Monday, August 31, 2009

Pie In The Sky

Dear Community,

I made this pie. This is actually the pie before things headed really south. Its a pie in unbaked glory, full of potential, unaware that it is about to be totally overcooked/burned/complete destroyed in the fires of my hellish oven.

I digress. The important thing is that the pie didn't turn out (thats putting it kindly). And so all of my effort, that cute little heart that I spent 10 minutes cutting out and re-cutting out was for nothing.

And thats because all we care about these days is in the end product. How amazing would it be if you showed up with a disgusting burnt pie and people were delighted. What effort! What a labor of love! Who cares about the oven! But we're not like this.

Results are quantifiable. And because they are quantifiable they are easy to incentivize. We like to pretend that these incentivized results are reflective of effort, but, in so many cases, I'm not entirely convinced that they are. As long as we place a premium on results, effort will always be under valued.

And maybe the truth is that effort is not good enough. Imagine if you called up customer service only to hear "sorry, we really tried- gave it our best go, but we can't help you". If it were me, I would be irate. That poor person would have to listen to me rant about how worthless they were for at least 3-5 minutes. And then I would want to rinse and repeat with their manager.

That said, I think the problem here is that I don't trust the "we tried" statement. I think if I honestly believed that Mr. Cell Phone Customer Service Man had gone home and worried about my lack of reception, I would let him off the hook. When he announced that "he tried"- I would be appreciative- in the same way that I am appreciative when terrible cooks make a real effort (that is nonetheless disgusting).

So I think the answer is we have to get people to believe that we are actually trying- that we are doing everything in our power to help. And to do that, I think we actually have to try harder. Which means we can't just incentivize results- we have to figure out a way to incentivize effort. Because there will be times when we can't help and in those moments its crucial that we have consumer trust. It crucial that they believe that we did our best- that we tried.

Which is why I gave away the burnt pie instead of donating it to the trash. Because while its not a delicious consumable gift, it is a gift of time and effort and love- which, in my book, are just as valuable as the "result".


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