When Blue is not Blue (Why standardisation helps)

I recently had the opportunity to ski in Austria. Lovely country. I’m not a regular skier – I only get to ski once every few years. As a result, I have not progressed past a basic competency level – I can get going and hold myself up over relatively “calm” slopes. This marks me as a Blue Run skier in most resorts.

Ski slopes are organised into colour grades – Blue – easy, Red – moderate, Black – difficult. The slope of the slope (to pardon a phrase) becomes more inclined through each level. Based on skiing in other countries, I had an expectation of what the blue “standard” entailed, and off I set down the Austrian blue slopes.

Oh dear! My relatively short life flashed frequently past my eyes as I stumbled and fell over slopes that were far more than “Blue” – slopes with difficult stretches, blues merging with red, blues crossing black. I’ve now re-jigged the Austrian colour coding system:

Blue = Red, Red = Black, Black = Death!

The point of this story is to show that we humans are used to categorising and comparing across a whole range of life’s activities, products and services. Everything from clothing sizes, to hotel ratings to the spiciness of curry is coded through low / medium / high. This standardisation not only simplifies life for us, but it allows us to make meaningful comparisons and better decisions. So engrained is this, that when you encounter a system that does not reflect the “standard”, it really throws one off track.

I hear you – viva la difference and all that. But when you’re half-way down a steep slope, with two kiddos in tow, all you really want is the comfort of what you originally expected.

To quote Monica from friends – “Rules help the game!”

John Eager

Austrian Slopes Survivor

John is Principal of WinAbu Consulting, and a member of Chartered Accountants Interim Managers.

View John Eager CAIM Bio

Tell me in the comments which rules have helped your game.