Archive for September, 2017

Form vs Substance

We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” What that means is, substance can be present without us realizing it.

Or maybe there’s another interpretation, that goes “Some things that are pretty on the outside just aren’t worth it.”

Now, from experience, we all know that there are a lot of different products out there that this can also be applied to: movies, video games and music albums are all products where a lot of attention is paid to the cover art.

What about the famous scene in Spinal Tap where Fran Drescher’s character admonishes the band about their cover artwork, explaining that The Beatles didn’t need anything special or unique to sell The White Album?

In an ideal situation, a product would contain both style and substance. A lack of presentation doesn’t hurt the reality of what is inside, but perception itself has a way of shaping reality: Take the example of certain luxury brands that are able to price themselves higher simply based on reputation.

It really is a constant challenge to meet the escalating expectations that people have. We really should spend most of our focus working on creating the best products or services and also reserve some time to think about presentation.

These two can and do work together, and there are many more examples of this from highly functional and beautiful furniture to powerful, stylish vehicles. This also reminds me to mention that substance itself could have a bunch of subgroups for any product or service depending on who the ultimate consumer will be.

This really could be an endless debate if we are asking “Which is more important?”. They work together and the things with an ideal combination tend to dominate the marketplace.





Escape Rooms

Right now, the concept of an “Escape Room” is very popular with people. I’ve done two so far, and wanted to recap some of the lessons I learned. In particular, the importance of recognizing patterns.

For those that don’t know, an escape room is a place where you are put into locked rooms and fed clues that allow you to progress into eventually leaving the room. They are meant to be solvable, but usually contain a high degree of difficulty.

The first time I went into an escape room, I quickly found the key that released us from our handcuffs. Then we began looking for clues. One person assumed a leadership role and began trying to decipher some cryptic writing on the wall.

When they failed to figure out the puzzle, we called for help. That’s when we all learned that the writing on the wall had nothing to do with the next step. The person was ascribing meaning to things where it didn’t actually exist. This happened again and again during the game, until we ran out of time and essentially lost.

This can happen to anyone. There’s a good Terminator: Sara Connor Chronicles episode called Strange Things Happen at the One Point Two where Sara drags her team through a lot of unnecessary danger because she gives meaning to three dots. I won’t spoil the episode, but it’s a good metaphor for what I’m trying to explain here.

Generally, to move forward, you have to see key information and base conclusions off of it. Otherwise, you will be trapped over and over by things that aren’t actually there.

I learned my lesson, and the next time I was in an escape room, I assumed the leadership role among my team. This time, we came through in flying colors and I was ecstatic that we escaped. We would have had a good time regardless, but sometimes, it’s nice to flex your problem-solving muscle among friends.

All it took to make it out of the situation was the ability to see what was really there. So whenever we’re confronted by obstacles or challenges, we have to ask ourselves, “What is really going on here?”. Our own biases may tell one story; the facts another; and others may layer on their own narrative.

Sometimes, people misinterpret the clues. This can happen to anyone, but it’s 100% on us to find a systematic approach so we get to our goals and are not waylaid or distracted. Once you know the truth–what things actually mean–you’re going to overcome challenges.

The exit is right there…and it’s been there all along.