in ordering process)
- Geography (proximity to consumer)
- Selection (do they have X in my size, or sell rare item Y?)
- Service/Brand (do I trust/like them?)
- Experience (is it easy/designed to shop for X?)
Product or service value must be perceived first and foremost from the eyes of the consumer. Match what you’re selling to what your customers want to buy and other pieces of the business puzzle will come more naturally.