What to do when things don’t go according to plan.


Here’s what we’ll be looking at;

  1. The unusual suspect
  2. The question of perfection
  3. Business exists for the customer (and how to be in business tomorrow)
  4. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel

The unusual suspect.

Not many things become famous and remain so for being imperfect. Standing at 567 feet, bending to an angle of 3.99 degrees and having a total of 296 steps (on the north side) and 7 bells is the leaning tower of Pisa.

Built in 1173 to show the city’s importance and celebrate economic growth, the tower was planned to be upright at 183.27 feet but the ground on which it was built was soft and the tower started to tilt in 1178 at the 3rd floor. Work continued even as plans were developed to rectify the tilt – only stopping twice due to war.

Today, the tower leans a full 5 meters from the perpendicular and is one of the most visited tourist destinations thanks to the staying power of the construction team.

Serendipity: the arrival at a goal without the direct plan to achieve it.”

Merriam Webster’s dictionary

There is a value in pressing on, staying the course of an endeavour despite challenges. Sometimes, market leadership is on the other side of pain, defeat and delayed results. This would apply especially to new products and services. It might make sense to allow the process run as far as it can go before pulling the plug as the customer might prefer the output of risky development.

The question of perfection.

Much of industry thrives on perfection, or at least the pursuit of it; “Only the best is good enough”, “precision engineering” and “design at its finest” are among the tag lines of market leaders. There’s so much value placed on perfection that a leaning tower on the list of global tourist attractions is in itself an attraction. The tower is world famous precisely because it leans, that is, because it is imperfect.

There are routine standards established to produce definite results; error free processes, seamless customer service, great product experience. There are established bodies dedicated to the elimination of error and the improvement of quality – six sigma, Kaizen and the rest of that family.

There are important in fields as air travel – where pilots are expected to fly without error, eschewing any form of mid-flight innovation or surgery where performance is expected to be flawless, with knowledge bases continually updated and years of experience on the increase. The last thing a patient wants is an untested hand in a life or death situation.

When it comes to getting it right at all costs, the idea remains “the best or nothing”.

Business exists for the customer (and how to be in business tomorrow).

Still, when attempting the new (on which most growth depends) it should be understood that things might not go as expected. Embracing the curves on the journey to ‘the product’ remain a good way to find key products.

Customers know the full range of existing products but are only impressed by what comes next. How different is it from the pack, how will it change the way their lives are lived, and in what ways will it make them live differently?

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Whether it’s in the areas of healthcare saving millions of lives, sport, entertainment or in learning, it should be considered that many inventions were not the original intent of their discoverers.

So, look for the goals and do what is necessary to achieve, and even exceed customer expectations – but keep in mind that the best ideas are sometimes arrived at by accident.

Here’s a lesson; what is accepted by the customer ceases to be an accident.


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