It’s easy - you just open a beer, pour it in the bowl with the bread mix, stir, dump it into a pan, and bake on 350 for 45 minutes. Pull it out, slice, and ta da! You’ve got yourself a tasty loaf of bread.
This is all it takes to create bread in a variety of flavors if you use Soberdough bread mix. (Truth be told, I usually crack open two beers so I have something to drink while the bread is baking.) When I first met the founder, Veronica, at a community festival in 2013, I knew her product would be a great fit for what we had just launched at Batch. It was a perfect blend of great mechanics and great optics.
Optics vs. Mechanics
I’ve long been fascinated by how things work (and how they are made) and even more fascinated when they look great. For quick examples of what I’m taking about, take a look at everything Best Made sells. Or Cotton and Moss (they’re like Best Made but for your garden). Lots of time and planning went into the creating and functioning of a product (mechanics) and some more time went into how they’d make it look and even talk about it (optics).
If you find a company, product, or service that has great mechanics (how it works) and great optics (how it looks), gobble it up. Go long on their stock, get in as an angel investor, buy all you can and give it away as gifts. You’ve found something special and worth sharing.
Of course, not every company will have flawless performance forever. The test of their resilience comes when they need to fix a problem and how they do just that. My greatest mistakes (in life and work) have happened when I tried to fix a mechanical problem with an optical solution.
Here’s what I mean: Boeing created what they thought was an amazing plane, with the “greatest flexibility, reliability, and efficiency” on the market. Truth be told, the plane “stretched the 737 design, creating a patchwork plane that left pilots without some safety features that could be important in a crisis (source: NYTimes).” Sounds like a pretty big mechanical problem.
Rather than fix the mechanical problem with actual mechanics, they instead went for optics. Take a look at the webpage for the 737 MAX on Boeing’s own website. The opening line says nothing about what they’re currently doing to fix fatal flaws in mechanics so their planes can be back in the air. Rather, they say how it’s the fastest selling plane in history. Nice optics, but planes can’t fly for long without nice mechanics.
And since we in the US are in perpetual state of election cycles, candidate after candidate will try to win the optical game since that seems to be what plays so well in the vicious world of social media and contact-sport like news. Beware the politician who, when asked a mechanical question (about policy or plans) gives an optical answer (how they appear stately or know the right people).
To fix the problem, define the problem
The first step when things aren’t going as well as you like is to determine if you’re facing a mechanical problem or an optical one. Jumping to an optical conclusion is what most of us tend to do because it seems like a quicker or easier fix. Just get out there, come up with some clever tweets or pretty Instagram pictures and then everyone will overlook the blemishes and hiccups.
If a relationship is broken, the way to fix it isn’t with shiny gifts or effusive Instagram pictures (optics). It’s usually through apologies and the rebuilding of trust and boundaries (mechanics). If you want to improve your health, diet alone won’t do it so you appear smaller (optics). You’ve got to get sweating so your resting heart rate lowers along with your blood pressure (mechanics).
Best laid plans
But the best plan is to get your mechanics right from the get go and then just talk about those. If you bake heart, passion, and soul into your products or relationships then you’ll not just have a great “why” at your core, but you’ll have something worth talking about that people will want to listen to. It’s not just the 1’s and 0’s in your app; it’s the purpose that can’t be measured with an algorithm. Heart isn’t just fluffy optics. (How could it be? You can’t even see it.) Heart and soul are all mechanics, baby - mechanics that are fun and meaningful to show others.
But if you don’t define these from the start - embed them in the foundation of your work and relationships - they’ll be nearly impossible to add later. They’re not pretty wallpaper (optics) that covers the cracks in the sheetrock when you’ve actually got a crumbling foundation. Foundations can only be rebuilt by tearing the whole thing down. Better to build on the solid rock of purpose (mechanics) than the shifting sand of popularity (optics).
Work hard on your mechanics. This includes defining the core reason why you do what you do. Then, and only then, work hard on the optics. Your work deserves it.
Do you know of a company or brand that gets both the optics and mechanics right? I’d love to know about them. Drop a comment on this post or shoot me an email. Let’s chat.