I want you to imagine something really strange…
I want you to imagine that you have taken leave of all your senses, and for some reason, you have decided that you want to travel to my previous home-town of Rawtenstall, Lancashire, over in not so sunny England. And you have no idea how to get there from the airport.
So you flick through your address book, and realise that you only really know 3 people from Rawtenstall… William Roche (Ken Barlow from Corrie), Jane Horrocks (from the film ‘Little Voice’ and Bubble from ‘Absolutely Fabulous’), and Pete Waterman (from Stock, Aitken and Waterman renown (He owns and plays with a couple of the steam trains there))… How come you know so many celebrities?
Oh and then there is me who used to live there too.
Well William isn’t returning your calls (unfortunately he died just recently), Jane is away doing a pantomime season in welsh Wales… Rhyl, and Pete is busy playing Fat Controller with his tank engines, so as a last resort you decide to contact me for directions.
Now despite being a little miffed at being your fourth choice behind them other ‘C List’ celebrities, you nevertheless catch me in a charitable mood, and so I send you step by step instructions on how to get there.
I then think no more about it until the day of your journey when I get an irate phone call from you…
“What the hell have you done to me…
Have you any idea where I’ve ended up?
Burnley… bloody scum of the earth, Burnley!
It’s even worse than Rawtenstall.”
I’m now sat at home scratching my head, amazed to receive your call – not because you say Burnley is worse than Rawtenstall (it is), but because you got lost. I mean, I know my directions were spot on.
“I don’t understand it,” I say, “you should have arrived in Rawtenstall without any problems. Did you follow the directions exactly?”
“Of course I did,” you say somewhat irritated, before adding a little sheepishly “… for most of the way. But then you directed me along the motorway. I don’t like driving on the motorway, and so I went along the A640 which looked as if it runs alongside it. And it did for a while, but then it veered off. It took me an hour to get back on track.
Anyway, I got back on your route eventually, and I came to a roundabout. You said take the third exit, but I didn’t like the look of that at all. It went straight through a scruffy industrial estate. I’d have got my car filthy.
So anyway, I took the second exit which looked to be going in roughly the same direction, but went through some nice countryside instead. I don’t know what happened after that, but the next thing I saw was a ‘Welcome to Burnley’ sign. It’s the last time I ask you for directions!”
I’ll come back to Burnley in a moment, but
I’d like to give you another scenario first…
I want you to now imagine something almost as strange as the desire to visit Rawtenstall.
I’d like you to imagine that you are having a second childhood moment, and have decided that you’d like to make an Airfix model (Google it) of a Lancaster Bomber.
So you go into your local model shop, mumble under your breath something about it being a present for your nephew, and take home a box of assorted plastic bits and pieces, some glue, model paints, and some instructions.
The shop keeper thinks no more about it until he opens his doors the next Saturday morning only to be attacked by you – all red faced and angry, and brandishing something in your hand.
“Look at this!” you say, shaking an object so close to the
shopkeepers face that he can’t quite make out what it is.
“This is supposed to be a Lancaster Bomber. It looks more like something spawned from a brief liaison between a wheelie bin, a lawnmower, and a Dalek! I can’t believe you sold me this piece of crap.”
“I don’t understand it”, says the shopkeeper, after removing what was supposed to be the Lancaster’s wing from his left nostril. “It’s not meant to look like that. Did you follow the instructions?”
“Of course I followed the instructions”, you reply. “…sort of.”
“I mean you can’t follow them word for word can you? The big bits looked easy to put together and so I did them first. I know the instructions said you had to do some small bits first, but I wanted to get going with the damned thing. Anyway, when I’d done the big bits, I was going to do the little bits later. But then I couldn’t get them to fit in – and you needed to have them in place to finish the model off. I couldn’t get the tail to go on at all. It’s the last time I’ll buy a bloody model from you!”
For a number of years now, something has puzzled me…
Why is it Ikea can promote the same piece of furniture (albeit flat-packed) to two different people, and one writes back to say that it is literally the best thing since sliced bread, and yet the other writes to tell them that it is a steaming pile of horse poo, and they should be locked up for even producing it?
Same product… two completely different reactions.
Now for quite some time, I’ve suspected that the divergent experience people have with furniture assembly directly correlates with the propensity of the recipients to follow the given instructions. In other words (like the villain’s in my two stories about getting to Rawtenstall, and building an Airfix model) the people who failed, were unsuccessful because they simply didn’t follow the instructions properly.
I mean look at it this way…
If you ever had to cross a minefield, it would make sense to follow exactly in the same footsteps of someone who had already done it, would it not? Does that not make sense?
Taking a different route because it looked either quicker or by-passed some nasty looking mud and the odd cow pat or two, wouldn’t really be a sensible option would it?
You would have absolutely no idea whether your deviation from the prescribed route would result in total disaster or not.
In a minefield, the gap between total success and total destruction may be little more than a hairs breadth, and the uninitiated have no way of knowing where the make or break borders are.
And it can be exactly the same in assembling flat-packed furniture.
Now as I have already said, I suspected that the difference between success and failure… between sliced bread and horse poo… with this game, is all in the application of the instructions that come along with it, but I can’t really prove it.
You see, when you set up and run these projects, the number of things you need to do – and the order in which they need to be done – necessitates a relatively complex recording process. And asking someone to recount the processes they’ve gone through isn’t normally very productive…
They either can’t remember – or simply don’t want to remember!
However, I recently had a breakthrough, because I had a friend who once launched a betting advisory service over in the UK, and the process involved there was one of child-like simplicity. It went as follows:
- Receive an email detailing a recommended bet for an event, the outcome to be bet on, the acceptable odds, and the size of the bet.
- Place the bet!
That’s it! Really!! There was absolutely nothing further to do. No decisions to make, no further actions to take, no thinking to do. Nothing!! It was all done for you… Just follow the bloody instructions.
By the end of the first month of this new service our man was delighted.
The results had come in just as he’d expected and hoped, and anyone following his advice in that first 30 days, would have found themselves with well over £600 in clear profit.
Or so he thought until he received an email from an irate customer… “You said this service would be profitable. I’ve been on it for a month now and I haven’t made a single penny. In fact I’ve barely broken even. I’ve been conned etc etc etc…” You get the idea.
So he emailed this gentleman back
and expressed his surprise at his disappointment.
He asked him to send him his betting records, so that he could see why they didn’t tally with his own.
A couple of days later he received an email detailing a betting record for the month, which did indeed show a small loss. But his betting record had very little in common with the instructions he’d been sent.
- There were 5 days worth of bets which were missing altogether. (“I was away on holiday that week.”)
- Another 3 bets which weren’t placed. (“I just didn’t fancy those.”)
- And some winning bets that were placed at a fraction of the recommended staking level. (“I was a bit short of ‘readies’ that week and so I had to cut back.”)
- There was even one bet which our man hadn’t even sent him at all! (“That was one I picked out myself.”)
The ‘punter’ had paid for information from our man who knew the betting equivalent of the road to Rawtenstall, the right way to build a Lancaster Bomber, and the way through a minefield. But he had chosen to ignore or be ‘selective’ with his purchased advice…
With the result that he’d ended up in Burnley,
holding a piece of crap, with half his leg blown off!
Now look, there’s a really important caveat here. Flat-packed furniture can only ever be right if the instructions are followed to the letter.
Obviously, you have to choose your instructors carefully in the first place. But once you’ve done that, there’s no sense in then being selective. Or trying to second-guess with respect to the information, instructions and route map you’re given.
It’s far from a menu from which you can choose the ‘dishes’ which seem the most palatable. You have to swallow the whole damned meal…
You see given a free choice, as children, we’ll almost always choose the ice cream over the spinach. And even as adults, when we know better what’s good for us. The lure of the palatable, easy to swallow part of the meal still remains a strong one…
And so it is with furniture assembly.
But only if it’s exactly as it’s served. You have to swallow the whole meal. Miss something out. Or eat it in the wrong order. And you could very well find yourself nutritionally deficient or with a bad case of indigestion…
So knuckle down people, read and digest the manual and eat your bloody greens (follow the damned instructions). They’re not just good for you; they’re essential for the health of both you and your home.
Just make sure your chef knows how to cook them first (choose the right furniture supplier with the right instructions).
Or better still, give me a call. With a history in kitchen manufacture,
I can build this stuff with my eyes closed.