Monday, June 13, 2011

The power of examples and what-ifs

There are many situations in which communication would be easier if interjected with clarification examples, like this:
The new cover sheets on the TPS reports take too long to fill.
When you say too long, do you mean one day, one hour, or five minutes?
By making the "too long" characterization specific, the numbers separate the case of a complaint that needs to be dealt with from an annoyance that doesn't.

When talking about change or comparisons numbers are more important:
The prices at Costco are much better than at Trade Joe's.
How much more do we spend if we get our groceries in five minutes at TJs across the street versus the two-hour trip required to make it to Costco? Closer to 200 or to 5 bucks?
By bringing in the variables involved (travel time versus cost) the problem becomes framed as a "cost of time" decision rather than the single variable of cost; also, by forcing the use of numbers, one may not get precision but at least requires some thinking.

I used to think this was a specific power of numbers, but I think it's more a lack of precision by the people using the words. Personas and prototypes have the same effect as the numbers and they are not numerical.

Making things specific as examples or what-ifs makes communication much simpler.