Nov 032012
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The instigator (not an affiliate link)

My son David and I walked into a Best Buy today to return a faulty Firewire cable, and I was so disoriented by my own pre-established traditions that I stopped in my tracks and tried to figure out if I was even in the right store.

Maybe your Best Buy store is different from the ones I’ve visited, but I expected the customer service area on the right, the cell phones straight ahead, the video games off to the left and the flat screen TVs way in the back… and all the other stuff I never look at way off to the left.

As I write this, the “standard” layout for a Best Buy as I describe it (in my mind, anyway) is kinda like what I have heard about Disney World… but that’s a topic for another time.

In this case, the Best Buy franchise had partnered with an office furniture store… which had its offerings off to the right, Best Buy’s customer service was to the left, and I really don’t know where everything else was from there.

I was so sure my original thoughts were the standard layout for a Best Buy store that I didn’t even question how the store would look when I walked in.

But I was lost. And it took me almost a minute to hear the voice off to my right asking if I “had seen the new look of our [their] store?”

CO2 Fire Extinguisher

Find the nearest when "General Emergency" sounds

Flashback to the US Navy

In the Navy, they drilled into us how important it was to pay attention to detail. It formed a part of every fitness appraisal.

When I left the submarine force and started my professional career, I couldn’t help but notice every fire extinguisher, alarm and fire hose in the building where I worked.

I remember one day back in 1993 when our building was conducting a fire drill – I ended up in the hallway with a CO2 extinguisher in my hands before somebody asked me what I was doing and why I didn’t just leave the building like everyone else.

So while I work to pay attention to detail, I am also a creature of habit… and that means one day I might save your life is there’s a fire, as long as you don’t move the extinguishers or the hoses on me.

(Come to think of it, my wife keeps moving the spices [and my sock drawer] around, and it really freaks me out…)

As I often do when I notice a real-life allegory, I immediately thought about how this relates to when executive like me spring something new on people – custom software, changes in processes, or just moving where the “OK” button is on a form our clinic managers have used for years.

Thinking back to how we design "everyday things"

I can’t think of any way this specific Best Buy could have prepared me for the change in “user experience” I was about to go through.

That one of their staff must have noticed I was lost and asked me about their “new look” means I am not the only one. Perhaps they could have stationed a staff member at the front just for wayward travelers like me… but for how long and for how much cost?

Do you see things like this happen in your life or work? If you’re in IT, have you done your best to handle it ahead of time but run into the issue anyway?

Or on another track… sometimes do you think we try too hard to make changes incremental, when it might be better to just “enter the danger” and make a big change once and for all??? Maybe this radical change in the Best Buy layout will train my mind not to assume so much the next time I visit…

What do you think?

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