As my daughter Nora and I were making our way to Scotland to get her set up at school, we noticed something. On the US side of the trip, we were pros. We had all our paperwork in order, we rocked the security line like the seasoned travelers we are, and we definitely patted ourselves on the back for being in the know.
Then we landed. On the UK side of the trip, all the systems were different. They want your boarding pass at different times than I anticipated, sending me digging through the pockets of my bag looking for it. You have to put different things through the security scanner, and their detectors pick up a bracelet I can usually wear through in the States. (This mistake led to an extremely thorough pat-down!) By the time we were cleared to go to our gate, Nora and I were both a little disheveled and definitely humbled.
We didn’t know the system. There were lots of people around us who breezed though, placing the right items in the bins to be scanned then walking unimpeded through the detectors (much as we had done on the first leg of our trip). They knew the system. They knew what to expect and how to be prepared at each step.
A familiar system seems obvious to us because we know it. It makes sense because it does what we expect. But it’s a valuable experience to be on the other side, to feel what it feels like to use a system we don’t know well, or haven’t worked with. In our workplaces, there are often systems that customers use that we don’t really think about. There are other systems that long-term employees may know well but that aren’t intuitive for new hires.
Knowing how your systems work for you is okay. Seeing how they work for people who don’t already know them is crucial information to attract, retain, and nurture the people your business needs, internally and externally.
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