Whether you run your own company or work for a great one, it’s important to always challenge the status quo and pursue constant improvement. Never let “that’s just how we’ve always done it” be a phrase that’s allowed in your workplace.
At Kogan.com, our internal philosophy is, “There is always a better way.” We know that the way we do things today is just the best we’ve come up with until now, and that a better way is possible. All of our staff are trained to swim upstream and constantly challenge every process we have in our organization. If we don’t, we’ll very quickly become extinct.
Charles Darwin taught us that it is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. Although he was describing biological evolution, it applies to evolution in business as well.
Too many fail to adapt and improve. It happens all around us, and to some of the biggest companies in the world. Here are just three examples of processes that are used by millions of people on a daily basis. But not a single person has put their hand up and taken responsibility to objectively question their logic, or how to improve them.
Hotel room keys
I’m sure you’ve stayed at a hotel where you need to swipe your room key in the elevator in order to be able to get to the floor that you’re staying on. How annoying is it?
Most people get frustrated by this, then accept the inconvenience because of the perceived security it provides you and your belongings. They think they are safer because of the extra level of security.
When you critically analyse this process, it’s actually far more secure to not protect access to the levels using a room key in the elevator.
Say for instance you lose your room key. Somebody can walk into the elevator and very quickly determine which level the room key belongs to (by swiping then pressing all the buttons until one lights up). Once on the right level (which only took a few seconds to figure out) they only have to check 10 or so rooms on that level before they find the room the key would open. If the hotel has 20 levels, your hotel has just made it 20 times easier and quicker for someone to break into your room.
It’s actually safer to not make people swipe their room key in the elevator of a hotel to access their level. Why hasn’t anyone worked this out? What’s worse, why are hotels still printing the name of the hotel on room keys? Has anyone ever forgotten the hotel they’re staying in and needed this (except maybe in Las Vegas)? This is completely unnecessary, and yet again, helps a would-be-thief find out where you’re staying with ease, particularly if you lose your key while out and about.
Online banking logins
Take for instance the online banking login page for Westpac Bank in Australia (one of the big four banks here).
It doesn’t let you type your password, but instead expects you to use your mouse in order to type your password. I’m sure some genius at the bank figured they are providing extra security because if you’re on a computer with a keylogger running, your password can’t be captured.
However, it actually created a cumbersome, far less secure system, and bank staffers have failed to acknowledge their error and fix it over many years (and I’ve told them about it several times). What they have failed to realize is:
- Most key logger apps also record coordinates of clicks. Therefore, it would be very easy to determine what someone has typed using this on-screen keyboard. Other similar solutions would randomise the positions of the virtual keyboard buttons to protect against this, but Westpac (among others) has failed to realize that.
- Anyone watching your screen would very easily be able to see what your password is. It’s much harder to determine what someone types quickly on a keyboard while their hands are obscuring half of the keyboard, than it is to determine what someone is slowly clicking on a screen.
Not only has Westpac managed to provide a far less secure system; it has also managed to waste about 20 seconds a day for millions of customers. On top of this, Westpac employs more than 36,000 people — hasn’t a single one of these people noticed this and had the courage, conviction, and ability to fix this?
Airport puffer machine
If you fly, I’m sure you’ve noticed the Airport Puffer Machines located just after you go through the carry-on bag scanner and metal detector. This is the machine that has someone next to it with a stick that has a swab on it. They will touch your clothes and bag with it, put the swab inside the machine, and then, within about 10 seconds, the machine will announce if any traces of explosives have been found.
In essence, it’s a great piece of technology developed by GE. But the way the technology is implemented is a complete waste of time that has also cost and wasted billions of dollars.
The way the attendants currently work is that they will scan someone, and then, the moment it’s complete, they will pick out the next person and scan them. This means that if you see that they are currently not in the middle of a scan, you can take a little bit longer to put your shoes back on, or fiddle around with your bag for a bit, until they pick out the next person walking through. Then you can just walk through without having to be violated by a stick with a swab on the end of it.
I hope terrorists aren’t reading this post. I know for a fact that it’s possible to take over 100 flights a year and not have to endure this scan a single time.
These processes have good intentions, but they are all flawed. There are relatively simple solutions to the way each of these are implemented. Despite millions of people around the world interacting with them, these processes have not changed.
These are just some of the illogical processes you probably encounter every day. Don’t let this happen in your company. Often it comes down to culture. If you have a company culture that shoots down anyone who speaks up or has a controversial view, I can guarantee your business will develop something as silly as these three examples. It’s just a matter of time. But if you empower people at all levels of your business to swim upstream, you can prevent this occurring.
Does your business have processes that could be improved? Or does the company you work for have illogical systems in place? Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. Don’t let inertia run your business.
Ruslan Kogan is a serial entrepreneur, and founder and CEO of Kogan Technologies as well as one of the founders of Milan Direct, an Australian and UK furniture retailer.