Rocket Science

The argument had taken somewhat of a harsh turn. Bull Terrier, who comes by his name honestly, growled something not quite off a Valentine card. The techie he faced was frustrated that his brilliant algorithm was being wasted on a sales grunt.

At issue was a dashboard the tech created that would measure the sales performance of a new line of industrial security products. The dashboard was built around a series of metrics that went far beyond merely sales volume and margins. Bull argued that their customers don’t want all this information, that they have their own way of measuring results, that too much technology turns them off. The answer to that was that customers could easily cherry-pick the metrics they found useful and ignore the rest. But for those that appreciate having more information so that they can make better decisions, we will have a distinct advantage over our competitors.

The argument soon became esoteric.

You have designed in retro rockets. The customer needs wheels.

“You have built a rocket ship,” Bull said in a rather exasperated tone. “The customer wants a car. The customer wants to drive to the grocery store, not fly to the moon.”

“The customer already has a car,” the techie replied with matching exasperation. “He doesn’t need us to give him another one. We are giving him a way to fly to the moon, something he doesn’t already have.”

“The customer doesn’t know how to pilot a rocket ship.”

“That’s where you come in. You will teach him to become a pilot. Do your job.”

“ Your job,” responded Bull angrily, “is to give the customer what he wants.”

“We are a technology company. Our job is not to give the customer what he wants but what he will soon learn that he needs.”

“What he needs!? You have designed in retro rockets. The customer needs wheels.”

The techie looked at Bull with a blank expression. “Why would a rocket have wheels?”

There is a Japanese proverb that says: Too much is just the same as too little. I heard it in the context of arranging flowers, the art of which, in Japan, is called Ikebana. I think it also works well in the context of this exchange.

Dress Code

“In my own city, my name procures me respect; in a strange city, my clothes.” – Hebrew Proverb

I recently attended a market analytics conference. Various market research companies were presenting a range of analyses designed ostensibly to inform, hopefully to titillate and, ultimately, to stimulate attendees to pay heavily for their services.

This was a gathering of C-level managers, all of whom looked the part. They were all attired in suits and tinged with just the right amount of grey. As an aggregate, they were natty and sophisticated. They looked like a million dollars, even if in well used notes, to use the words of author Angela Carter.

I have been to several such conferences over the years. Dress is always business casual and that is how I packed. As I entered the large hall with a screen the size of Iowa, I noticed all the suits. My heart sank a couple of inches. I guess I should have looked more closely at the dress code on the invitation. I leaned over to a hostess and asked her if I had missed something. She assured me that there was no requirement to wear a suit and that I should relax and enjoy myself. With no alternative, I resolved to do just that.

It was as if I had stumbled onto the set of the Thomas Crown Affair.

So there I was in dress pants and a merino blend v-neck sweater over a Ted Baker London classic fit check sport shirt. Presentable, I would say. After the first Power Point, which lasted a very long 60 minutes, I noticed that most of the jackets were hung over seat backs. By the mid-morning break, most of the ties followed suit. When the conference resumed after lunch, open collars and sweaters were out in force.

It was all so very gratifying. When I first walked in, it was as if I had stumbled onto the set of the Thomas Crown Affair bowler hat scene. These people had originally chosen conformity over comfort. And then, given a viable option, they quickly opted for the relaxed fit. Good on them.

Easy Does IT

Our IT department put in place this corporate chat tool that allows various groups to communicate with each other 24/7, to discuss issues of great or not the slightest importance. There is no moderator, although it is expected that good taste and good judgment will generally be maintained. There is a corporate channel, a sales channel and an IT channel.

You might imagine that I would not spend much time following the rather arcane threads that dominate the IT channel and you’d be correct. But I do drop in every now and then and, every now and then, I am richly rewarded. Yesterday, I stumbled in on this mystifying exchange.

We would have to swithc to vim.

Mac (our appropriately named IT Director): The thing is, we are kinda stuck with the mac. I mean, do you really want to dual boot ubuntu?

Shaggy (my inside source for all things IT): I can’t even imagine dealing with nvidia drivers on ubuntu… not to mention rubymine won’t run on it.

Thomas (our webmaster): Can someone translate for me?

Mac: We would have to swithc to vim.

Thomas: Where is my auto-correct?

Shaggy: What you have to know is that swithc isn’t even a typo.

Mac: No, it’s a nexus. LOL.

It is wonderful, said Winston Churchill, how well men keep secrets they have not been told. For most, talk of ubuntu – and other things incomprehensible – accomplishes much the same thing.