Last night as I climbed into my car and began the commute home, I discovered that several of the preset stations on my radio were cranking out ear-bleed heavy metal. As I scanned the airways for something that would better match the mood, I had a recurring thought.
When I was a child, my father worked for Volkswagen of America. He eventually purchased his own dealership. I grew up with a different car in the driveway every night. I loved it. To this day, I still house a passion for fine engineering and immaculate execution of form and detailing. I call it a passion, my wife calls it a poison. As a result, I often find myself falling prey to an unidentified gravitational force that pulls me off of whatever road I am on and into some used car lot. I have tip-toed through countless dead end conversations with sales people and learned about many things to look for, such as the glazing on the pedals. If the clutch and brake pedal look “bald” from wear, then the car might have been driven hard.
A clue I made up, is applicable to buying cars from a private party rather than a car lot, and founded by no scientific data, I assure you. Whenever I take a car for a test drive, I listen to the radio to see what type of music the person listens to. I imagine that if the person listens to loud rock, then they just might live a faster lifestyle. If NPR and soft, passive music found on button 6 and 7, then the person might be one that lives more cautiously and thoughtfully. One could then assume that this is how they drive and take care of their car.
I once heard the service manager of a VW, Volvo and Mercedes dealership say “The Mercedes customers don’t care how much it costs, they just want it done now. The Volvo customers don’t care how much it costs but want to know why. And the VW customers just say OK and wait”.
So, there I was in my little wagon, trying to decipher what my taste in music says about who I am, where I am in life or what mood I was in. I concluded it does say something, but probably not solely on it’s own. The raw data would have to be combined with other findings like the language I use, the books I read, the vacations I take, the shoes I wear and the cotton content in my shirts. The same is true for any of you, as well.
When we are asked as consultants to help bring clarity to a client’s situation, we can’t run out to the garage and listen to their radio or climb under the dash to study the pedal patterns, but we can slow down enough to look for the subtleties at hand. Spend just a few more minutes getting to know the person and the process they use to conduct their day.
One time in an architecture class I took, the instructor was telling us about a new college campus he had just visited where they waited until after the first semester had been completed to pour any of the sidewalks, they knew the students were the only ones who could truly determine where they should be. The construction company simply placed the sidewalks where the paths in the grass emerged. The better we understand the client, the more accurate the solution you propose will be. And in the end, this will make for a better experience.
I am always moved by the solidity, and natural colors of a true fieldstone fireplace, but without the mortar that the mason patiently applied, the end result may be a just a pile of rocks… an experience that would be as easy to skip as an undesirable channel on the radio.