29 February 2012

Give them what they need, not what they want

Some years ago I produced a delivery map for work. The map was glorious and communicated what days we delivered where, how often we delivered there and the price that we charged for the delivery. The map was a critical part of selling delivery to our customers and allowing the salespeople to correctly communicate delivery expectations to their customers. 

A few years after releasing the map, we upgraded our systems to an automated routing system that would control the delivery schedule and charges based on the Zip Code on the sale. I stopped updating the map because it was inaccurate compared to the upgraded system in that it allowed for the personal interpretation of the schedule and delivery charge for the borderline cities, interpretations that would not match up with the system’s automated schedule and charges. Additionally, the map was built using old graphic software and we would need to spend several hundred to purchase new software and spend several hours to rebuild the map.

Just a few months after I retracted the map I was hit with a request to update it. The salespeople wanted to be able to quote, with some confidence, when we could deliver out to a customer’s home and how much it would cost before running a complete sale. I cited my reasons and denied the request. Another request came a few months later, again I denied it. Finally, the owner of the company requested a revised map. I explained my reasons and he went back to the Store Managers only to come back to me and say, “Daniel, they want the map. Make it happen.”

I fought the request: it would be expensive and would surely lead to several upset customers and salespeople. Then it struck me: they did not want a map (that was all they knew); they wanted to be able to easily know when we go where and how much it would cost. I proposed an easy to maintain spreadsheet and was greeted with an overwhelming response in the affirmative. In fact, the salespeople preferred the spreadsheet over the map.

This provided a valuable lesson to me: give them what they need, not what they want because often they do not know what they really want, they just know what they had.

28 February 2012

"How to Lie with Maps" by Mark Monmonier

A fun discussion on various techniques that can be used to lie using maps (as the title implies). The book is not as devious as it sounds; part of its intention is to help map and chart makers avoid simple mistake and help more effectively communicate information (some information should be suppressed to avoid overwhelming the viewer). There is also some use in knowing how people might use maps and charts to lie so that the contemplative user can more intelligibly discern when he is being deceived.

Interest fact: Ottawa Canada was left off of a AAA tourism map because it did not have direct international flights, even though it is a major Canadian city.

24 February 2012

Anti-Bucket List

I have been told for a while that I should have a “Bucket list.” I tried making one once. Actually, I was required to make on for a class. After the first few items it felt contrived and unsatisfying. (In that same class, I was a bit thrilled to learn that I had already done many of the things on other peoples’ lists. It also made me a bit sad that these same people had done so little with their lives. I wanted to ask them, “What have you been doing for the past decade?” but decided it would be rude.)

Recently, I took an opportunity to tour a performance venue and enjoy the view of the performance from the camera room and Production Control Room, a place that few people get to see. While I was sitting there, I realized that had I had a “Bucket list,” that amazing experience would not have been on it because it did not even cross my mind.

As I have pondered back on the many adventures I have had, I find this to be true of most of them; most of my adventures I had not known enough about a year or more prior to know about, much less think “I want to do that someday.” I often consider what life must be like for people who have hopes of their greatest life adventures in some decades to come. More importantly, I consider what life is like when those adventure milestones are never met. Instead of pushing all my hopes and dreams into the future, and possibly ending up with regret over the adventures I could have had but put off, I would rather take the adventure in the reasonable now. Furthermore, I think that if I already had a list of adventures to have in the decades to come, I would stop looking for new adventures, ones that I had never thought of before.

I guess, in the end, what I am really saying is: instead of bottling up perspective adventures and holding on to the notion that they will come someday, people should seize the adventure while they can. This will let them hold to the memory of the actual adventure instead of the notion of what is to come. It also means that the adventure is done and cannot be undone, unlike adventures that are yet to come which could easily never come. Also, living now shows faith enough in your life that there will be adventures later too. Instead of hording them all away, thus meaning there are fewer adventures, living freer means the adventures will come freer too.