25 July 2011


At a Chick-Fil-A a while back, I came across these little bowls, nestled among the napkins & straws. What a cool idea - free cheerios!

This is one of the most sensitive and insightful things I've ever seen a store do. It costs practically nothing, demonstrates a deep understanding of the customers and shows the type of hospitality that should be the hallmark of any restaurant.

My kids are old enough to eat stuff from the menu, but I can still appreciate the gesture that says "We'd like to make your visit here more pleasant - here's something your little ones will enjoy."

This sort of thing is so easy and so obvious, it makes me wonder why everyone doesn't do it.

21 July 2011


Quick, what does that license plate mean? Is the driver an ornithologist who specializes in birds from the genus Sialia of the thrush family (i.e. a Blue Birder)? Or was I following a medical professional who specializes in liposuction and/or obesity (Blubber Dr)?

Sure, it could be a depressed bird watcher (a blue birder), or maybe they meant "blue" in the sense of risque... kinda hard to tell.

And so today's lesson is: when you're picking a name, a brand identity or a vanity license plate, make sure you pay attention to the ways it can be misread.

18 July 2011

No Sale

Check out this photo, which I snapped at the local grocery store using my handy-dandy, oh-so-fuzzy, 1.3 Megapixel camera phone.

In case it's not clear, this is a sign for a "SPECIAL!" sale - regular price is $6.99, now on sale for $6.99. Save 0 cents!

It got me thinking about the mental processes involved in placing this sign. I mean, someone decided to print this tag. Someone (probably a different someone?) put it on the shelf. Presumably the person who put it on the shelf looked at it, to make sure the food item it referred to was indeed on that shelf. And at no point did anyone say "I'm not going to do this because it doesn't make sense."

I bet the person who put up this sign (and a bunch of others) got credit for doing good work after all the signs were up.

If this was just about grocery store signage, it would hardly be worth mentioning. But it's actually a small example of a larger phenomenon. How often do we find ourselves doing stupid things for bad reasons? How often do we not read the signs we post on our metaphorical shelves, or (even worse) read them and put them up anyway.

Want to do something about it? Check out the book Hacking Work for a great tutorial on how to bend & break the stupid rules that try to get you to put up a sign like this.

05 July 2011

Shortening The Max

Kickstarter is an online fundraising platform that helps connect small investors with creative types. It's a wonderful way for people to quickly raise small amounts of money to help fund interesting projects... to get a kickstart, if you will.

I mention them because of a recent blog post my friend Kelly sent me. The gist of the post is that Kickstarter has shortened the maximum project length, from 90 days to 60.

Why did they do this? Simple - they found an inverse correlation between project length and project success. In plain English, shorter projects succeeded more often (see graph to left). Longer projects succeeded less often.

In the interest of science, I really appreciated their explanation that longer projects don't necessarily fail because they were longer. Remember, correlation doesn't prove causality. There are no doubt several factors leading to project success, and duration may be one of them. But they were careful to avoid proclaiming they'd discovered a direct cause.

I think the data is pretty interesting, and the correlation is indeed tight. While this doesn't prove a long duration directly reduces the success rate, I think there is wisdom in keeping the schedule short. That's a big part of the FIST approach - good projects have short schedules. Let's take a closer look at the interplay of some of these forces.

Maybe part of the dynamic is that when your schedule is tightly constrained, you're more focused on doing the essentials - the stuff that matters most. Longer timelines increase the temptation to overextend the scope. Longer timelines also expose the project to more changes, which tend to be expensive & complexifying, both factors which tend to go along with reduced success rates.

Bottom line: this is one more data point supporting the idea that short timelines go along with higher success rates. When you're designing your project, whether it's a fundraiser for your new album or a developing a new fighter jet, take a close look at how much time you're planning to spend. My recommendation is to shorten the timeline as much as possible... and then cut it a bit more.