I had an opportunity not too long ago to visit the hospital, and while I was there, I was noticing the drawers, cabinets, and equipment they had around the room. Of course everything was on wheels and there were all sorts of different machines, signs and bins for disposal of all the various stuff.

What truly stuck out to me were two rolling carts with drawers.

One of them was this large rolling cart with multi colored drawers. Each drawer in addition to being a color was also labeled: Pink/Red, Purple, Yellow, White, Blue, Orange, and Green. On the opposite side of each drawer, was a piece of masking tape with another label scribbled onto it in the usual doctor’s handwriting. Each drawer had at least one and most of them then had the first label crossed out with a sharpie and a new label written on it. Equally illegible.

The other cart was all the same color, a drab sterile grey-ish color. The cart had large labels on it. Each label was a folded piece of paper shoved into a clear sleeve that was glued to the front of the drawer. The label printed in a plain font in all caps. It was far from a genius design, but it made the necessary point. No room for ambiguity.

As you live your life, which are you?

In a hospital room, I want to know my nurse, doctor, surgeon, or EMT is reaching for the drawer labeled MEDS when she is looking for the necessary meds to keep me alive. I do not want her opening the Orange drawer and then opening the White drawer and then opening the Red/Pink drawer to find what she needs.

If my son is putting his toys away, I want the multicolored rolling drawers. I can work with him to learn his colors and help him access/store his toys. He needs more opportunities to work with colors, not fewer.

When someone talks to you, are they talking to the grey drab well labeled drawers, when they need the multicolored drawers, poorly labeled, but full of personality? Or does your job need the consistent and stable grey drawers, well labeled and ready for action and you are trying to be the brightly colored poorly labeled drawers and making everyone’s day more difficult?

How do you need to change to better suit your work environment? How does your product need to change to better suit its use case?

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