A Better System | by Harold Hambrose

Reflections on how we can unlock the full potential of our essential business technologies.

Steve Jobs Knew What We Wanted

Steve Jobs famously said, “It’s not the consumers’ job to tell you what they want.”  His remark startled some people, but it neatly summarized his approach to innovation. Of course it’s important to listen to consumers, because they can very clearly tell you whether or not they’re satisfied with what you have to offer, asRead More »

Social Networking for Innovation

In my first real job, before I started my own business, I worked for a big technology company, and like every other employee on the face of the earth I was often frustrated by management’s limited insight into the nuts and bolts of our daily routines. Often I’d find myself thinking, It would be soRead More »

Be Careful What You Want

To anyone with a milligram of ambition, “be careful what you want” might seem like bad advice, but when it comes to business systems it’s a warning that’s worth heeding. Most people can easily describe everything they want from their business systems. The hard part is figuring out what’s needed. Many Fortune 500 companies haveRead More »

A Revolution in Labor

A few generations ago, American workers in the textile industry were lashed to the loom—so closely tied to steam-powered machinery that even if they weren’t physically tethered, they were forbidden to leave their stations until other workers could relieve them. The looms ran continuously, and workers struggled to mimic the rigid, repetitive rhythms of theRead More »

Breaking an Expensive Habit

Even when the benefits are clear, it can be hard to break a habit. Mark Twain famously said, “It’s easy to quit smoking—I’ve done it dozens of times.” Personal habits are one thing, but how can you persuade people to abandon an inefficient business procedure when they’d much rather keep doing things the same oldRead More »

Talk to Me

Yesterday evening I found myself in an animated conversation with dozens of inanimate objects. The setting was the Special Exhibitions Gallery on the third floor of the Museum of Modern Art, and the occasion was a preview party for MoMA’s new exhibition, “Talk to Me: Design and the Communication between People and Objects.” It’s notRead More »

Designing a New Ball Game

Sometimes the solution to a business problem is in plain sight—but you may not be able to see it from behind your desk. Last spring a company that supplies food services to millions of people around the world mentioned to our team that they were interested in taking a closer look at one of theirRead More »

An Epic Morning in the Exam Room

It’s 7:20 a.m., and patients haven’t yet started to arrive at this busy physician’s office in the middle of a university hospital campus. I’ve been invited here to meet with a doctor who has some very strong opinions about the EPIC medical records system his employer has installed at a cost of $100 million inRead More »

The Wisdom of the Widget Maker

Sometimes, in their rush to deliver data, companies that create electronic products lose track of important information about their customers that was routinely gathered by their industrial ancestors. The widget manufacturers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had a pretty good idea of how well their products fit an existing need and how well theyRead More »

Hire a Professional!

When a software system just isn’t delivering on its promise, one of the usual suspects is an awkward design that makes the system difficult to use. But if you’ve diagnosed the probable cause, what’s the remedy? Fine-tuning the design of business software is commonly treated as a troubleshooting issue that’s addressed after a system isRead More »