Print Tech Insights 15: 1/16/12 – Pragmatism & Competence

Pragmatism and Competence
– Larry Goldfarb

This week, our discussion is devoted to appreciating things that work.  As consumers, we frequently are attracted to a product’s features, its ‘bells and whistles’, while taking for granted all that’s pragmatic and competent.

As a vendor, I’m frequently asked about one particular feature or another, without the customer paying heed to whether the product works or not.  Perhaps they presume that any competing product works equally well, and that differentiation is marked by the flashy feature options.

So they seek out fancy features, high resolution colors, promises of future development.  Yet, when the flash wears off, as eventually it will, customers are left only with the basics to appreciate – reliability, integrity, fit for purpose and all the things we’re supposed to like but just find boring.  It’s similar to the reaction your parents and grandparents when they saw something practical – they got excited while you simply rolled your eyes in disbelief.

It’s quite interesting how the above scenarios parallel with events of the past few weeks – in terms of professional football.  I’ve watch with delight the rise of my beloved NY Giants and the demise of their hated rivals, the NY Jets.  Jets coach Rex Ryan, an oversized teddy bear sporting an outsized personality, was all flash as he guaranteed a championship – starting in preseason and taking every opportunity throughout the season to knock opponents and criticize the Giants.  Needless to say, the Jets were the media favorites.

The football Giants meanwhile were all business – pragmatic and competent – from start to finish, even during a long losing streak.  Led by their coach, Tom Coughlin, who’s decidedly old school, the Giants remained reserved and attended to their responsibilities in a steady, reliable, if unspectacular, manner.  So, while the Coach Ryan and his Jets blustered and made plenty of noise, Coach Coughlin and his Giants steadily did their jobs and kept most of their thoughts to themselves.

On Christmas Eve, the two teams met in a monumental game, with huge stakes on the line – the winner would go to the playoffs while the loser, in all probability would not.  Coach Ryan was all flash, banging his hand on the table and telling the media that his Jets were the the better team.  Coughlin responded that he would let his team do its talking on the field.

The Jets lost that game, and proceeded to self-destruct during the final games of the same – much like a product’s flashy features that eventually wear off.  On the other hand, the Giants won that game and have continued winning – all the way to the Division Championship Game – much like the reliable and pragmatic elements of a product.

Conclusion. Whether we’re talking about a high tech product or a football team, FLASH grabbed most people’s attention, but ultimately proved short-lived and, in a sense, a mirage.  On the flip side, PRAGMATISM AND COMPETENCE were appreciated traits that did not necessarily factor into choosing a favorite at the outset, but proved to be the more valuable criteria in determining a WINNER.

Therefore, heed this warning — it’s okay to appreciate flashy features and the recommendations of a salesperson, but before buying technology go deeper.  Look at customer service, obtain viable references whom you can call, and speak with trusted colleagues to see what they use.  In my book, quality not flash is most important.

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Note to Readers: Mr. Goldfarb’s second installment on social media entrants was to have appeared this week, but will instead be presented next week.

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