Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lick the lollipop of mediocrity and you'll suck for life!

Mediocrity in and of itself is a contradiction. Why? Because most people and organizations who accept and endorse mediocrity get results that are actually below mediocre.

This is not surprising at all for me. When faced with the combination of low expectations and an actual desire to not achieve excellence, motivation goes out the window.

How did this happen? Growing up, did our parents, teachers, and coaches say "Good enough for government work"? Not mine. Mine, and the role models of many other people I know would say things like "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well!" or "Effort beats talent when talent shows no effort." Many people still vociferously aspire to achieve greatness or to produce great results but their numbers across many disciplines appear to be in decline. Where did this desire to just get by come from?

Did it come from our cultures denigration of competition? Could be... We live in a society where "everyone's a winner", and "all children are special". This nonsensical crap gives people nothing to shoot for. Why try when all results are viewed as equal? Of course some self motivated souls still identify with the concept of doing anything less than your best is cheating yourself and that the reward is in the doing, but the implicit message of the role models of today must bear some responsibility.

Did it come from the disillusionment with the establishment? Could be... Our parents and our peers grew up where many people believed (erroneously) that their employers actually cared about them as people, that they were a part of some bigger vision and that a "job for life" was just that. When corporate corruption, treacherous leaders and over-eager downsizing became prevalent many from generation x and beyond have a different view of what the relationship between an employer and an employee should feel like.

Did it come from the complete destruction of accountability? Could be... My parents forced me to come clean no matter the implications. You were responsible for your actions and you accepted the consequences. How many role models in our society (all the way up to the president - and not just the last two administrations either) do their little verbal dances around any and all allegations no matter how trivial or how critical. Parents now actually lie and endorse lying to their children to avoid punishment or to gain reward that they are not entitled to.

In the end, I'm not sure where it comes from, but I can see where it leads to. The USA will more than likely continue its social, artistic and economic decline and as I said at the beginning, it won't stop at mediocre. Aiming for mediocre doesn't work. High expectations will more than likely get people's best effort out of them. Medium or low expectations often get the same thing - whatever they believe is the absolute minimum necessary.

Mediocrity = Crap.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Nice doesn't cut it

Q: "How was your date last night?"

A: "He/She/It was nice."

See what I mean? Nice is affable, amiable, agreeable and.... wait for it.... BLAND.

People use the word nice so casually and as a catch-all so often for anything that is non-offensive, that it has actually come to mean "non-offensive" when used in actual conversations.

Nice does not mean kind, interesting, exciting, fun, honest, worthwhile, etc. A nice person would not tell you if a booger was hanging out of your nose.

If nice is the first adjective, or the only adjective that comes to mind when describing something or someone, then I probably would not like it or them.

Official rating:

Nice when used as a primary description or as a stand alone description = Garbage.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

False Niceness = Real Rudenss

"Hello! Welcome to Blockbuster!" "Welcome to MOES!" "Thank you for calling Bank of America. Your call is important to us." Please spare me your meaningless platitudes.

We've all heard them. What do they all have in common? A complete lack of sincerity or authenticity. Does the minimum-wage earning person checking DVD's in at Blockbuster sound anything like someone you know who is happy to see you? No? Why not? Because while they might not be unhappy to see you, they are probably more likely apathetic. So if the people are apathetic and we know it is a given that the IVR (irritating voice response) machine is by definition apathetic, then why do they say the things they don't mean? Simple. Because they are forced to by the man.

Some people who are in charge of these brands just don't get it. Sincerity sells. Maybe not as much as sex, but it still sells. Employees at Nordstrom are genuinely happy to serve you and it shows (maybe I'll write a post about why I like Nordstrom). That's part of the reason people actually enjoy shopping there. So what is going through the mind of the marketing and branding executives who make these decisions? In order to figure this out, I have laid out the possible options 1) They think customers will actually fall for the false platitude. i.e., they think the masses are egregiously stupid. 2) They think customers will notice the insincerity and they really don't care how the customers feel when faced with it. 3) They think customers will not even notice the greeting at all and will go on their merry way (more on this later). 4) Some combination of the above.

I loathe all of these possibilities with 1 and 2 leading the pack by a wide margin. Now each of these also has something else in common - they are all actually rude - why? Because they are both insincere and obtrusive in nature.

Back to option 3, where customers don't notice the "greeting". The ironic thing here is that customers who don't notice (or those who choose not to respond) could actually be perceived as the ones who are being rude here because they did not respond to a greeting.

You may notice that I have not called out the famous Wal-Mart greeters. This is not an omission. Wal-Mart greeters get a bad name from all the meaningless (i.e. - devoid of any meaning) fake welcomes we receive every day. Wal-Mart greeters, on the other hand, actually are sincere! They are usually senior citizens who are happy to be there and are happy to interact with people. This is not rude. This is genuine friendliness, which I like. The rest... garbage.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Satisficing is not always satisfying

Satisficing for those who are new to my lexicon is the practice where someone will pick the first available acceptable solution, rather than continue to search for an optimal one.

I for one, am going to try an minimize my tendencies to satisfice. Why? Two big reasons.

1) It enables sub-optimal offerings. I like goodness in my life. I like things that give me that warm fuzzy feeling when I interact with them knowing that I am ecstatic with the decision I made to engage in some way with a product, company or even a person. George Bernard Shaw said it very well - “All progress depends on the unreasonable man. The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.” If you want something better in life, don't settle. Settling perpetuates mediocrity.

2) Staisficing can quickly become habit forming and be applied inappropriately in your life to areas where consequences can be monstrous. Satisficing on toothpaste is one thing. Satisficing on love is quite another. There is this big contradiction in American society, where movies, television and other forms of story telling mediums simultaneously relate that "true love" is this precious and joyous thing that can happen to anyone and that "true love" is a romanticized fantasy created by Hollywood. Most people buy into the second message because it is easier to believe and lets people be impatient and lazy (WHAT? Impatient and lazy Americans? How can such a thing be?). It also advances the thought process that "you really aren't worthy of true love". I personally believe that most Americans are pessimistic on their own intrinsic worth as people and put masks on in the form of consumerism, pride, vanity and braggadocio to hide their inner insecurities about themselves. It is my further hypotheses that since the social morays that dissuaded divorce for baby boomers and the greatest generation have been removed high divorce rates are mostly a result of people satisficing when it comes to finding a life partner.

In relation to this I have some new rules to live by for myself:

1) Don't satisfice on anything that you will have to live with for more than 6 months. Any longer than that and you will regret your involvement and your settling. Satisficing has it's place (e.g., toothpaste or when it is used as a tool to learn and understand what you really want) but as you get a keener sense of self awareness and knowledge, satisficing should proportionately decrease as a practice.

2) Don't give up on finding that "perfect" outcome. I use the term perfect a little loosely because perfection is defined by the beholder and it is very rarely what we think it is even for ourselves (i.e., we know what we want, we rarely know what we need).

3) Truly buy into the concept that if you have to ask yourself "Is this what I really want?" the answer is no. That epiphany moment where total clarity emerges is the true hallmark of something that will be lastingly meaningful and satisfying.

So my rating: Satisficing = Garbage.

BAD Retailer!!

There are many types of bad retail experiences. And today I'll talk about the ones with a poor mental model.

For those people not in the design community a mental model is an imaginative construct a person makes in their head to try to understand how something works - e.g., many e-commerce websites give us a mental model of a "shopping cart" to illustrate how one component of the shopping process works.

Many people in the design community use the concept of mental models to ensure that what they are designing, be it a product or a interactive experience, is comprehensible by the intended audience. Well, maybe it is time that executives of certain physical retail establishments tried to use this concept in regards to the physical shopping experience in their stores.

Why do I say this - as usual, because I am gosh darn angry! What mega-moron came up with the concept that a store should try to change the way humans think and behave to fit into a non-intuitive logistical model.

I don't remember if Circuit City or Service Merchandise came first with the whole "get a ticket, pay, and walk out of the store to a loading area" model. But I hate them both equally for the setting a horrible trend that other stores have followed.

First off, the whole concept is flawed - The process is designed around a concept where a store is trying to save the cost of holding inventory and using a warehouse like layout "in the back" to minimize the space needed while still maintaining an aesthetic store environment. NEWS FLASH - PEOPLE WHO SHOP AT LOW OR MODERATELY PRICED STORES ARE MORE CONCERNED WITH PRICE AND CONVENIENCE THAN HAVING A LINOLEUM FLOOR! Just ask any successful big-box retailer like Home Depot, Lowes, Best Buy, Sam's Club, etc. - Not that these companies don't have their issues, but that's a blog for another day. My point here is open up the back room you dolts! You can have your savings on the footprint required for inventory and have even more savings by removing your "tastefully decorated" store.

Secondly, who goes to a store with the idea of buying a ticket which represents a piece of merchandise? Nobody does. Enough said.

Lastly, every time I go to one of these establishments there is always some problem at the loading area. I wish I could avoid this whole part of the process and pick what I want from a shelf, put it on a cart, pay for it and GET OUT OF YOUR STORE WITHOUT TALKING TO ANOTHER SOUL!!! I don't come to Brandsmart to make friends, I come because I want to buy something at a reasonable price as quickly and pain free as possible.