What Is Quality?

Dr Daniel Park of MASS Consulting Group, a good friend of B2B International, has contributed a Thursday Night Insight this week. It is an article that appeared in the Washington Post on 10 April 2007 and it raises a number of questions. Perhaps the most significant one is not obvious and takes a bit of thinking about. It relates to the concept of quality, which has been a bandwagon topic and a source of easy consultancy money for some time. Benefiting from quality management is two-sided: it requires not only suppliers that are able to deliver quality products, using quality inputs and quality technology but also – and here comes the interesting bit – buyers who have the capability of recognising quality when it is staring them in the face.

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. A man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about an hour. During that time approximately two- thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried on.

4 minutes later: the violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes: a young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes: a 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent without exception forced the children to move on quickly.

45 minutes: the musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour: he finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played some of the most powerful and beautiful music ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days earlier Joshua Bell sold out a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we understand quality? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the greatest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made…. how many other things are we missing; do we really understand quality; does quality really matter?

Why not click on the following links to read some of the white papers Dr Daniel Park has written for B2B International:

Click here to view our complete library of white papers.

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