Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tending towards innovation?

I first heard the word "McDonaldization" several years ago when my son mentioned in some context I don't remember. Something he was reading or studying in college, I think.

"McDonaldization" is a term used by sociologist George Ritzer in his book The McDonaldization of Society (1995). He describes it as the process by which a society takes on the characteristics of a fast-food restaurant...Predictability – standardized and uniform services. "Predictability" means that no matter where a person goes, they will receive the same service and receive the same product every time when interacting with the McDonaldized organization. This also applies to the workers in those organizations. Their task are highly repetitive, highly routine, and predictable...The predictability of such places is also ensured; the customer can assume that the quality, taste, price, quickness, and variety will remain the same in every single restaurant in a chain. The ways in which the food is prepared, the products used to make the meals, and the amount of a product one is given are universal...

While predictability and standardization have certain advantages in certain contexts, are we moving toward a society where all things should be predictable and standardized and all people should think the same things? McDonaldization means that no customers of McDonalds (or any McDonaldized should expect anything else than standard fare. It also means that McDonaldized employees should not show any tendency towards innovation or taking initiative.

At times we must overcome McDonalization -- and tend towards innovation and initiative.

This made me think of story (probably apocryphal) that I posted last year. An elderly couple went to breakfast at a restaurant where the "Seniors' Special" was two eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast for $1.99. The husband ordered the special but his wife did not want the eggs. The problem was -- without the eggs, she would not be having the special, so the waitress was going to charge $2.49 cents for ordering a la carte. When the customer found out the waitress was serious, she ordered the special. "How do you want your eggs?" the waitress asked. "Raw and in the shell," the woman replied. She took the two eggs home.

Or how about the college student who couldn't get a grilled chicken salad at the college cafe. She ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with extra lettuce. She saved the buns for her dog, cut up the chicken and voila -- grilled chicken salad!

No comments: