Two Sides to Every Waffle

Why each Process works differently for everyone involved, and the beauty of seeing things from other People’s perspectives.

WaffleThis weekend, while grocery shopping at a store I don’t frequent all that often, I made an impulse purchase and tossed a box of frozen waffles into my cart. I love frozen waffles. They toast up fast, don’t mess up pans, and are a great excuse to start the day with a nice melted pad of butter and sweet sugary syrup. Of course once I had them in my cart, I realized that I would also need to pick up some syrup, so I headed back to the other side of the store.

This is where my happy little evening jaunt to pick up sundries started to fall apart for me.

As I said, I don’t shop this particular store often. Something about it just doesn’t appeal to me, despite the fact that it’s literally around the corner from my home. As such, I’ve never purchased syrup there before, and didn’t know in which aisle I’d find it. I headed back to the coffee aisle, because I knew where that was, and it made sense to me to put the syrup with the coffee, since you consume them both about the same time of the day.

No dice.

The next aisle was cereal and peanut butter and jam. That made sense to me –they are all either breakfast food or toppings you’d put onto some sort of bready thing. Syrup is both. So I headed over.

Nada.

I switched up my method and started to systematically go up and down every aisle, whether or not I thought syrup would be in it. I was starting to get frustrated. It made perfect sense to me that syrup would be displayed next to the peanut butter and jam and cereal. It’s morning food. Why wasn’t it be there?

It had to be SOMEWHERE. What store doesn’t sell syrup – at ALL?

I was hungry. I wanted to go home and eat dinner. This syrup diversion was costing me precious time. I was starting to feel stupid. Why wouldn’t I be able to find such a common item? I blamed the store.

“Stupid store. Why wouldn’t you put the syrup where it makes sense to put it?”

And that’s when I caught myself. I realized that it made sense to ME to put syrup near the rest of the breakfast toppings. It made damn good sense. I could even make a compelling argument for why that is the BEST aisle in the store in which to display this particular item.

But it occurred to me that wherever it actually was ALSO made sense. Maybe even more so for more people than just me. After all, I told myself, it’s not about right or wrong. Unless, of course, the syrup was lodged between the paper towels and toilet paper – I don’t think anyone could argue that to be correct.

No, it’s not about what’s right and what’s wrong, that’s too black and white.

It’s about what’s right and what’s MORE right, and in this case, “more” is subjective. Stores have to cater to the majority of the population, those people who know that they can expect to find syrup in the baking goods aisle. With the sugar. And the flour, and the bake pans.

(That’s where I found the syrup. I have no idea why that makes even the slightest bit of sense. All I can think of is that it’s sweet, like sugar. But if that’s the case then someone needs to explain to me why the candy aisle was 75 feet away.)

The lesson of this story is that not everything is right to everyone. And that this doesn’t make a thing wrong. It makes it a different shade of right. Not a better shade, just a different shade.

And perhaps most importantly, in a world in which we sometimes find our version of “right” to be in the minority and have to tread up and down the aisles of life until we find what we’re looking for, it’s easy to let frustration rule the day and just write everyone else off as wrong. But then we’re not learning from others. We’re living in either black or white, and we’re missing all of the other beautiful colors in the rainbow.

I’ll leave you to take what I’ve learned and shared and tie it back to the realm of business, to project readiness, and to Process vs. People. If you need me, I’ll be working on a nice stack of no-longer-frozen waffles and melted butter and hard-won syrup.


Did Scott’s story spark some personal insight for you?  Don’t lose track of it, just head over to www.MeetMaple.com.

Originally published on August 25, 2011

Written by Scott

Scott Waletzko built Maple with his bare hands, and is the managing partner responsible for all things technical at R. Alliance.

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