What the world needs now is simplicity and consistency!


I’ve been trying to pinpoint why 2017 was such an annoying year for me.  Yes, I know what you’re thinking, I’m getting older and crabbier as my patience levels decrease proportionally with my age. You may be right, but that’s not the real reason. We’ve lost the art of consistency!

It is also apparent that disruption has become the vogue, whether it’s needed or not. For the whole of 2017 we were told that disruption is required to facilitate change, and that if you’re not disruptive you will be left behind.

We adopted the word “disruptive” in our publication titles not to be trendy but to emphasize what we were primarily reporting and commenting on: disruption. That won’t change in the near future because the disruptors will continue to disrupt, often wreaking havoc with very little foresight into what that disruption will achieve in the longer term.

I guess the most obvious example is the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States with barely a policy in hand and the stirring catch-cry to “Make America Great Again”. The great disruptor has opted to disrupt the machinations of government in any way possible, starting with the dismantling of everything his predecessor put in place regardless of the repercussions. One wonders if this alone will make the country great again, but in the meantime, people are having to adapt to the changes and that is not easy for many.

Closer to home, I am finding the lack of consistency all around me as not only challenging but also very annoying. Travelling is top of my list, and airport security has become the bane of my existence. I can speak with some authority because I spend around one-third of my year travelling, usually by air.

No matter how prepared I am for the dehumanizing process of lining up to be scanned, patted and sometimes prodded, I never seem to get it right.  One day they want your belt and shoes to be removed, the next day they don’t. One day they want your laptop and iPad taken out, other days only one or the other.  And every airport seems to have its own set of rules depending on your destination or airline.  Some airports even process you after you get off the plane and before baggage claim.  Then when you eventually get onboard the rules about using devices varies widely. There simply is no consistency.

For the telecoms industry, disruption is taking many forms, from the way the core networks operate right through to what services can be offered under regulatory environments that are inconsistent across national boundaries. Net neutrality is a great example – here one day, gone the next, but never completely, it would seem. Some countries have it, others don’t. The internet spans the globe, yet inconsistency in accessing it reigns supreme.

Telecoms customers have grown tired of the inconsistency of plans offered to them – more minutes here, less data there, get a phone thrown in, blah, blah, blah. When they are offered a simple all-you can-eat-plan they flock to it because it is simple and consistent and they understand it – everything else needs brain power to fathom and people just don’t have the time, energy or attention span to work this stuff out.

Every time train or bus timetables are changed anywhere in the world, there is a corresponding consumer backlash because people like basic services to be consistent. They can be added to, but mass changes (disruptive changes) are universally disliked.

Imagine if your garbage collectors decided to be disruptive and change the pick-up days just for a change, or your supermarket changed the location of your favorite items just for the fun of it. Oh, hang on, they do that regularly where I live. No wonder I hate food shopping!

There’s nothing wrong with change, unless it is only for change’s sake. There would be no progress without change, but change can be managed and it can be consistent, in a fashion. As for those clever disruptors and people in power that change things simply because they can, I only hope 2018 will be the year of their demise and simplicity and consistency come back into fashion.

1 Comment

  1. Right you are, Tony.

    Just read an interview with the founder of Coolblue electronics in the Netherlands. They got to be a major player in just a couple of years. One of the secrets, he said, was helping people decide. By looking at what people search for on the site, they could define 18 different laptop configurations, which they promptly had made especially for them. Whatever your user profile, they got your flavour. The even got Apple to make one special CoolBlue macbook using this same system of collecting data from their visitors. They created a monster MacBook, costing €3300.- (so that’s pretty high end!) and ordered hundreds of them in advance.
    They all sold out in no time, much to the bafflement of Apple.

    People don’t want a million choices. They just want what they need. So if you can figure out what they need, you can sell whatever you want.

    Another big secret of their succes is customer service, by the way. Always give the customer more than she expects.

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