Friday, February 28, 2020

Emergency Goalie, For the Love of the Game

Today, I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal.

In the NHL, they make it a practice of having an emergency goalie in every arena—in case one team loses both goalies to injury.  This person, who is an amateur goalie, is not paid.  They are doing it for the love of the game. Also, even though they are probably a fan of the home team, they have to be willing to play for either team.

Most of the time, they come to the stadium, check in, sit in the stands, eat, and watch the game.  On Saturday, the Toronto Maple Leaves EBUG (Emergency Backup Goalie),David Ayres—a 42-year old Ontario father of three and kidney-transplant survivor, had to fill in for the Carolina Hurricanes.   He had never played a minute of NHL hockey.  He ended up playing the second and third periods, saving  8 goals.

© 2020 Praveen Puri

The joy of improvisation

This is a great excerpt from the latest newsletter of my colleague Andrew Hollo :

Jasper, my son, is 10 and first picked up a saxophone in the last term of last year. He’d had a flirtation with guitar for a few years, but practising was always a chore. I remember this well from my own childhood piano playing days: feeling compelled to pound out yet another set of scales, or a boring Czerny piece (does anyone actually like Czerny?). His saxophone teacher has, however, hit on something remarkable. He asks Jasper, every day, to practice three things, all briefly: play a couple of scales, play two (very short) pieces —- and then just improvise for a bit. Play. Experiment. Muck about. Toot and squeak. See what happens. From upstairs this morning, I hear snatches of what sound like a middle eastern melody, and then a Coltrane riff. I go down and Jasper has a big smile on his face, and says, “Dad, listen to this!” He’s excited, and so am I. Question: What role can improvisation play in your working life?

© 2020 Praveen Puri

Thursday, February 27, 2020

How to answer password security questions

DON'T actually answer the question. Someone might be able to learn the answer and then change your password. Instead, use the question itself. Figure out a formula that takes certain word positions from the question, and "glue" them together with numbers or symbols. For example, your formula might be first word and second-to-last, glued with "plum!". Then, the answer to the question: "What was your mother's maiden name?" will be "what plum!maiden".

© 2020 Praveen Puri

McDonald's, Fast Food Drive-Thru Times, and Strategic Simplicity®

For fast food restaurants, speeding up and improving drive-thru service is a strategic imperative, and one area where they can "weaponize" simplicity for a competitive advantage.

Drive-thru performance is governed by two areas within Strategic Simplicity®: decision simplicity, and user simplicity.

Decision simplicity is critical because, if the menus have too many items, choices that overlap, or sets of items that are hard to compare/contrast, then customers will become confused.  Confused customers buy less and slow down the decision-making process.

Another factor is user simplicity. Drive-thru times will be slower if customers have trouble reading the menu, communicating with order takers, or have trouble customizing their orders.

According to a recent article in Crain's Chicago Business, McDonald's has improved it's drive-thru times–lowering them while they are up on average for the industry.   McDonald's invested in speech recognition systems to improve order-taking, and software that can change menus dynamically.  This last change means that trending items, and items that are popular depending on the weather (i.e. milkshakes on a hot summer day or hot coffee on a winter day), will appear prominently—to increase the chances that a user scanning the menu will find what they want quickly and easily.

© 2020 Praveen Puri

What If Your Home Insurance was like Health Care Insurance?

One of the reasons that health care, here in the U.S., is complex is because health insurance has mutated into something which doesn't resemble traditional insurance.

For example, let's look at house insurance.  It's relatively simple.  If your house is destroyed or damaged by fire, etc. the insurance will reimburse you, minus any deductible.

When it comes to care and maintenance for your house, it does not involve your house insurance.  If you need a plumber, or your AC repaired, you find someone, they fix it, and you pay them.

But, what if home insurance morphed into the form of health insurance?

Now, all maintenance and repairs would come under home insurance.  Insurance plans would become more complicated and vary, depending on what you wanted covered.

The biggest change would be to your relationships with service providers.  Now, when you want to contact a plumber, or handy man, you would have to see if they are "in network", and take your insurance.  Depending on the size and complexity of the job, you might need to get pre-approval from your insurance company, which employs it's own plumbers and handymen.

You would no longer pay the plumber directly.  He would bill your insurance.  Depending on his contract with your insurance company, he would bill a certain amount.  To get paid, he would have to make sure that all labor and parts are coded properly.

All this means that you are now price-insensitive to plumbers and, because of all the admin / paperwork, "mom and pop" plumbers will end up closing shop and consolidating—working as employees in a "practice".  All of this will increase costs.

Value of This Thought Experiment

Now, we certainly wouldn't want home insurance to change like this.  But, the value of this thought experiment is that we can see what an odd-ball health insurance has become.  I think the secret to improving health care i the U.S. is to apply Strategic Simplicity®, and separate catastrophic care from the rest.  Then, catastrophic health insurance will be like house insurance—simple and affordable.

In fact, if the deductible was set properly, simple plain-vanilla catastrophic health insurance that covered 100% of citizens is something that the government could offer.  The deductible would have to be set high enough that 80-90% of people would never qualify for claims (keeping costs down), while still provide a low enough ceiling to keep costs for the private health insurance, which would cover the rest, affordable—without government intervention.

© 2020 Praveen Puri

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Tarun's Tacos

My 9 year old son Tarun now has two blogs of his own: and Tarun's Tacos.

Check them out! They are about fun, food, crafts, drawing, life, and cat videos!

© 2020 Praveen Puri

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Iowa Caucus Fiasco, Software Apps, and User Simplicity

The Iowa Caucus delay in reporting results was an embarrassing fiasco for Democrats, Iowa, and the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP).

Most of the delay was caused by the new app they rolled out for reporting results.  It is a reminder of the importance of User Experience and User Simplicity, which is part of the Strategic Simplicity® framework that I consult on, to improve performance.

From what I read, there were 3 issues:

1. The app was rushed and not tested well, so it produced problems transferring results to the Iowa Democratic Party's  (IDP) database.

2. The user experiences was bad.  The app itself was designed well but, to install it, you had to go through a complex procedure.  For people with iPhones, they first had to install another app to then be able to install this one.  For Android, people had to change settings.

3. Because it was hard to install, and people said they didn't receive adequate training, 75% of the people went to the old way of calling the results in, but the IDP didn't staff enough phone lines (since they expected people to use the app).

I think the main, underlying problem is that they used it for the first time here.  They should have first rolled it out during a sleepy, mid-term election

© 2020 Praveen Puri

Monday, February 3, 2020

Two Tips Tips to Deliver a Great User Experience

My firm advises on incorporating user simplicity and ease-of-use into products / services—including mobile apps.

Two Tips:

1. Understand exactly what users want to accomplish—especially the 20% of functionality that they use 80% of the time.  We call this the "golden functionality", and the UX design must be optimized to execute this functionality with a minimum of effort.

2. minimize alerts, displays, and dialogs.  Too much user feedback lessens the effectiveness of the whole application.

© 2020 Praveen Puri

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Palindrome Day 02/02/2020

Today is a triple event day: Super Bowl, Groundhog Day, and Palindrome Day.

It's the first date that is a palindrome in all formats (mm-dd-yyyy, dd-mm-yyyy, yyyy-mm-dd) in 909 years.

The last one was 11/11/1111.  The next one is 12/12/2121.  After that, none until 03/03/3030.

© 2020 Praveen Puri