February 2015

Always check your blind spot…

Car mirrorEven though it was a long time ago, I can still vividly remember passing my driving test and earning my licence.  I can recall driving back to the test centre, parking up, and receiving the good news.  I can still remember the examiner’s name, the fact that it was a sunny day, and I can even remember which parking bay I pulled into.  It was a significant day for me– especially since I didn’t pass the first (or even second) time, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I had what seemed like hundreds of hours of tuition before I finally passed.


Although my memory of each individual driving lesson has faded, I can still vividly remember my driving instructor drumming into me the importance of checking your blind spot before making a manoeuvre.   A quick glance out of the side window, followed by a glance over your shoulder helps avoid accidents.   Every driver and every car has ‘blind spots’ and if you rely on looking in mirrors and the windscreen alone, you might end up ruining the paint job on your car, or worse….


This idea of ‘blind spots’ can be applied to other areas of life too.  Incidentally, I’m told that fashion is one of my personal ‘blind spots’ – apparently the Hawaiian shirts that I wear on the weekend are so last millennium (who would have known?!)  More importantly, these blind spots can cause real problems in projects and in purchasing decisions.


A common project ‘blind spot’: Full Function Focus

Your customers are telling you what they want. Are you listening?

Picture of an ear and a question mark. A month or so ago, I had a rather unexpected experience at a high-street electrical retailer.   Having decided that I wanted to buy a new laptop, I visited some stores to weigh up my options.  After all, there’s no substitute for seeing the build quality before making a purchase.   Since I spend a lot of time travelling, one of my key requirements is a quick start-up time – this makes it easy to quickly get the laptop up and running when travelling by train or in an airport.


So, with anticipation, I entered the store and headed for the computing section. After a few moments of browsing the laptops, I was greeted by a friendly but over-zealous sales person.


 “Hi there, can I help you?  Are you interested in buying a laptop today?”  the salesperson asked.


I explained my requirements, and explained how important a quick boot-up time was. Before I could even finish my sentence, the salesperson excitedly proclaimed:


“You’re in luck — we’ve got the exact model for you, and it’s on special offer today!”


Over the years I’ve grown rather cynical about “special offers”, so I didn’t have very high expectations, but I was really surprised.  The laptop on offer really did seem to be good value.   It didn’t seem to boot particularly quickly, but I could probably live with it.  After weighing up the options, I decided to buy it, and the salesperson excitedly scurried off into the stock room so that the sale could be finalised.

Two minutes later, they returned


“Oh, I forgot to mention, along with the laptop, we’d recommend that you buy an antivirus subscription.  There are so many viruses and malware infections out there! Do you want the one year plan….?”


I thanked the salesperson, but explained that actually, I already had a spare antivirus licence that I could use.  The salesperson went back to the stock room to collect my laptop.  Five minutes later, they returned, box in hand, ready to take me to the cash register.  Before we reached the register, there was a pause.


“Before you buy this laptop, I really must insist that you take the antivirus software, you’re in real danger if you don’t….”


I explained again that I already had a licence.   The salesperson continued stead-fast in their goal of selling it to me.


We carried on in a doom-loop of a repeating conversation until eventually I gave up.  I firmly but politely walked away, explaining that if they wouldn’t sell me the laptop without a subscription that I didn’t want, then I wouldn’t buy it at all.    The sales person apologised profusely, and followed me out of the shop desperately trying to ‘close the deal’.   They didn’t succeed.


The benefit of an external or objective analysis viewpoint