Coffee And Zingers: The Real MVP
For want of a nail the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe the horse was lost;
For want of a horse the battle was lost;
For the failure of battle the kingdom was lost—
All for the want of a horse-shoe nail.
What are the most important tools for engineering? A robust education, a sound understanding of engineering principals, 3D CAD software, computer based analysis and simulation tools, or rapid prototyping methods? All of those have been written about extensively.
To be a successful engineer you need to be dumb enough to try, but smart enough to pull it off. The tools mentioned above are all necessary, but there is a tool that I am quite certain has not been written about. Coffee and Zingers. I am using coffee and Zingers to mean caffeine and refined sugar, as they are my preferred method of consuming both of those substances. I should not have to say this, but this is the internet and the year 2020, I am not a qualified health care professional so do not mistake this as nutrition advice. If you wind up in the hospital in a diabetic coma from the sugar or a resting heart rate of 200 BPM, that is on you .
At the core, engineering is problem solving and any problem worth solving is hard. There comes a point (actually many points) in a design where the problem seem like it just cannot be solved. When I come to a point like this it is the time for coffee and Zingers. I am sure that someone in they psychological sciences would have a lot to say about why this seems to work. It might be walking away and thinking about something else. The sugary sweetness is balanced by the bitter coffee. Is it the ritual of eating? (I have a very specific method of eating my Zingers, I peel the layer of icing off and eat that in one go, wash it down with coffee and then go for the cake). It might be that I am no longer thinking about the problem with my conscience mind, but with my sub-conscience mind.
Whatever the reason, coffee and Zingers are a sure fire block breaker. I don’t ever have a eureka moment where everything is solved, this isn’t the movies. What I get instead is a thin thread to start pulling on and making progress. Progress on a problem is all I need to keep going. For those that have never experienced designing there are three processes going on at the same time, actively learning, actively applying structure, and actively creating. It is the best possible day at work.
I have often wondered what the world owes to coffee and Zingers. Yes, I actually have thought about it quite a bit. (I don’t know what that says about me.) You might be tempted to counter that argument, by saying that coffee and Zingers didn’t really contribute anything, those problems would have been solved without them. Ultimately, we will never know the answer, since it is impossible to run an experiment with two identical timelines except one timeline does not have coffee and Zingers. Although that might be a terrifying dystopian novel.
History is littered with ideas that should have been revolutionary, but due to a poor compromise or a misstep in design became failures. Just doing a Google search for great products that failed will give you hours of reading. Case studies, books, and even careers have been made analyzing those failures and trying to explain why. For me, my answer is simple. The engineers didn’t have enough coffee and Zingers to solve the problem correctly.
For want of a coffee and Zingers an inefficient feature was added;
For want of an efficient feature the cost was increased;
For want of an appropriate selling price too many customers were lost;
For the want of customers the product failed—
All for the want of coffee and Zingers.
— Jake Adkins
Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in Hostess.