Tuesday, March 22, 2011

a really useful engine

In his new tome Poke The Box, Seth Godin includes some more riffs on what he describes as the forces for mediocrity, a recurrent theme if you are familiar with the last few books.

By way of a recap...
'Remarkable visions and genuine insight are always met with resistance. And when you start to make progress, your efforts are met with even more resistance. Products, services, career paths... whatever it is, the forces for mediocrity will align to stop you, forgiving no errors and never backing down until it's over.'

In Poke The Box Seth points out that it is often quite easy to rally the toops or get a task-force together to fix things that are clearly broken.

What's not so easy is to get people to fix things that are mediocre.

Because mediocre things are basically ok, functional, and there's nothing fundamentally obviously broken it's easy to let them go.

But obviously it's a massive missed opportunity to settle for ok.

And this applies to any business or endeavour big or small.

Here's a real-life example.

Last weekend they had a Family Festival near where we live, down the bay, south-east of Melbourne.

It was pretty good overall, I'm not complaining.

Bands played, food stalls, wine, salsa dancing, you know the drill.
It took over the whole park area by the beach. The sun was out, a nice close to the summer.

For the kids there were a number of fairground type rides, one of which was a little steam train ride in the style of Thomas the Tank Engine.

On around my 4th circuit (my wee boy is Thomas daft so it was a big draw) I started thinking about the experience. I couldn't help it, sorry.

The engine part of the train was vaguely Thomas-like. It was tatty, but blue with the number 1 on the side. Enough to be basically recognisable.

It pulled four basic carriages which the kids sat on, and did several rounds of a circular track.

There was a bored looking fella 'driving' wearing jeans and a jacket with his official festival worker pass.

If he could be arsed he rang the bell occasionally.

For the 2-3 year olds this was probable an acceptable experience.

How much better it would have been though if the bored driver had looked interested.
If he had worn an engineers uniform. A hat.
If he had rung the bell and shouted 'all aboard'?

If the ticket guy had been dressed like the Fat Controller?

A few props from Sodor Island?

How about a lick of paint on the engine, and a proper Thomas style face (It had a vague face dribbled on in paint that must have taken 2 minutes).

The parents were all happy enough to pay $4 a pop for the kids to go on it but I guarantee not one person went away from the Festival saying what a great ride the Thomas train was.

Not one parent will be calling them up to book the train ride for their own kids party.

(They had no business cards, leaflet or even a sign with their website address anyway, so it's moot)

A massive missed opportunity. All that attention but doing nothing with it.

There's a difference between the notion of minimum viable product and just mediocre.
MVP strips away the unnecessary, the superfluous stuff that doesn't add any value.

Mediocre looks for the minimum you can get away with.

Better to be a really useful engine.

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