My dad was an old fashioned copper.
In the days when they used to ride around on bikes.
One day he was riding his bike along past some road works.
A steamroller was going up and down over the hot tar they’d just laid.
Another bloke was riding his bike past the same road works.
For some reason the bloke fell off his bike.
And in trying to avoid the hot tar he nearly rolled under the steamroller.
He only just managed to escape being squashed flat.
But the steamroller did just catch the edge of his leg.
It ran along the length of his thigh.
The skin was stretched so tight, the thigh split open, from the hip to the knee.
The pain must have been excruciating.
The man screamed and passed out.
By the time Dad got off his bike, the man was unconscious and choking.
Swallowing his tongue.
All the flesh on his thigh was laid open, flat on the ground.
The exposed thigh bone was lying on top of it.
So, in that situation, what’s the first thing you do?
Dad thought the first thing to do was keep the bloke alive.
Currently he was choking to death.
He was swallowing his tongue.
So dad took out his penknife, pulled the bloke’s tongue out as far as he could.
Then he stuck the penknife through the tongue.
Now the bloke couldn’t swallow it.
Right, next thing, stop the loss of blood and try to save the leg.
So he asked if someone could get him some safety pins and string, quick.
One lady rushed inside her house and brought some back.
Then dad cleaned as much gravel as he could away from the open flesh.
And he wrapped the flesh back around the bone.
Then with a mixture of safety pins and string, he stuck it all tightly back together.
I asked dad what happened to the bloke.
Dad said he saw him around a few times afterwards and he was fine.
His tongue was probably sore for a bit, and his leg probably wasn’t as pretty as it had been.
But he was alive and he had both legs.
If Dad had worried about not cutting the bloke’s tongue.
If he’d worried about giving him a scar on the leg.
If he’d been unsure or dithered, the bloke wouldn’t be alive or walking around.
So, instead of worrying about the finer details, Dad got the important bit right.
Now contrast that with the way we do our job.
Do we get our priorities right?
What would have happened if Dad had done his job the way we do ours?
First off, he wouldn’t have touched the bloke until an independent research consultancy had made a thorough evaluation.
They’d have needed to recruit some focus groups of leg-users and ask their opinion.
Then they’d have needed to review the results.
Eventually they’d have debriefed Dad on their findings.
They’d have told him that basically there was a fundamental problem with the leg.
And that there were several possible ways to approach this.
They’d suggest some ‘Ideation Workshops’.
Afterwards they’d present a range of possible approaches.
Eventually, everyone would agree on the preferred solution.
The strategy would be to repair the leg and re-use it if possible.
So that’s the brief they’d give to the creative department.
In time, the creative department would come back with a beautiful idea of a leg.
This would then be researched amongst different groups of leg-users.
The leg-users would all have comments and opinions.
So the original idea would have to be changed and refined.
They’d agree to make the toenails shorter, to have less hair, to make the calf more shapely.
When it’s finally agreed, they’d get a quote from a production company.
The best in the field, so obviously they’d be very expensive.
But this will be the perfect leg.
So now everyone concentrates on the details, getting the skin-colour perfect, the exact shape of the knees, the ankles.
And finally the leg is finished.
Ready to be walked on.
Just one small problem.
The man died six weeks ago.
Somewhere, everyone got their priorities wrong.
Everyone was so concerned with getting every detail exactly perfect, they forgot the purpose of what they were doing.
They were so concerned with the ‘form’, they forgot the ‘function’.
They were so fixated on the execution, they forgot the idea.
They were so worried about being efficient, they forgot about being effective.
I once heard the difference between ‘efficiency’ and ‘effectiveness’ defined as follows:
“Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things.”