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To Eliminate Harmful Costs Help the Unskilled Avoid Accidents

Feb 10, 2008
Education is what remains when we have forgotten all that we have been taught. --George Savile, Marquis of Halifax

You can do unexpected damage by employing many offerings in the wrong way. We were reminded of that sad fact when one of our young colleagues offered to lead a tour of his old college so one of our offspring could learn more about the school.

On the way into town, the colleague pointed to a large scar in the bark of a tree about 15 feet off the ground. That scar, he informed us, was where his BMW's bumper hit the tree as the car tried to become an airplane during a high speed trip through the mountains. We slowed down in honor of this shrine to youthful folly and tried to think of reasons for my offspring not to apply to this school.

In various parts of the world, it's permissible to drive long before teenagers have the skill or the good sense to do it well. I am humbled to remember my driving accidents at 16 that did not recur at 17, 18, or 19. Experience must be a good teacher.

But experience has quite a price. Vehicle accidents take hundreds of thousands of lives and leave millions maimed and saddened every year. Inexperienced drivers are involved in more than their fair share of such accidents.

Having taken courses in how to drive and having arranged for my offspring to do the same, I noticed that young people are helped by such education while they are unskilled. Seat belts are fastened. The right foot reaches the brake pedal faster and is more tentative in pressing down the accelerator. The head swivels left and right before entering an intersection. There's more distance between the car and the one in front.

Vehicle manufacturers lose potential business because young drivers aren't very skillful. Families are more likely to keep old Betsy running as a teenager-driven vehicle until their children reach the safe and sane driving stage.

If teenagers drove more safely, new vehicle sales would be a lot higher because teenagers love new wheels more than all but sports car buffs. Having teenagers in the house also inhibits Mom and Dad from indulging in something racy that they would enjoy. Taking a hot car out for a spin would be too tempting to the younger generation.

The same thing happens in other markets. Fearing that accidents will happen, purchases are deferred or reduced to reflect concern about those potential accidents. If teenagers can create mayhem with a vehicle, think what they could do with a racing boat!

By comparison, the commercial aviation field rarely experiences accidents. Airlines feel confident about buying new planes that cost tens of millions and trusting the planes to their crews. What's different?

Before becoming commercial pilots, all but a few aviators have logged many hours in the air in military aircraft. Since many people want to become commercial pilots, only the most talented and reliable are selected from among the experienced.

But that's not enough. Pilots have to qualify to fly an aircraft.

Qualifying usually involves lots of time in a simulator where ingenious controls allow the person conducting the simulation to create instant hurricanes, wind shear at landing, equipment failures of all kinds, and other disasters. Airlines have found that if you practice dealing with situations that could lead to accidents, you are more likely to avoid accidents and to know what to do to minimize the problem should an accident become unavoidable.

Unlike the education a new driver receives, a pilot is expected to keep practicing these important lessons under strict supervision. Flight hours must be maintained. Practice time in simulators needs to be logged on schedule. Regular physicals are required to catch medical problems before they impair flight performance. Show up for work with alcohol on your breath once, and someone will probably turn you in. That slip will get you permanently grounded by your employer.

But education can only go so far. Offerings have to be designed to avoid accidents.

Imagine my surprise when I first backed out of the driveway in our new car . . . and nothing happened when I hit the brakes at the end of the driveway. Fortunately, there were no cars coming as I slewed into the street just before the brakes miraculously began to work.

The next time I backed out it was more tentatively and the brakes also didn't work. After a few telephone calls to the manufacturer, I eventually learned that this car briefly disengaged its brakes a few seconds after you first drive forward or backward before allowing the brakes to function normally again.

To me, that's a design flaw that will cause accidents. To the manufacturer, it was a good engineering design for some reason that's incomprehensible to me.

With time and understanding of the design, I learned to go very slowly until I have permanently effective brakes. Perhaps this quirk is disclosed somewhere, but I have never seen a written warning about it. Even with a dangerous design, educating people about what's going on and what to do can cut down on accidents.

What's it worth to avoid an accident? The savings can be enormous. If a new pharmaceutical turns active people who mix drugs inadvertently into shut-ins who need constant care, the cost can be millions for each affected person. If a vehicle has a flaw that causes it to roll over when drivers take turns too fast, thousands of unsuspecting families may be destroyed by death, paralysis, and recriminations aimed at the surviving purchaser or driver. The economic costs alone will be measured in billions of dollars.

Accidents from using offerings are often one of the biggest emotional and financial costs for beneficiaries, customers, and users. Help these stakeholders avoid accidents that come from a lack of skill in using the offerings, and you'll expand the use of the offerings and slash costs for everyone.

How can you eliminate harmful costs by helping the unskilled avoid accidents?
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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