Death by a thousand (or 5) screens

At one of the entrances to Grand Central station, the MTA has erected a new screen with track times for upcoming trains. It’s great – brightly lit, easy to read from far away, it saves people from rushing and crowding around the miniscule 11 inch screen down the hall that must have been set up 30 years ago.

MTA 1_small


Oh, just one tiny problem. The screen also shows service updates for the subway, including for lines that are a 10 minute walk away.  Fine.

And it shows ads for Game of Thrones, presumably to pay the bills.

MTA 2_smallPlus, while they were at it, they threw in two public service announcements.

MTA 3 and 4

It’s easy to chuckle at this sort of thing, but only because it’s an extreme example of what happens every day – watering down the purpose of what we’re doing until it is unrecognizable and virtually useless.

In this case, the need the MTA is trying to meet is to to provide information to a person walking by a sign – she has 5 seconds to take in information.  What they ended up with is a sign that only displays the information she wants 20% of the time, and it takes 60 seconds to scroll through the five screens.

Sure, it might be harder for you to define the need you’re trying to meet (what could be simpler than getting a commuter her track information quickly?).  But how often do we refuse to hang on tight to the most important thing we are doing, letting a thousand well-wishers, plus a few folks with a totally different agenda, hijack our project and our message until it completely fails to deliver on its core promise?

Decide who you’re trying to please, where they will encounter your message, and what your non-negotiables are. And then have the courage and the conviction not to negotiate, and not to ask for input or approvals, on things that are non-negotiable.

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