189. The M&M Myth (and Other Things That Impact Your Business)
It's the little things that matter
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I don’t know where you were on January 28, 1986 - or even if you were born yet.
But I remember where I was.
I was in my dorm room at Hamilton College, talking to my roommates.
And then there was nothing left to say.
The Space Shuttle Challenger took off that morning from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
73 seconds after takeoff, it burst into flames. It practically disintegrated on live TV. All seven crew members died instantaneously.
The Space Shuttle Challenger was a massive miracle of space travel. It had cost $3.2 billion (1986 dollars) to build it.
You know what caused this massive rocket ship to explode? A 70-cent O-ring.
The O-ring is tiny, just 7 millimeters (quarter inch) in diameter. You can buy these things in bulk at your local hardware store.
This particular O-ring didn’t seal properly. It caused the pressurized gas to leak. The gas sparked and - BOOM.
70 cents out of $3.2 billion.
The Myth of The Brown M&Ms
Van Halen used to put on a helluva rock show back in the 70s and 80s. Lots of amps, pyrotechnics, cables, wires, and all sorts of feats of rock ‘n roll insanity.
They were huge rock stars. They could do whatever the heck they wanted.
Which leads to their contract.
Buried in every contract for each show were the food and drink requirements that they wanted backstage. One of those requirements was a big bowl of M&Ms - but with all the brown M&Ms removed.
They got a lot of shit for that. It was the typical spoiled rockstar move - demanding ridiculous things simply because they could.
But there was a reason they added that seemingly inane M&M request. A very good reason.
You see, the Van Halen show was pretty complex. There were a heckuva lot of important requirements for setting up that stage. So important that if even the smallest thing got messed up, somebody could get seriously injured or even die.
Hiding the M&M requirement allowed the band to recognize very quickly if the venue actually read the contract and paid attention to details.
From the moment the group walked backstage and looked at their M&M bowl, they could tell whether or not they needed to conduct a thorough safety check.
Innovation is in the details.
Every little thing plays into the bigger picture.
It is all the details that set you apart from your competitors. The details that make the difference between a good product and a uniquely great experience.
It is the aglet that transformed laces.
The USB outlet in the backseat of the car.
It’s the navigation bar on the website that remains static so I don’t have to scroll back to the top of the page. The one-click call-in for web conferences.
It’s the person recalling my name when I show up at the store again.
It’s the brown M&Ms to ease one’s mind. Or the 70-cent O-ring that better be damn strong enough to not destroy 7 lives and an entire country’s space program.
I don’t know what your business is, but I know that you don’t get to be a leader in your space unless you pay attention to the details.
A Somewhat Relevant Quote
“Details matter. It’s worth waiting to get it right."
A Detail Job. Even on his deathbed, the guy was about the details (Jobs)
11. Why details matter at work (be better)
Be Detailed. The positive traits of a detailed person (get organized)
Another Useless Website. You gotta hand it to them (tiny)
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