Words of Wisdom/Reflections on Effects
September 12, 2005
- by Robert E. Stevens, GENESIS II(The Second Beginning) E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
On Saturday, August 6, 2005, I was attending Mass at the Mary Queen of Heaven Church in Erlanger, Kentucky. The celebrant was a retired priest, Fr. Robotnik. His homily for that week was on the miracle of the loaves and fishes. (No, I am not going to talk about miracles, just conditional effects.) In the Biblical passages of Matthew 14:25-32, (trust me, this is not about religion), the verses relate to the “walking on water.” While walking on the water, Jesus invites Peter to come to him. Peter gets out of the boat and proceeds to walk on the water. Suddenly he looks down and realizes what he is doing and starts to sink. Enough of scripture.
What does this have to do with business? I think it has a lot to do with it. First, it says to me that if you keep your sights on the objective and not on all the possible things that can go wrong, you have a greater chance of success. If you start worrying about the negative consequences, you are sure to fail. All too often, we focus on why we should not be doing something rather than why we should be. Fear is a powerful deterrent.
The second thing this reading brought to mind was the profound effect of physical conditions. Some years back, a friend related a challenge he presented to his class. He had a twelve-foot-long piece of 2 x 8 lumber. He laid it on the floor and asked if his students would be willing to walk from end to end for $5. It seemed an easy task. Then he picked up the board and took it to the roof of the school. He placed the board across the space between two buildings, the one they were on and the next building. He then asked who would be willing to walk from end to end. Thinking what it would be like to be three stories above ground, the task did not seem that easy. The bottom line is that the conditions surrounding the event can have a dramatic effect on the outcome.
Consider what we do every day in our work. How often do we do our research and ignore the potential environmental effects? For instance, how often do we evaluate carton graphics via an internet picture on a computer screen? We have designed the graphics for in-store recognition and appeal. Why then would we ignore the use of the store as a test site for evaluation? OK, I understand, the internet is easier, faster and cheaper. Yes, but is it reliable and valid? Do we ignore the more reliable methods because of a fear of management’s reaction?
The conditions under which a product is evaluated can and does affect the results. How often do you determine your research method on the basis of price, speed and ease while ignoring reliability and validity?
- How often do you evaluate the price of a brand in the absence of competition?
- How often do you evaluate the taste of peanut butter, using a plastic spoon rather than crackers or bread?
- How often did you ask the probability of purchase when you could have obtained real sales data?
- How often do you use phony money in product sales when you could use the participant’s personal money?
- How often do you ask pre-recruited panelists when you could ask real shoppers the same questions?
- How often do you ask what a person would purchase rather than observe what they actually purchase?
- How often do use simulated stores when real stores are available?
- How of do you ask test participants to estimate the frequency of a task when you could obtain actual task frequency?
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