Upstream and downstream

Most of the time, we think of our job as a set of tasks that take place in a —> [box] <—.

It turns out, though, that if we go upstream and alter the stuff that comes to us, it's a lot easier to do great work. And if we go downstream and teach people how to work with what we created, the final product is better as well. Now, it's more of a –> [   box   ] <–.

A doctor can consider her work in the box of the examining room. But if she figures out how to get people to quit smoking before they come in, her results are better. If she figures out how to get people to take their meds after they leave, same thing.

A designer who receives a better project brief will deliver better work. A manufacturer who figures out how to teach users to use the object properly will get better word of mouth…

Marketers, of course, can have the biggest box of all. So the stuff we think of as 'marketing' can be altered long before the person ever sees an ad, and have an impact long after they've got the product.

The challenge lies in spending a lot of time and money on the upstream and downstream parts of the work, instead of always assuming that your [box] is just what happens inside your cubicle, or as a direct result of your actions.