(post by Andrew Thorp)
When engineers at Nissan created an innovative device for the tailgate camera on the Nissan Note, you’d have thought they would have been thrilled and keen to share news of their idea. Quite the reverse (pardon the pun!). The original rear view camera, designed to aid reverse parking, didn’t quite work because it frequently got dirty and therefore produced a poor image on the driver’s display.
So engineers came up with a clever device which squirted water on the lens when dirt was detected. Unfortunately, this left water smears dripping down the glass which again compromised the picture. Undaunted, boffins then introduced a mechanism which blew compressed air over the camera lens, a kind of intelligent wash and blow dry system. Problem solved!
But therein lay the issue – engineers are a proud bunch and they felt that their original failure with the camera was something of an embarrassment. But when the marketing & pr folk heard about it they saw a different angle – an example of engineering genius and a determination to find the solution, all enviable traits. And that’s the way it played out in the media when the vehicle was promoted.
I think there are numerous lessons here, but the one I’d highlight is something that’s come out of the story-sharing sessions we’ve been running for the likes of KPMG and the World Health Organization. That is, when the storyteller shares an experience, they don’t always see things the way the audience does. In the Nissan case, the engineers couldn’t get over the fact that they hadn’t got it right the first time, whereas other people’s perspective was quite different. When people share an experience they often underplay what they’ve done, or simply don’t see the value of their contribution. Sometimes it takes others to recognise that and this is part of the magic of these facilitated sessions.
Marketing guru Seth Godin explains that we’re all producing art (in the sense of creative and innovative solutions to someone’s need) – it’s just that the artist herself doesn’t always recognise it.