I wrote the post below back in 2014, but the lesson is timeless so I’m bringing it back.
This incident happened the day after meeting the iconic Don Norman who teaches that it can be poor design rather than human error that contributes to things going wrong. In this story, I can see that it is both. You’ll have to let me know what you think!
This morning, I walked full speed ahead into a glass wall. A glass wall I knew of. A glass wall I even anticipated someone walking into, I just didn’t think it would be me. It wasn’t pretty. Unlike Martha Stewart, I will spare you the photo.
So you know how this story will end, but allow me to back up a bit to explain how I got there. Yesterday I had a full day planned. Full of good things – a walk with my dog, lunch with inspiring entrepreneurs, delivery of a quick but meaningful productivity primer at the Women in Biz Conference, time to read the beginning of “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington while taking the subway (and reveling in NOT being stuck on our sadly in need of repair Gardiner “Expressway”, a complete misnomer for the next two years), an hour to sit in the sun and get creative, dinner and meeting fellow organizers in Toronto, and the highlight for me, listening to Don Norman, esteemed thought leader and author of “The Design of Everyday Things” in discussion at the Rotman School of Business. It’s my desire to have Pliio® become an “everyday thing” so you can imagine how interested I was to hear him speak.
I don’t often have insomnia (thankfully), but last night my mind was on fire after listening to Don’s talk and reading “Thrive” so I ended up awake for over half an hour in the middle of the night. Despite the lack of sleep, I was eager to attend my regular 8 am yoga class with a teacher who I respect for his breadth of knowledge, how he practices what he preaches, his sense of humour, and his redefinition, for me, of the term “hot” yoga. Have a peek at www.mryoga.com where you can meet Daniel and discover a wealth of information on how to practice yoga.
The class was wonderful – working out the kinks (my word for pain in muscles I didn’t know I had) of a conditioning workout I did with Brent Bishop and his crew on Saturday morning over at Think Fitness. We finished as we normally do with a restorative, mind-cleansing Shavasana also known as the far less elegant sounding ‘corpse pose’. Whether I’m getting better at the meditative state or whether, more likely, it was my bout of insomnia last night, I came out of the class feeling a little out of this world.
I had a regular client scheduled across town for 10 am, so knew I had to move quickly this morning to make it there after class. Being a bit time pressured, I decided to change my route on the way out of the gym. I normally wash my hands before leaving, but figured I’d head home quickly and get ready there so I made my way straight to the gates.
The gym where I work out is in a corporate office building with a lovely atrium over the stairs. When the gym was renovated recently, they built glass walls around the atrium to preserve light (which I love). The shortest way to leave the gym is around the atrium and through the cardio area to the entrance gates. I came down this wide hallway, narrowed by the recent placement of exercise balls (storage always seems to be a challenge in the gym, but that’s another story).
I could see the gates right in front of me and walked purposefully towards them. Head up, not texting, not distracted by something at my side, eyes forward. In fact, eyes forward gazing directly at the parking ticket machine into which I needed to put my receipt. The only thing is, I forgot to take the sharp left, through the too narrower passageway that actually gets you there.
Instead, I tried to come through this “wall”.
I hit the glass so hard, it shook and triggered the alarm which immediately called the police. I dropped to the ground, my nose bleeding.
While getting cleaned up and speaking with the police (who were definitely amused), I learned that I am not the only one to have made this mistake. At least five other people had walked into the same wall.
Wait, what? They knew this and nothing was done?
One of the concepts Don talked about was that accidents happen, but often not why you think they do. Often design plays a part in guiding a person to move a certain way.
If you notice the floor, the edges of the hallway are marked on the left side. Today, the hallway no longer goes that way. The dark line is a subtle cue to guide you in that directly. With the renovation, this wasn’t updated. Glass walls block the commercial-sized hallway, and you must rather travel through a residential-sized passageway into the cardio area to get to the gates. So why write about this?
I am suggesting a few things, all of which could have been avoided, combined into a rather unfortunate experience for my nose this morning. And when something goes wrong, it’s always worth learning from. Here they are, not necessarily in order of importance:
1. Lack of time
2. Lack of rest
3. Change of routine
4. Poor design
This brings me right back to Don’s presentation and the concept he shares on page 14 of his book. Don created the term “signifiers” for communicating “where the action should take place”. We count on cues to tell us how to use things – whether to push or pull on a door, for example. Signifiers are important for the clear-minded, well-rested folks among us, but even more important for the sleep-deprived, distracted, crew that abounds.
I can find many other examples where errors have emerged because of time pressures and changes in routine. I have already blogged about two examples. “Losing” my car and the unfortunate occurrence of forgetting a child in the car [both of which I will be reposting soon]. Don’s book is full of design examples, and Arianna’s book starts off talking about accidents due to lack of sleep.
What have you noticed? What have you learned? What can you share with us? On my to-do list for tomorrow – buy flowers as a thank you to the staff who took care of me this morning. I am praying there is no video to go viral.
UPDATE – March 26, 2015
I pursued getting the problem fixed and asked Goodlife to etch the glass so no one would miss seeing it in future. t took almost a year, but I’m happy to say that pursuing this safety improvement paid off.