Thursday, August 17, 2006

Quota Listing

FreeFoto.comI'm an optician, I'm about to leave my premises to put advertising leaflets on the windscreens of local cars. I have hired a temp to help me distribute the leaflets. We have fifty leaflets each to distribute.

Okay, so I'm an optician and I'm sat here ready to distribute the leaflets. Now, suppose that someone walks into my optician's premises and asks "Who's the boss?" Of course, I would answer "I am!" Job done? Question answered satisfactorily? Not necessarily. I can set a quota for my answering of the question; I step into fuzzy-thinking territory and find out how many answers I can create to the question "Who's the boss?"

I call this listing technique quota-listing 25/100. At first I try to create twenty five possible answers to the question and then proceed to thoughts of the first hundred and then beyond. As I do this, I allow a high degree of 'fuzz' in my thinking: I consider how many people could -- even if it's by the smallest, slightest degree -- be labeled "the boss".

The first 25

Boss 1 = me

Boss 2 = my receptionist
Obviously my receptionist plays a pivotal role in the running of the business. So, to a degree, my receptionist is the boss

Boss 3 = my wife
My wife makes a contribution to the business by providing feedback and helping me maintain my well-being.

Boss 4 = the temp
Helping me to distribute the leaflets on this day. A valid contribution to the business

Boss 5 = my most regular customer
Providing regular custom and feedback, and telling their friends and colleagues how good my service is.

Etc to 25

Up to 100

I can opt to complete the listing up to 100, or I can merely acknowledge and entertain the possibility of completing the list to 100; I can ask myself "What sort of person would be numbered 89?" etc.

Boss 38 = the manager of the restaurant next door
How is he the boss? Well, if he provides good food then more customers will come to his shop/the area and thus more people will see my premises.

Boss 50 = the future boss of this opticians
I don't know who he/she is yet, but surely someone will take over the business in the future.

Boss 78 = the editor of the local newspaper who edits my advertisement in the paper
The editor has the power to help my business by printing my adverts.

etc to 100

Beyond 100

I can continue listing beyond 100, or, as discussed before, merely acknowledge the possibility of listing beyond 100. Again I can ask myself questions like "What sort of person would be numbered at 250 or 2400?".

Boss 312 = Tony Blair
Tony Blair? Yes, he's boss to a degree. His decisions will affect the economy and ultimately affect me and my business.

Boss 1045 = my first ever customer
Played a (very minor) role in shaping the business. Made me realise some mistakes I'd made. Put me in a good mood on my first day.

An example of quota-listing for the optician's location

So the question/directive is:

Name the business's location

Location 1 to 25

Location 1 = 22 New Cambridge Road, London
Obviously at number one is the address.

Location 2 = the east end of the street

Location 3 = next to the barber's shop

Location 4 = South England

etc to 25

Location 26 to 100

Location 26 = my home
I take some of my work home. Many important documents are at home. My home address is, in effect, an extension of my work premises.

Location 27 = my car
Contains documents and I spend much time in my car thinking about the business

Location 36 = the map/sign at the end of the road that shows the names of all the shops in this road

Location 57 = the local newsagents: there is an advert for my opticians in the window

Location 89 = the local park
Where I often walk and think about my business

100 plus

Location 101 = the advertisement for my business in Yellow Pages
Another way that my business extends beyond the four walls.

Location 140 = the home of one of my regular customers

Location 812 = the pair of glasses that Mr Rogers bought five months ago
These were once on my premises. There is a chance (and a very slim chance, seeing that this is number 812) that someone will see his glasses (just as they do the glasses on show at my premises) and ask where he bought them.

Location 3063 = the local swimming baths
Providing a great service for opticians: where many people lose contact lenses that need replacing!


The switch to creative mode

There is also a creative mode for quota-listing. Here I make the switch from listing information to trying to generate new ideas. With the listing I was answering the directive:

List (25/100) the boss

but now I set the creative directive:

Create (25/100) bosses

(I colour this blue to differentiate it from the listing.)

The creative-mode is very different from the listing-mode. My first directive reads:

Create boss 1

and I consider what this could mean. The first possibility is this: that I get a partner in the business. I can continue with my creating up to 25:

Create boss 2 = promote my receptionist

Create boss 3 = train the temp in the business

Create boss 4 = start looking for a replacement for when I retire

Create boss(es) 5 = sell shares in the business

etc to 24

26 to 100

There comes a point when I can use the information listed at the listing stage to inspire ideas. For example, number 78 on the list of bosses was: the editor of the local newspaper that prints my advertisements. So although I'm not taking the extreme choice of stepping aside and installing him as boss, I can ask myself how he can play more of a role (a 'boss role', if you like) in the business and pay more of a contribution. The initial answer is obvious: I can proactively ask him if he thinks there is any way my advert in his paper can be improved or if the newspaper can play any role in promoting my business.

Create boss 26 = give the newspaper editor an opportunity to give input

Create boss 36 = (using Tony Blair, number 312 at the listing stage) give Tony Blair a one per cent share in the business. An unusual idea -- perhaps to make some kind of political statement. Sure to attract much publicity. Also, my business could be labeled as a 'typical example of a business' and, at budget time, be used to show how the changes in a budget will affect a typical business.

Create boss 78 = (using 1045 from the listing -- the first ever customer) give some randomly chosen customers the chance to give feedback. Maybe by some market research by phone or maybe by actually bringing them to the premises and asking them for feedback on my services and procedures.

100 plus

Create boss 101 = collaborate with the other shopkeepers in this street: create a "shopkeepers club" where the owners meet up regularly and discuss ways to promote the area and each business

Create boss 983 = utilize passers-by. Stop them and say "Ten seconds of your time. What's your first impression of this opticians as you pass?"

Create boss 4038 = Find the remotest opticians in the world and install it as a 'twin' opticians (like the twin-towning scheme).



km said...


Came over from Arun's Cre8ive Ignition. I must say, "quota-listing" sounds very intriguing. (and I think the technique is somehow related to your comment in response to mine on Arun's blog.)

John said...

Hi km

Yes, it is related to that post I guess. I've always adopted the attitude of "create a good idea/answer and keep looking" but I've never used that mentality when listing information. I suppose this new approach could be called "Answer the question and keep answering"!

I've been subscribed to your blog for some time btw. The world can't get enough frightening levels of shit and trivia :)

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