Saturday, April 7, 2012

Smoothies reveal: Things work better now

My wife Rachel got this smoothie maker as a gift. (Yum!) It's hard to read in my fuzzy phone photo, but the company's name is Back to Basics and their tagline is "Back to Things that Work."

The smoothie machine does work well, but why wouldn't it? Their slogan irks me. I don't know why we tend to think otherwise, but things work much better now than they ever did. There are several reasons for this. One is the increase in government regulations over products. You can argue that this sometimes leads to more expensive products, since extra work needs to be put in to ensure they meet standards, but the result is that products much more often meet the standards. This is really important in cases where safety is an issue.

Another reason things work better now is the whole concept behind the Secret Peace - compounding information. It's in every company's best interest to make their products better, and the longer a certain product has been around, the more it has been improved. And as one company improves a product, its competitors often have to make the same improvements in order to keep up and remain competitive. New features are often introduced at luxury prices before economies of scale and increases in efficiency make them cheaper and they become standard.

Cars are a great example of this. Think how many features cars have now by default that would have been considered luxuries a few decades ago - CD players, automatic locks, air bags, and tons more. Even windshield wipers and seat belts were not a given, if you go back far enough. I don't drive ever since I moved to NYC, so in the rare cases when I get in a car, it seems there's often some new feature I hadn't heard about. Car people probably take these for granted, but I am amazed at the fact that the car seat warms up, for example. That just strikes me as absurdly futuristic. Or even unlocking the doors remotely. Back in my day we used keys - remember those?

Another reason for today's improved products is the ability for the market to make better decisions because of the availability of online reviews. Bad products can't fool us for long, and they all eventually get weeded out. Paul Adams, in his great book Grouped, describes this: "Online, people are overwhelmingly positive about businesses. One reason for this is in the last 50 years, product quality has dramatically increased. Today, most products meet basic manufacturing quality codes, and they work for a long time." (p. 141)

The next time you use any product, think back to if it would have worked better a few years or decades ago. If Windows is giving you a headache, think, "Was my Commodore 64 better?" If plugging your iPod into your car stereo is on the fritz, think, "Was it better when I had a cd player in the trunk?" (Yes, I had this.) And if you have to wait an extra ten minutes at the laundromat because one of the washers is broken, ask yourself, "Would I prefer washing my shirts down in the river?"

Things work better NOW, Back to Basics.

1 comment:

janet said...

What a great gift - that it not only makes delicious smoothies, but inspires creative thought!