Traffic Lights, Hammers & Sears

At some point,  the obvious should be obvious.  Or not.

I’ll keep this post short because the point does not take a lot of words to express.

Traffic lights.  A perfect design.  A design that has not been changed in more than fifty years.  Around the world.  Whether you are driving in the U.S., China—Gyna, South Africa, or Bosnia, when someone comes to a traffic light they know what to do.  RED—stop.  YELLOW—prepare to stop.  GREEN—go.  When you get your driving learner’s permit, you are not given a manual that explains traffic lights.

Even in third world countries, countries with no understanding of human-centered-design, its people know the meaning of red, yellow, and green.  A simple design.  No one who comes to a traffic light is confused.  They know what to do and they know when to do it.

Hammers.  Another perfect design.  A design that has not been changed since it was designed.  Like traffic lights, everyone knows the purpose of a hammer.  There are no manuals explaining how to use a hammer.  People who have never seen a hammer know how to use it.  Nobody mistakes a hammer for a fork.  Nobody uses a hammer’s handle to pound a nail.

Think retail: Sears, RadioShack, and Staples.  Retail chains with no idea how to transition from brick and mortar to hammers and traffic lights.  Nicely designed stores.  Aisles with plenty of room.  Good lighting.  Knowledgeable sales people.  A business model from the 1950’s.

Companies that could not spell digital if they were hit over the head with ones and zeroes.

Customers knocked on their doors only to discover that their lights were on but nobody was home.

Healthcare.  Providers. Payers. They are neither hammers nor traffic lights.

Netflix, Amazon, and CVS transitioned their business model from hammers and traffic lights to one that meets how their customers want to interact with them.  Sears, RadioShack, and Staples did not.

Pick your favorite healthcare firm.  How do they relate to a digital business model?  How do they relate to what their customers demand?

They don’t.

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