David BanksComment

Understanding the Concept of "Selective Inefficiency" from the Perfect Pumpkin Picking Experience

David BanksComment
Understanding the Concept of "Selective Inefficiency" from the Perfect Pumpkin Picking Experience

Creating the perfect pumpkin picking experience is quite the lesson in selective inefficiency. We’ll get more into what selective inefficiency is exactly in just a moment, but first let’s talk pumpkins.

If you were looking to sell the most pumpkins, seemingly it would make sense to do all the leg work for the would-be pumpkin picker: perform meticulous pumpkin crop reconnaissance; find and pick the best pumpkins from your field; polish them up real nice so they are all bright and sparkly; and finally ship them to the nearest neighborhood grocers where people can conveniently grab them up on they way home from their latest errand.

That would create the most efficient product for both the consumer and the seller. But here’s the thing – we don’t see pumpkins as products, we see them as experiences.

The perfect pumpkin picking experience is the one in which I am the pumpkin picker, literally.

Matter of fact, I want to drive out of my way to a farm in the middle of nowhere; pay money to enter an agrarian oasis; walk in mud up to my ankles; sit on a hay bale being pulled by an antebellum tractor to a “secret” – yet in plain view – spot where the truly unadulterated pumpkins grow; pull the gourdal beast from the ground with my own two hands and then wait for the tractor to come back around to pick us up and take us back to our car even though it would be quicker to walk the 20 yards ourselves.

It’s a horribly inefficient process for everyone involved, but that’s that pumpkin I’m going to buy.

The key to all this is selecting the inefficiencies that your customer finds meaningful. And looking at a pumpkin with a sense of conquest and pride is as meaningful as it gets.

Selective Inefficiency & The Kano Model

This idea of selective inefficiency boils down to this: We as consumers often give value to a product based on characteristics of that product, or the company that makes the product, that do not equate to increased quality of the product. For instance, say I buy a shirt from a store and upon taking my money the cashier folds up the shirt, puts it in tissue paper, places it in a box with “Be the change” embossed on the top and then spritzes everything with rose water. I immediately think, man this shirt is even nicer than I thought it was. I’ll definitely be coming back.

Likewise, when I buy a pumpkin fresh off the vine at a fog covered farm, I think it must be better than the one I could get at the store next to my home, because why else would I be going through all this trouble?

The interesting thing is that these touches of detail don’t do anything to change the quality of the products we are buying.

The interesting thing is that these touches of detail don’t do anything to change the quality of the products we are buying. Actually, they can take away from the quality as more time and money are being spent on these inefficiencies rather than functionality or streamlining. We’ll often be paying more for the same product.

However, we don’t care. We will pay more and we’ll be happier for it.

This brings us to something called the Kano Model. Named after researcher Nosiaki Kano, this model is all about satisfaction – the satisfaction experienced by the consumer. To do this, Kano created a diagram based on the intersection of customer satisfaction and product functionality.

This diagram is then plotted with the four categories below:

  1. Must-Be: These are the standard expectations one has for the product. When the product has these, we’re not delighted, but if it doesn’t, we are frustrated.

  2. Performance: This is the speed, bigness, softness, comfort, tastiness, etc., of the product. The more of this we have, the more satisfied we are.

  3. Indifference: These are features that we couldn’t care less about one way or the other.

  4. Attractiveness: These are the unexpected feature that delights us

Through the lens of a pumpkin picking experience, we can see these categories taking shape as such:

Must-Be: Whether I go to my grocery store or a farm in the middle of nowhere, I at a bare minimum better be leaving with a pumpkin.

Performance: Performance is a little tricky for this one, but let’s say the convenience at which I get my pumpkin is its performance. So good performance would be getting my pumpkin to my nearest grocery store. Bad performance would be doing nothing and making me come to get it from your farm. Great performance would be sending me a push notification on my phone saying, “based on your annual pumpkin consumption we took the liberty of selecting the most appropriate pumpkin for your buying profile and had it shipped to you. It’s currently waiting for you at your door step.”

Indifference: This would be the cabbage patch at the farm I went to. I came to get a pumpkin and actually don’t even really like cabbage so what you do with the plot of land adjacent to my pumpkins is of no interest to me.

Attractiveness: This is where things get interesting. The patch was all about exciting and delighting me. There was a hayride, snacks and beverages, a farmer’s market and a petting zoo. A Petting Zoo! Needless to say, I found those features attractive.

For a much more thorough explanation of the Kano Model, check out Folding Burritos’ article.

Now let’s get back to the idea of selective inefficiencies. After spending a little time with the Kano Model, you see that you can’t do everything. Usually this is because of budget and time constraints, but also simply because sometimes doing more in one category, by its very nature reduces the value of another.

For instance, my pumpkin patch sacrificed its performance by heightening its attractiveness. This made things less efficient, but oh so much more attractive, and therefore satisfying to me, the consumer. And that is all that matters. My experience was great, and I will be going back.

The user-experience of a product extends to the consumer’s experience with that product before and after they become a user.

As you can tell, the Kano Model and selective inefficiencies are concepts very particular to the UX (user experience) specific to product development. However, it is a good concept to understand for marketers and brands alike. The user-experience of a product extends to the consumer’s experience with that product before and after they become a user. This determines how a product fits into the storyline of a consumer and if the product will be considered meaningful enough for them to actually become a user.

This meaningfulness is why someone would drive 20 miles, get dirty and spend more money just for the pleasure of retelling the story every time someone sees that pumpkin on the stoop.

A story is a fact, wrapped in an emotion that compels us to take an action that transforms our world.
— Richard Maxwell & Robert Dickman, The Elements of Persuasion