In the spirit of perfection

There is this lovely story about an Indian saint who boarded a train without a ticket. When the conductor passed by the saint obviously couldn’t produce ticket, so he was asked to leave the train. The saint then calmly sat under a tree and meditated. In the meantime the train wanted to continue its journey, but for some “unknown” reason it wouldn’t/couldn’t move. Realizing the problem they called back the saint onto the train and – surprise, surprise – the engine immediately started and the train began to move. – The morale of the story? – We’ll come to that later on.

Swiss Railway

The other day I had to use Swiss Railway System. And yes, it is certainly one of the most reliable, perfect systems you may find anywhere. And this probably is the issue at hand. People tend to expect that the Swiss Public Train System is perfection itself. Of course that notion is fed by the Marketing Department of the Swiss Railway System themselves. Trains are close to 100% on time with connecting trains matching the train schedule, etc. Never mind that this comes with a price. That in itself is okay.

The challenge

However, the perfection-aspiration-expectation comes with a far bigger challenge. And that is finding the right train going from A to B in a certain way and corresponding to the respective price. In other words: you cannot simply print out a ticket from A to B where different routes exist to get from A to B. Now that involves the passenger having a good knowledge of Swiss Geography – which I never had. Ehem. This is (of course) precisely one of the reasons to take the train, so that you don’t have to think about how to get from A to B.

But these days, thanks to IT and its possibilities to break down the railway-world into pricing every centimetre of train-ride, it makes a difference whether you take a train from A to B via the city of X, Y or Z. Never mind you just want to get to B in the shortest period of time and you do not really care which route the train is going to take. Haha.

An IT and Business guy’s world view of perfection versus a passenger’s view of perfection

In an IT-guy’s world this is perfection. In a passenger’s world this is a nightmare. In a Business-minded person’s world this means flexibility and transparency and of course more profit. In a passenger’s world this means time-consuming research, aggravation and more and more inflexibility. Why? – Whilst formerly you just bought a ticket from A to B and could hop on any train that went to B (without bothering about the train’s precise route) you now are stuck with a specific train taking a specific route. This means your timing flexibility has just been reduced from formerly at least 2 trains in an hour to one train. And I do not even want to begin talking about what happens when – in good faith – you board the wrong train or the data fed into ticket machine obviously is not aligned with the data of the electronic time schedule. Again, wrong train does not mean it doesn’t go to the wanted destination. Wrong train simply means wrong route, different price and wrong ticket! Aaagh!

The thinking error

Whilst this way of thinking is perfectly logical to the IT’s mind and to the business-oriented mind, it has nothing to do with higher intelligence but a lot with creating extra cost, wasting a lot of energy and frustrating many passengers.

When will the Business world realize that breaking down the world into its smallest components does NOT make the world a more perfect, more transparent or more profitable place? This may very possibly be the biggest error that underlies today’s business and IT-thinking world. It simply gives the ILLUSION of making things more perfect, more transparent, more profitable whilst the opposite is happening. There may be an approximation to perfection, but that more likely is to be found in precisely NOT breaking down the world into its smallest components. Now fancy this idiosyncrasy.

Back to perfection

To come back to the saint at the beginning of this blog: He was in a state of true (inner) perfection that went so far, that the external world had no choice than to be compliant to that which is. In a perfect state everything flows without hitting any obstacles or going into resistance. As in this case, the obstacles even became compliant so that that which is to be IS. In fact, in such a state, everybody profits and nobody comes to harm. In a relative perfective world, there are shades of profit and loss for all involved.

So, instead of trying to squeeze the last cent out of a passenger by charging for every rail-centimetre, it quite possibly could make a lot more sense to allow for more true flexibility, reducing obstacles instead of artificially creating them and therefore allowing life to flow more in accordance with its nature. OM.