Yesterday, I was reading the Opinion Today mail from the New York Times. Given that it’s election week and an awful lot is happening, the piece was essentially about needing to make it easy to vote. I could go on about making things easier, simpler, because it’s so natural to over-engineer stuff and make things complicated. Maybe some other time. Near the end of the article, something the writer mentioned struck a chord:
‘It’s nice that people are nice, but it would be a lot better to solve the underlying problem.’
Oh my gosh. That brought flashbacks for me to my corporate days at REI where everyone had even coined a term for it: ‘REI nice.’ Nice, usually. Truly helpful, rarely.
In the case of the NYT mail, the author was referring to the stories of people delivering pizzas to voters stuck in stupid-long lines, and the GoFundMe causes set up for regular folks who can’t afford their medical care. Then he wrote that bit about being nice vs. actually solving the real problem.
The catch, and why it was so widespread that at a place like REI it garnered its own term, is twofold. As humans, we want to be nice because it feels good and then people like us. Yeah, that’s important. Solving the problem, on the other hand, takes hard work, tough conversations, and (the crux) someone being willing to stick their neck out on the line and risk, well, not being liked. Also important, just not nearly as easy.
But essential. Just like making it easy for everyone to vote. Like, as easy as it is to order a pizza.