Cow’s eye view

mooTSAMoo, moo…..

That’s how I felt earlier this week going through security at Newark airport. I was recently re-reading parts of Thinking In Pictures : and Other Reports from My Life with Autism by Temple Grandin for some posts on my autism blog, 29 marbles, in which she talks about her job designing cattle chutes for slaughterhouses (she’s world reknowned for this, despite [because of?] being autistic. Ever on the lookout for connections between apparently unrelated things, my brain presented me with the following thought: “I wonder if Temple Grandin could come up with a better design for airport security queues?”

Maybe not, but this got me thinking about cross-functional lessons learned. Too often, in my experience at least, lessons learned and best practices are explored only from the perspective of a specific functional area. There is a lot to be learned from looking at stories from similar, but completely different, functions.

Using the case of the airport security queue as an example:

  • Many people going through an airport security checkpoint have never done so before (like most [all!] cows at the slaughterhouse)
  • For all practical purposes, the way through the process is to simply follow the person in front of you
  • Occassionally, you will get redirected by a security person to a different line, told to stop, etc with little or no explanation (as if you don’t deserve it or won’t understand it anyway)
  • etc.

The situation of people in a strange (as in unknown) queue system that has no obvious explanation in some ways is not really much different from that of a cow going through cattle chutes. What lessons can we take from Temple Grandin’s success in designing cattle chutes that result in smoother operation and apply to the security line problem?

My real point here is that sometimes you can take insights learned from one thing and apply them to something completely different with great success.

Note: Temple Grandin’s personal choice of a title for Thinking in Pictures was Cow’s Eye View, a reference to how she comes up with her designs. Maybe that’s the simple lesson to be learned here: look at the problem from the point of view of the one going through the process.

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