Monday, December 1, 2008

Reading between the lines: A Bird's Tale

My son is four years old, and he attends a French language school. We live an a bilingual house, French is often spoken at home. Did I mention I am an anglophone with only a two year old's grasp of French?

Funny but true story, my wife was out and it was just the boys and I at home. The kids are bathed, I have read my son his bedtime story (in French!), and I am about to turn of his light when he says

"I want some 'oiseau'"

I think hmmm, that's an interesting duality of French and English but I understand. He wants a bird. I look around, and I grab his purple bird "toutou" and give it to him. Yes, it's as ugly as you are imagining. My son raises his voice and says

"I want some 'oiseau'"

Son I say, it's right here. Here is your "oiseau". "Oiseau" is bird right? My son starts crying. I look around, sifting through all the "toutous" looking for another "oiseau toutou", I can't find one. My son is getting frantic, he is kicking his feet and starting to go into 4 year old tantrum overdrive.

"I want some 'oiseau'"
"I want some 'oiseau'"
"I want some 'oiseau'"

Son I say, it's right here. Here you go, I pick up the ugly purple 'toutou' and and start flying it around making bird sounds. My son cries louder and now goes into 4 year old tantrum overdrive. I head downstairs and call my wife's cell phone number, maybe she knows what he means. I call, the phone rings on the dining room table.


I head back upstairs, son I say it's right here handing him the ugly purple 'toutou' , my son says

"I want some 'oiseau'"
"I want some 'oiseau'"

Ah-ha, I get a bright idea, son I say, let's go looking for it. Is the 'oiseau' brown? Is the 'oiseau' downstairs? Is the 'oiseau' in the toy box? My son stands on top of the stairs looking confused and crying. Not knowing what to do, and the time ticking by, I give up, I tuck him in bed and let him cry himself to sleep feeling every bit a horrible father.

My wife get's home a few hours later, and I ask, what does he mean when he says "I want some 'oiseau'". My wife replies, oh, it's a song we sing.


What is the moral of this long and only slightly humourous story?

Communication is key, and understanding what the customer is saying doesn't mean you understand what the customer wants. Understanding what the customer really wants is what separates the experts from the chaff. Knowing what the customer really means allows us to be world-class in our choices of technology, and innovative in our design and approach. Understanding is key.

In case you were wondering what song my son wanted me to sing, it was "Si Dieu existe" by Claude Dubois. A famous Quebecois folk singer. "oiseau" is in the chorus.

(Chorus starts around 1:34)

1 comment:

Yuriy said...

Great post and great analogy.