The Sure Path to Failure: Ignore the Basics

Article by Jason Hreha | Featured on

Stop. Whatever you’re doing right now; please, just stop.

I need you to take two deep breaths. I need you to take four steps back. Look at the scene in front of you. Look at the problem you’re trying to tackle. Perhaps you’ve just joined a new company and you’re trying to figure out what to do. Or maybe you just started a new relationship, and are overwhelmed by all of the potential paths forward. Maybe you’re analyzing a marketing campaign, or doing a review of a product you’re working on.

Whatever situation you’re in, I need you to pump the brakes for a second. I need to ask you a simple question: Have you perfected the basics?

Focus On The Basics

Yes–the basics. If you’re working on building an app, the basics are speed, reliability, and usability. If you’re creating a new store, the basics are hiring, selection, layout, and checkout. If you’re working on your health, the basics are diet, sleep, and exercise. Every single pursuit has a core set of basic building blocks that, when in place, get you 95% of the way towards perfection. Everything else is a minor optimization.

How many times have you heard a friend, or family member, talk about how they need to focus on their health? This person probably told you about how they needed to join a gym or order P90x (or some other exercise program). Maybe they told you about some fancy new diet they were thinking of trying (“No meat after 8:00PM!”), or the new supplements they had just purchased. That’s all fine. But if they just focus on the basics, getting eight hours of sleep a night (sleep), eating a variety of whole, non-processed foods (diet), and walking for more than 10,000 steps a day (exercise), they’ll get 95% of the way towards their end goal.

Similarly, most products consist of just a couple of important features that need to be done really, really well. However, product teams love adding new feature upon feature–even before the most important, basic elements of the app have really been perfected. They will even break the basic elements if it means they can create a really cool new feature or two.

Uber’s Recent Mistake

The newly re-designed version of Uber’s application serves as a great case study for what happens when you don’t focus on the basics. In order to introduce a sleek new map UI, and a new feed-UI, the company made it dramatically harder to request a car to the right location. The new version of the application requires users to first enter their desired location (instead of their current location, which was the previous default), and then makes a best guess of where you currently are. While this auto-chosen location is usually correct, it’s off about 20% of the time (in my experience), leading to frustration on the part of the drivers–and causing me to sprint more than I have since I was a part of track & field in high school.

Not only is this app confusing to riders, but it seems to be making the lives of drivers dramatically harder. In almost every single ride I’ve been in over the last two weeks, I’ve heard drivers complain of the app “being buggy” and “acting strangely”. Obviously the new version of the application introduced some new glitches (as is the case with most new releases). However, the entire point of Uber is to get passengers from point A to point B. The core of that process is making it quick and easy for passengers to request a car to the right location–and to enter a destination (if they have it on hand). With the new release, Uber gained a sleek new UI, but it diminished the app’s core basics. That’s a bad deal.

No matter what you’re working on, whether in business or in life, make sure to always keep your eye on the basics. The basics, well done, get you 95% of the way there. While new features and diversions can be fun, it’s the basics that really get the wheel of success rolling. So whatever you’re doing, stop. Take a breath and ask yourself: “Have I perfected the basics?”.

Isler Northwest LLC is a firm of certified public accountants and business advisors based in Portland, Oregon. Our local, regional, and global resources, our expertise, and our emphasis on innovative solutions and continuity create value for our clients. Our service goals at Isler NW is to earn our clients’ trust as their primary business and financial advisors.

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