Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Winning Your Shirt (shifting the game)

Some time ago, I was discussing a potential bid with some (then) co-workers. The winning vendor was required to provide an item that (a) fit in a shirt pocket, and (b) had particular capabilities. Because of the manufacturing capabilities of the time, items (a) and (b) seemed mutually exclusive - you just couldn't build an item with those capabilities that fit into a shirt pocket.

Or could you?

I suggested to my co-workers that if we won the bid, we would not only provide the item, but would also provide the shirts. That way, we could build a really big shirt pocket, allowing us to satisfy both requirements.

Unfortunately, the co-workers did not adopt my sage suggestion. But perhaps you might.

Even today, I often run into a set of requirements that violates the laws of space and time. Note that it's usually not a single requirement that breaks the universe as we know it; it's usually a set of requirements which, when taken together, result in an "impossible" outcome.

Note that in my example above, I solved the problem by relaxing one of the assumptions - in that case, the assumption that the shirt pocket requirement applied to a standard shirt. Similarly, you can relax requirements in other areas by challenging the assumptions. While there is always the chance that the customer may not agree with your redefinition, there may be some cases in which the customer doesn't even care about the mutually exclusive requirements, or those requirements aren't as important as some other ones. Here's what Daniel Tenner said about dealing with impossible crises:

Some things really are impossible (so far), like teleporting to the other side of the world, or bringing someone back to life, or traveling back in time. But most situations deemed “not possible” are nothing of the sort.

More here. (H/T productmarketing.com.)

Can you share examples of cases in which a vendor "provided the shirt" to save a deal?

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