Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

22 December 2008

Shopping and thinking and the holidays

Clark @ 10:11 PM

The season is well and truly kicking in.  The kids are out of school this week, and while I’ve got a little bit of work on an interesting client project, we’re also taking time to address the holiday perogatives, and to respond to the affordances of the new kitchen.  That latter is an interesting situation.

We’ve had a very good set of cookware, but it isn’t dishwasher safe. That was OK, as for 13 of the past 22 years, I haven’t had a dishwasher (well, except for yours truly).  Now we do, and I’m beginning to resonate with my Mom’s recent perspective: if it doesn’t go in the dishwasher, it goes!  So, having a new, and effective dishwasher, it’s time to consider whether we need new cookware.

What’s instructive is how we (and, in particular, m’lady) are going about it. Naturally, we checked out the Consumer Reports recommendations (hey, you’re not going to get better offerings if you don’t optimize your information and select accordingly).  It’s one source of digital data I pay for (as I paid for the print, before).  After looking at what’s on sale, asking questions in the store, doing research, we came up with a question over whether the heat transfer needs to go up the sides (3 ply cookware) versus just an even spread across the bottom (bottom inserts: whether aluminum or copper).  M’lady didn’t just take the received information, she went and boiled water for pasta in an existing stainless steel with aluminum insert pan we had, along with an anodized aluminum pan from our existing set.

There are stakes here, as one answer is essentially 300% more costly than the other.  And it’s not just about money, it’s about value for money.  There’s an old saying that you get what you pay for, but it’s also true that you can pay too much for a name.

The larger point I want to make is that there are easy ways to make decisions (what the sales person tells you, what’s cheapest), and more difficult paths (inform yourself about the alternatives). How deep you should dig depends on what matters to you, and how much it costs relative to your resources.  However, unless you do spend some time balancing investment for value, you’ll continue to get product that is the triumph of marketing over matter.

The lesson I’ve learned is pay attention to what you care for.  I don’t care whether it’s Coke ™, Pepsi ™, or generic diet cola.  Give me the cheapest non-calorific caffeine that combines with rum for my evening cuba libre.  On the other hand, I’m mighty particular about my kosher pickles: if it isn’t fully brined & garlic (e.g. Strubs, Bubbies), you’re wasting my time (your mileage is likely to vary :).

The broader point is the matching learning investment with cost and benefit. It’s a prioritization issue that scales from personal spending up to organizational investment. I reckon the principles scale as does the need.  It’s  about being smart about how to gather information, and consequently it’s about learning to learn.  And you should know how I feel about that!

And, as the holidays  are intruding into my mindspace, I reckon I’ll have fewer posts until I get back into a working mindset sometime in the new year.  Until then, in case I don’t have another chance (as I tell my kids when I travel): Be Good, Stay Safe, & Have Fun!  Have great holidays, and here’s hoping the new year is our best yet.


  1. Years ago someone came into a store where I was working, and got a big of sticker shock about our product. Then he thought for a minute and said “I guess these are alot like computers. I tell my clients ‘you can have it good, fast, or cheap…pick two.'”
    I find that pretty much applies to everything. As a Realtor, I used to tell people “You can have the house you want, the neighborhood you want, or the price you want…pick two.”
    The principle can be applied to pretty much everything.
    I find this a useful litmus test in determining your priorities on the fly.

    Comment by Jason Allen — 23 December 2008 @ 5:34 AM

  2. It _is_ all about what you care for, but – and I’m mostly thinking about your shopping metaphor, though it would surely apply to learning as well – its important to note when your priorities about what you care for change! Similar to Jason’s “pick 2” is the old standby “you either have time, or money, but never both”. Having just made the transition from well-paid contractor to seeking a new contract in the week before Christmas, the teeter-totter has flipped from money to time, and I find myself shopping differently. Not that we’re going hungry or anything, but I’ve got the time now to find the best price for the things I’m looking for, and the priority may have shifted a bit from “damn the cost, it should last forever” towards “lets get a decent one that wont break the bank…”

    This blog has obviously been running for a few years now, but I’ve only just found it through LinkedIn (bwahahaha! You’re in the RSS feed now!) But its a good excuse to wish you and the family a happy new year!

    Comment by Rob Moser — 31 December 2008 @ 12:57 PM

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress