Easy and Certain

Seth Godin’s blog post today is Easy and Certain.

The lottery is easy.  It is not certain, but it is easy.

Many choose an MBA because it feels certain.  It is not easy, but it feels certain.  Once you’ve got the diploma on the wall…  success is inevitable…

There is a spanish word “chollo”.  “Un chollo” is a something valuable that you achieve for little cost.  

The danger of searching for the Chollo
There is a story about Toyota.  Back in the 1980s they implemented an employee suggestion scheme.  It was left to each country to decide how to motivate employees to provide improvement ideas.

Toyota USA rewarded outcomes
In the US, the senior management debated and discussed.  They decided they would offer employees 2% of the total value of the suggestion once implemented.  Wow.  This could be big bucks!  2% of a suggestion that cuts $1M in cost from the production line?  Take home $20,000.  Nice.

The employees liked this idea and spent hours thinking about big changes, big suggestions.  On average Toyota USA received 2 suggestions per employee, and about 10% were implemented.  I don’t know what the total value of these changes were.

Toyota Japan rewarded process
In Japan, the senior management debated and discussed.  They decided they would offer employees a straight up-front payment of $50 for every suggestion.

Employees liked this concept.  They didn’t spend too much time thinking, but identified lots of little, incremental, simple changes that steadily improved performance in the factories.  On average Toyota Japan received 50 suggestions per employee, and about 60% were implemented.

18 months later the performance at Japanese factories had increased so dramatically that they took all the changes and began to implement them around the world, and in the USA.

What happened?  The Japanese employees were looking for simple little suggestions that made life 1% easier.  The Americans were looking for the chollos: the big value suggestions.

Incremental improvement always wins in the long run.

Excellent Pottery design
A story from Derek Siver goes that a ceramics teacher told half the class that they would be graded on the total weight of pottery they created during the term; the other half of the class was told they would be graded on one piece of pottery.  The weight students produced pot after pot after pot; experiments, prototypes, random ideas, and some magnificent pieces.  The quality students spend a lot of time talking about concepts, thinking through ideas, developing a plan…  and waited til near the end to actually get their hands on some clay.  All of the best pots came from the weight-graded half of the class.

Incremental improvement always wins in the long run.

Could you set up an online business that earns you €50 per month?  Could you import a product and find stores to stock it that gave you €50 a month?  Could you write an eBook on “how to develop a career in your industry” and sell 10 a month at €5 per download?

In your life are you looking to add 1% per month or are you looking for the chollo?  Warning: chollos almost never come…  even to win the lottery you have to do some work: buy the ticket, check the ticket, file your claim…

3 Comments

  1. That’s a really fantastic article with some great examples that I feel I can use in an upcoming speech. Thanks very much!

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