Are You Focused on the Wrong Problem?

Ian Lurie

I flew to L.A. last week via Alaska Airlines. The flight was right on time, smooth as silk. Then we landed at LAX.

The jetway was busted. So, for the next fifty minutes, eight airline and airport employees moved the jetway forward 3 feet, then back three feet, then forward three feet, then back three feet:

Fifty minutes. Multiply that by eight employees and that’s nearly a day of paid work.

The airline put all of their focus on the wrong problem: They did fix the jetway, but only after several passengers missed their connections to international flights, and everyone was thoroughly irritated.

The real problem was the passengers stuck on the plane. They could have fixed that in minutes by wheeling up a set of airstairs and letting us exit from a different door. In fact, they had just decided to do that when the jetway started working again.

Are you focusing on the wrong problem? Is your problem a tool, or the way you’re using it? Is there a simpler solution?

I frequently see people dedicate weeks/months on a difficult technical problem. Good for them. But is that problem and the time devoted to it the top priority? Typically no.

You can sell more stuff by practicing good search engine optimization, or by investing $100,000 in a top-end CRM system.

You can downsize, or find a better way of doing business.

You can improve profits by improving the efficiency of your PPC management, or by eliminating two product lines.

You make the call.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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