Monday, January 5, 2015

People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole. (Theodore Levitt)

I am surrounded by techies. And it’s not just the developers I’m talking about. It seems like every one is pretty technical these days – graphic designers with their Photoshop, writers with their content management systems, usability engineers with their eye-trackers, elementary school students with their iPads …

So, here’s the thing about real techies … They really want that quarter-inch drill! Yeah, they might make a quarter-inch hole at some point … But hey, look at this cool drill! It’s made of helical-cut steel, and its gears are heat-treated steel as well. Plus, it’s 510 Watts, and it’s no-load speed goes all the way up to 4,000 RPM! And that’s not to mention the keyed chuck it’s got on it too.

So, does it drill a quarter-inch hole? Well, with a twist bit it does. Heck, it’ll drill a three-quarter-inch hole if you’re using a spade bit.

So, do I want to want to drill a three-quarter-inch hole? What’s a twist bit? How am I supposed to know? Where am I?

I actually have no idea what I just said (except for those last few questions). It’s not that my father – who had a woodshop, as did his father before him – didn’t try to make me understand. I just didn’t care. Sure, the racetracks and train sets they both built were particularly awesome and I couldn’t wait to play with them. It’s just that I wanted – in this particular situation at least – to play. I didn’t care about the thing and how it was made. I just wanted to use it.

Even today, though, we are still often forced to care about how something was made. It’s usually not that we’re going to make it ourselves, but that its poor design forces us to think about its construction. It is never as seamless or intuitively obvious as it claims to be. And that’s what gets between us and our goal, because our goal will always be the train set and not the drill (unless, of course, you’re like all the other males in my family).

Really, this is all just about the old Steve Krug saw, “Don’t make me think!” I don’t really want to think about my banking app, or that travel aggregator site, or “Autosense Technology that drives most screws flush on the first try.” I simply want to make that transfer, or book that room, or just make that quarter-inch hole.

Theodore Levitt (Harvard Business School professor,
longtime editor of Harvard Business Review, and well-known author).

No comments:

Post a Comment