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Why every business should study waiting lines

Hey everyone,

Hope you're having a great week. Here are a few things I've been reading and pondering lately. Enjoy!

1. The Psychology of Waiting Lines (PDF)

This paper from Harvard Business School professor David Maister is the best thing I read all week. Waiting lines, it turns out, are a great opportunity for businesses if they understand the psychology. Your business might not have traditional waiting lines, but there's plenty to be learned here.

A few interesting things about waiting lines:

  • A good waiting experience makes customers easier to please. It's very hard for waiters to play catch-up.
  • Unoccupied time feels slow. This is why restaurants try to send you to the bar or hand you a menu to look over while you wait.
  • Pagers—you know those plastic things that buzz when your table is ready—are actually tethers. Once in a customer's hand, it makes it harder for them to go to the restaurant next door.
  • Unexplained waiting is incredibly frustrating. Explained waiting is no big deal.
  • Erma Bombeck's Law says that "the other line always moves faster." Waiting lines should always be equitable.

2. Podcast: Diana Nyad Goes the Distance

Remember Diana Nyad?

She's the woman who swam from Cuba to Florida—that's 111 miles! Diana is a fascinating person. I highly recommended checking out this podcast.

3. The Flywheel Effect

This excerpt from Jim Collins' book Good to Great is short, sweet and powerful.

You keep pushing, and the flywheel begins to move a bit faster, and with continued great effort, you move it around a second rotation. You keep pushing in a consistent direction. Three turns ... four ... five ... six ... the flywheel builds up speed ... seven ... eight ... you keep pushing ... nine ... ten ... it builds momentum ... eleven ... twelve ... moving faster with each turn … twenty … thirty … fifty … a hundred.

Then, at some point—breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn ... whoosh! ... its own heavy weight working for you. You're pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster. Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort. A thousand times faster, then ten thousand, then a hundred thousand. The huge heavy disk flies forward, with almost unstoppable momentum.

4. Donkey Goggles

I recently bought these running sunglasses for $25. They're cheap, polarized and they don't slip when you're sweating.

Have a great week!

Jimmy