Henry Ford is credited with saying “If I had asked people what they wanted, I would have built a faster horse”. Even though the Harvard Business Review disputes that Ford ever said this, it is still a valid reflection of a philosophy shared by Steve Jobs – people don’t really know what they want. They often don’t realize the possible solutions to their problems.
At QIC, we fully embrace that approach. Even though it often makes our job more difficult, it inevitably achieves better results for our client. Have you ever noticed how most people tend to define their problems in terms of the solution: The problem isn’t “I need to get my 4 kids to Tuesday soccer practice”; it becomes “I need to buy a new minivan, because my 4 kids have soccer every Tuesday and I need to drive them.”
At QIC we try to elicit the root cause, and then go to work on a solution. Clients sometimes think we did not understand them when they explained the problem. Usually we heard and understood too well. Some call this “thinking outside the box”. I prefer to deny the existence of the box – it restricts creativity.
In the minivan example, there are alternatives such as:
- Set up an account with a taxi / transport company;
- Make arrangements with a neighbour;
- Get the kids new bikes;
all the way to
- Move next door to the soccer pitch; or
- Hire a nanny with a Maybach.
And yes, that would include “buy, lease, steal, borrow a new minivan, bus, 6 seat car or truck, etc.” which may be the right answer, or not…
We have had 3 scenarios in the last few weeks. In each case, although the client came to us with a specific, very expensive solution they expected from us, we came at the problem from an entirely different direction.
In one case our solution cost about the same as what the client asked for, but could be done with far less complication, planning and personnel.
In a second, we actually proposed a completely different software package that will cost less in its entirety than the cost of just support on the existing solution – the most interesting thing is that the two software solutions are as different as Word and Internet Explorer – not even the same kind of solutions.
In the third case, although the client wanted to replace their existing system, at some considerable expense, we recommended they continue to use the existing system, which worked exceptionally well, and add a new component that allowed them to do the analysis that was missing. This results in far less change management, and accomplishes everything the client expected to gain after years of rebuilding their environment in a new, expensive software solution.
So the next time you hear yourself say “We need a… because …” pay close attention to the “because” clause… that is probably where you find the true problem definition.