The Time Warp Conundrum

The Time Warp Conundrum

Seth Godin wrote a post recently about strawberries. He writes, "Every grocer has to decide: when packing a quart of strawberries, should your people put the best ones on top?"

He says that if you put the good ones on top, you’ll sell more but disappoint people when they find the moldy ones on the bottom.

And if you flip it, the few people who do buy are ecstatic about the amazing strawberries on the bottom.

"Or, you could rationalize that everyone expects a little hype, and they'll get over it."

A thoughtful grocer flipped the problem from a conundrum to a success story: he just put a pile of strawberries out and let people pick their own. He was able to increase his margins and everyone was happy with their batch because they picked the berries themselves.

There’s another conundrum that we all encounter on a daily basis living in Zimbabwe. And that’s the conundrum of the time warp. This time warp is like a succubus of time. Nothing makes sense and the systems that invariably should work, don’t because of cause and effect.

And then time is just spinning away from you like gravity into the abyss of a black hole (see the picture at the top for a visual).

Let me explain.

I broke my phone recently and took it to get repaired. The next day, I returned to get my phone and they handed it back to me fixed. Or so I thought.

After a quick examination, my phone was in the same condition it was in previously.

"Oh we fixed all the other issues," they reply.

Back in the shop for another day to get fixed. Except that extra day now turns into three.

No problem, I get a loaner phone from a friend and go to restore it from the backup on my computer. Except, the internet connectivity is so slow that I can’t restore from backup without downloading over 2 GB of software updates.

Impossible with this network speed.

So I now have no numbers on my phone. I have no actual phone.

I’m in full reaction mode. Only taking the calls I can receive and feeling naked without my contacts and my to-do lists.

  • The one issue of a repairman fixing every issue but the main issue is the conundrum.
  • The cause and effect is now that I can’t get back to people all over the world waiting on me for deadlines and decisions because of that simple fact.

Herein lies another conundrum.

I had planned a surprise birthday party for a friend at a local thai restaurant. Let me remind you, I still have no phone numbers on my phone! And to continue the time warp, I have no power at my house to charge the phone I do have. My gate to the home doesn’t work because I have no power. And I can’t communicate to anyone about what time the party is actually starting.

So half of the people show up at the wrong restaurant on time. And the rest show up at the right restaurant but extremely late.

I’m driving around town trying to track down the birthday boy. And upon returning home, I am locked out of a powerless home with no way to communicate to get inside of the complex.

What a shame.

Multiply this across every sector, system, and team in the nation and you have utter chaos with a economy that is completely stagnant.

The spin-offs of this time warp is the Follow-Up Game, the timing of schedules (nothing runs on time), and the organization of team projects (often times irrelevant and people are now sitting around waiting to be told what to do).

I don’t share all of this to complain. For this isn’t even the half of it.

But rather to shed light on how things run here. They’re different than those in the West—and this is something that a Western mind has a difficult time even understanding (I know because I can’t even understand it most of the time).

Let’s learn from the strawberry grocer: avoid the hype and let’s be upfront and honest about the struggles of working here. Some days you can smooth by and think you’ve conquered the world. Other days, the conundrum takes you for a full loop and you’re wondering where the day went.

And other times, you still don’t have a phone and hope to God that it’ll be fixed tomorrow.

Let your customers pick their own berries. At least they can toss out the bad and keep all of the good ones.

Tomorrow’s a new day. I’m going to toss out the last couple days and move on.

Ever have days like this?

(photo via nasa)