Sometimes what seems to be an insurmountable problem can have a simple solution, if only we look at it from a different perspective. Here are a couple examples that I have been directly involved with. The first happened at a recent event I attended in Indianapolis, and the second happened early in the development of the ratio/index analysis functionality in our software and forever affected how we look at new software features.
I was recently at a conference attended by a large number of Certified Public Accountants. They were all highly educated, extremely sharp people. At the final break, the sponsors of the event provided milk and cookies as an afternoon snack. The cookies were large, and the milk was in individual serving bottles with a small opening in the top. I was talking to one of the participants as he stood with a cookie in one hand and milk in the other, when he said, “It sure would be nice to be able to dunk this cookie, but it won’t fit in the top of the bottle.” I just politely suggested he dump the milk into one of the glasses that were neatly stacked next to the big bowl filled with milk on ice, and he could dunk the cookie.
Over twenty-five years ago, I was having an intense discussion with our (then and current) Development Manager on how the data in our Ratio/Index analysis program should be displayed. This was as close to a knock-down, drag-out fight as we’ve ever had over a software feature. I thought the trend information on the reports should be presented in reverse chronological order so the most recent information was closest to the line titles, and he thought that was crazy, because financial information should always be in chronological order. One of our partners, at the time, entered the conversation at about the breaking point and after hearing just a small portion of the discussion, he suggested, “do it both ways and let the customers decide how they want to see the data,” totally ruining a perfectly good argument.
Next time you are confronted with a problem that seems to have no solution, step back, take a breath, and look at the issue from a different angle.
- Ken Hilton, President