Finding Value in Unlikely Places

Have you ever had one of those moments where something just struck you as blindingly amazing, yet when you thought about it, you realized how little effort it actually took for the incredible value you received? Let me tell you about my experience like that, which happened just yesterday.

Given up hopeCreative Commons License aussiegall via Compfight

I just bought a new car. I know, Dave wouldn't approve. But I had some reasons, and they weren't all emotional.

It's a Nissan Altima. And I like it a lot. I've been driving a 1997 Infiniti I30 that almost saw 190K miles, for which I paid $5K back in 2007. My kids nicknamed that car "Dave", partly because of my "Debt's Normal, Be Weird" sticker in the window. But Dave's brakes seized up on me over the weekend, and during the evaluation for repair, we also discovered a leaking fuel line and a leaking intake manifold, which would have brought my repairs for the year to over $5K for a car worth $700.

There just wasn't any value in it any more.

So there I am checking out this car when my salesperson, asks if I had heard about the tire system on it.

"Sure. It warns me when the pressure's low."

"Well, yeah, it does that, but it does a little more too."

"Oh?" I look up at her.

Sharon holds up a tire pressure gauge. "How many of these have you lost in your lifetime?"

I laugh. "Plenty. More than I care to think about."

"Right. And when your tires go low, you probably didn't have one and had to buy one before you could fill your tires, right?"

"About half the time, yes." I'm not proud.

"Forget that. Drive this car to the air pump and just start filling the low tire. The hazards will flash to let you know that the car knows the tire's getting air. When it's topped up, the lights will flash and the horn will sound once. If you overfill, the horn will beep three times and if you let out enough air, it'll beep once again to let you know you're at the right spot."

Seriously. Someone figured out how to make a Tire Pressure Warning System (TPWS) useful in a real-world, hands-on kind of way. And at what cost? Being a software developer, I'm going to guess this took maybe a couple hundred lines of embedded code. Maybe a bit more, but not much.

A week of some programmer's time, and he probably did it as a thought experiment before demonstrating it to his manager, who saw the potential and passed it along until someone said, "Let's put this in the '13 Altima!"

A very simple thing, minimal cost, huge value to the customer. Big, big win.

Oh, and guess what almost every review of the car posts video of? Yep. Filling the tires until the horn beeps.

What went right at Nissan? Could a simple innovation like this have created value in your organization? Tell us about it below!