Dishwasher Proof: A Lesson in Understanding Our Successes and Failures

Rory Sutherland has an excellent (and semi-sarcastic) dishwasher life hack in his book, Alchemy: if you want a dishwasher proof kitchen set, just put your current set into the dishwasher whenever it needs cleaning. Whatever survives will be dishwasher proof and you’ll have your desired set within a year. 


How many aspects of our businesses “work” because they’re dishwasher proof in this sense? Is our service model a dishwasher and whoever survives the cycles represents the ones we keep, only because they didn’t break? Is that efficient? Is it desirable? Do we care if it is or isn’t? These are questions worth asking. 


If our approach is to take them all and keep whoever survives, we’ll shatter and melt our reputation over time. If our approach is to read the labels and decide what gets hand washed compared to what goes in the machine, we’ll build our reputation over time. 


We’re either reading the labels or we’re not. Sutherland’s dishwasher metaphor reminds us to examine our process and intentions and notice what our shortcuts are actually producing. If we truly want a dishwasher safe kitchen set, there are efficient and inefficient ways to get there. If we truly want a more diverse set, then we’ll have to accept some amount of manual scrubbing from time to time.

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