When Change Doesn’t Make Sense and Why it Should

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Nearly everyone experiences the frustration of unexpected change. Patterns of life and work flow are often interrupted by innovations that don’t make sense. Everything from software and TV remotes to roadways and voting locations. Change typically comes without much explanation and while the reasons are evident to engineers and developers, others are often outside that bubble.

Users are typically told what is new, but seldom are they told the why behind it. In some cases the explanation given is so broad it’s almost worthless. “To improve traffic safety” or ” to enhance the customer experience.”

Leaving out the why happens in part because it isn’t needed to sell products. Sales is driven by short term what and who. Why is only needed if it helps complete the transaction. Technical support, customer service, trainers, and elected officials are left to sort through questions of why things changed, often without solid answers.

The result of the non-answers they provide is often frustration. Yet with a little explaining on the front end, those who are interested in the why can become strong advocates for “What’s New.” They’ll be less resistant when they get a glimpse of the reasoning behind the changes. Assuming those reasons make sense.

Converting what into why can give advocates more reason to support the change. If it can be explained well, others will share the story. If not, people will make efforts to point out a speculative why, and chances are that speculation with be negative. “They changed it because they’re idiots.” Don’t give them the opportunity.

Take what the engineers, planners, and developers know and put it in terms those impacted by the change can easily understand. Building the right story around the boring details can go along towards increasing confidence in your organization.

“As long as I’m with you I’m not lost”

Lonesome Road by Cory Voglesonger

Years ago as my grandparents were driving through the mountains of North Georgia, my grandfather at the wheel and my grandmother at his side, my grandfather made a series of wrong turns before he realized he was lost. After trying several different routes he was not only unable to determine where they were headed, but he was eventually unable to get back to where they had been.

After all attempts had been exhausted he turned and said, “We’re lost.” My grandmother replied, “I’m not lost.” “What do you mean you’re not lost?” he asked. She said, “As long as I’m with you I’m not lost.”

The recognition that being together means never being lost is a profound truth. It was a characteristic of their marriage of over sixty years.  Location didn’t matter. Time didn’t matter. Being together, side by side, patient with each other, and knowing that those we travel with are far more important than when or how we reach our destination was what mattered.

After making a few course corrections they eventually found their way back to familiar roads. Throughout the rest of their lives together they continued to travel across the back roads of Georgia with their children, grandchildren, and other family members, occasionally getting turned around but never lost.  Their travels are a metaphor for their life together.

Are we truly lost when those who matter to us most are close by? My grandmother didn’t think so. Her nine little words, “As long as I’m with you I’m not lost”, speak volumes. They are also a reminder that kind words, spoken well, can last forever.

The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen — New Eyes for Old Data

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The Universe is filled with infinite data and our access to that data is begining to blossom. In the past decade an incredible amount of information has been placed within public reach. Once the wow factor of endless access has worn off, making the old numbers relevant and bringing the digital archive to life is challenging. Can new tools bring life to old data?

A hand full of designers are successfully pulling back the curtain to reveal hidden beauty in the numbers. Here is a synopsis of what a few of them are doing.

Hans Rosling has created something brilliant with Gapminder World. Visit his site and watch each nation progress as statistical data changes (Additional data can be displayed by clicking on the words “Life Expectancy in Years” on the far right of the Gapminder screen). To hear Dr. Rosling explain Gapminder, watch these entertaining presentations recorded at TED (June 2006, June 2007).

Amnesty International gives us an interactive bird’s eye view of the destruction in Dafur with Eyes on Dafur: Satellite Evidence.

For violence in the United States see what the LA Times has done with public data and Google maps to track every Homicide in Los Angeles County during 2007 (708 victims as of 10/30/07).

For a less detailed look into history view the interactive maps American Leadership and War and History of Religion by Maps of War.