Why “packaging” is important when implementing change

Maxim #42
Packaging is important

maxim_42This maxim is dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs, who sadly passed away on October 5, 2011. He changed the way we think about many things, packaging being one of them. 

Few companies do as good a job in packaging their products as Apple does. They create a user-experience that is almost like opening a gift. People actually keep the packaging because it seems wrong to throw out such an elegant and beautiful box. Contrast that to the horrific experience of trying to cut through the thick plastic on many other electronic items, or to the ugly Styrofoam or corrugated packaging material many companies use to brace their products within a flimsy exterior box. Apple has clearly elevated people’s expectations as you now see more and more attention being given to this area by their suppliers and competitors.

This maxim is designed to remind us of the importance of “packaging” and to extend the traditional definition to how it impacts the individual. Packaging is how you dress, how you conduct yourself, what you say and what you don’t say, and how you present your thoughts or ideas. Some people are gifted with a natural aesthetic. They have a natural ability to see beauty in design, whether in art, architecture, or something as seemingly basic as product packaging. They have a sense for visual proportions. But many people don’t. Other people may appreciate art or design but can’t create it themselves.

In business, often what managers (or consultants) are packaging are ideas that others need to buy into. While substance is important, so is how the idea is packaged. The care and attention to detail that goes into presenting a concept is very important. If there are errors or visual clumsiness in a presentation, the credibility of the message can be greatly diminished. Some of the packaging errors to avoid in communication include:

  • Unclear “point” of the communication
  • Font size too small (often caused by software such as Excel re-sizing to fit a page)
  • Confusing charts (unclear message, overly-complex 3D graphics)
  • Inconsistent style (layout, fonts, backgrounds)
  • Spelling errors

Attention to packaging can be helpful in implementing changes in an organization. More importantly, lack of attention to packaging is always damaging.

Insightful thoughts of Steve Jobs…

“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”

“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked.”