Why "Duh" ... Isn't

🧑‍🎨 Creator(s)
🗓️ Publish Date
September 7, 2006
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Critics of this blog love to say, "Duh!" or "Thanks for stating the obvious." My response is, "While the idea is dead obvious--the problem is that we don't do the obvious." When I hear comments like, "You wasted all that space to say, "Care about your customers", I wonder why we don't. Or rather, I wonder why we all say we care about them, yet our actions reflect a more selfish view. When it comes to our users/customers...

I don't think they think what we think they think.

It's similar to all those other statistics you hear about, like that way more than 50% of the population rate themselves "Above Average" in everything from looks to smarts. We think our customers generally love us, although of course we're not perfect, but then... who is? Sure we have a few issues, but we're working on it. And besides, we're so much better than the competition.

When we first came out with the Head First books, and talked about brain-friendly learning principles, people said, "Duh. There's nothing new here." And we said, "Of course not. We didn't invent anything. We just applied it. And if implementing these principles were truly "duh" (which they should be), then everyone would be doing some variation of it, and readers/learners would not be struggling to learn tough technical topics.

If helping your users kick ass were truly "duh", then our users wouldn't feel frustrated, confused, angry, stupid, humiliated, or furious. If writing good user manuals were truly "duh", then there'd be no acronym for RTFM.

This is no different from any other part of our lives, of course. Eating healthy is a "duh." Exercising five times a week is a "duh." Saving money is a "duh." Keeping our kids off TV is a "duh." Flossing is definitely "duh." Managing stress is a "duh." Greeting your significant other and kids with a smile and full attention is a "duh." Empowering our employees is a "duh." Changing the oil is a "duh." Being on time is a "duh." And I might as well end this paragraph with a totally lame cliche:There's a big difference between saying, "Eat an apple a day" and actually eating the apple.

If "duh" is so damn obvious, why aren't we DOING it? (I say "we" because I'm just as guilty) More importantly, why do we drastically overestimate the extent to which we are doing "duh" things?

There are too many reasons to list, and many I hope you'll add, but a few highlights include:

Downplaying the importanceDenial (we think we are)InertiaFear of changeToo riskyIf the competition isn't doing it, why should we?Ego (making a change means admitting you weren't doing something right)etc....

But I think the most important one is that we never actually take the time to really think about the "duh" thing. I try to ask people, "Sure, taking care of the customer yada yada yada is "duh", but what would it actually mean if you really REALLY did it? Stop. Think. Deeply. How much of what you do might feel like it's for the customer... or you tell yourself that story, anyway... but it's more about what's good for you? What would it mean if you took the "duh" thing and spent one hour--just ONE hour--brainstorming what that really means?

When people ask for the secret sauce guaranteed recipe for success, we say that it's quite simple: just do the "duh" thing. The Big Secret is not about knowing what magical thing to do--it's about taking the "duh" things seriously enough and actually doing them. If you could pick just one "duh" thing to work on, what would it be?