See a need, fill a need

One for all you people with young kids and an over-developed knowledge of TV and movies for the under-10’s. Name that film.

But I digress.  A great post today, about a guy who saw an opportunity in the car-pool lanes in San Francisco.

This guy was sitting in a traffic jam one morning watching all the people in the carpool lane drive by while he was moving at snail’s pace. He decided that he needed to get someone else in his car so that he could get to work in a timely manner using the carpool lane, and at first thought that his only option was to start a carpool.

As he thought about it more, however, he thought that he (as in himself and his body) was actually a valuable commodity and he could sell himself and that is exactly what he did. He walked to the freeway entrance and held up a sign that said,

“Traffic is bad. Spend 2 hours or pay me $10 and get there in 20 minutes”

He said the first day he was picked up within 15 minutes. When he got dropped off, he walked to the other side, held up his sign and got paid to go back the other way too. On a typical day he makes 2 to 3 round trips during the morning commute rush hour and 3 – 5 round trips during the evening rush hour. If there is an accident and traffic is really slow, his price doubles. He clears $100 – $300 a day sitting in a car so others can get to work and home faster!

Brilliant. Now what do we learn from this? That in every problem there is an opportunity. Look at your workplace or your clients’. Look at where people are working dumbly or working apart. And find a simple way to join them.

We did some work redesigning a client’s intranet. We had two good ideas (which made this a successful project). And here they are for you, for free:

– A pane on the homepage which displayed the day’s events from 0800 – 1100, the canteen menu from 1100 – 1400 and the latest travel news scraped from London Underground from 1400 onwards.

– We insisted that all departments had a consistent, templated homepage that explained what they did, where they were in the building, who the key contacts were – names, numbers, email addresses – and links to the five things that you were probably looking for when you went to the department. After the homepage they were free to be as anarchic as they liked, but their front page had to be actually useful.

Simple ideas in response to information traffic jams. No massive enterprise-wide software development required. Worth $100 a day.


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