Off the shelf solutions are convenient. They are cost- effective instead of being cheap. To the naked eye, the former is merely the politically correct way of saying the latter. Actually, there is no other difference between the two.

Off the shelf apparel, business solutions, software… they are all cheaper and very convenient to use. They are readily available and help save time. You are also saved a lot of bother. You don’t have to rack your brains choosing what you want from the wide range of options. You don’t need to get deep into the design element of the thing. Thus you avoid a whole lot of stress.

The downside is that you don’t get what you actually need. Some of your vital requirements are not catered to. Your sleeves may flop or your rather typical HR processes cannot be covered. Once you obtain the off the shelf solution, you can try to customize it to a limited extent. Bottom- line is, you make do with something available in order to save time and bother. But the solution is not even adequate, let alone perfect. The worst of it all? You feel like a commodity- inadequate, unwholesome and incomplete.

Customized solutions are time consuming. You need to study, measure, observe the application area. You need to cater for quirks and idiosyncrasies. You would naturally keep personal preferences in mind while the solution is being designed. The result is a solution that fits where it should fit and is flexible where it needs to be flexible. Beautiful, wholesome and complete.

One of the biggest deterrents to customization, ostensibly, is time. To me however, the time saving is merely the outer layer of the onion. The core lies much deeper, under many other layers of skin.

At the core is the reluctance to think for yourself. To choose, to select from all the options available. In order to choose, you need to know what you like. You also need to know the qualities of the options available. Then you must perform the complicated process of tallying your preferences with what an option can deliver.

Do you want a satin shirt or a organza top? Will you have flaring sleeve or none at all. What kind of collar? If you choose a stiff collar, will satin be the right fabric? Will organza be suitable for a flared sleeve?

Too many decisions… too many choices. It is so much easier to go to a shop and check out the shirts/ tops available. You choose one, have it fitted as best as you can and you’re ready to go. Painless.

You ignore the exasperatingly short length of the top which causes it to come un-tucked from under your skirt band. You shrug and say, “What the hell!” and ignore the irritant, niggling pull of dissatisfaction.

Imagine buying a gift for someone you’ve recently met. You don’t know them very well. You have a very surface, vague idea of their preferences. You think they are the outdoor type but you aren’t sure. All you know is that they hate the color orange. The chances that your gift would be appropriate and suitable are astronomical- against. Only if you- or the person you are buying a gift for- have a guardian angel working over time, will it be possible that you will end up choosing something that would make the recipient jump for joy. They are more likely to hit the roof or have an apoplectic stroke. You may argue in court that you are not guilty of homicide, but that would just be so much hot air. Your goose, dear friend, would be SO cooked.

Knowing the perils, therefore, one would expect you to be careful. One would expect you to study, observe and delve deeper. One would expect you to make notes and check things out. I suppose one would be a little too optimistic, yeah?

You like to tack off the shelf descriptions on to people. You see someone trip over something once and they are branded clumsy. You see them draft a poor letter and they are idiots. They serve you a badly cooked meal once and they are lousy cooks. You see them get nervous at a presentation and they have no confidence. You see someone struggling to complete their assignment and they are lazy. You see someone with a dry, blotchy skin and they are unkempt. The list is endless. The principle is the same always. Save time and bother by hanging an off the shelf description onto someone based on a surface evaluation. If the description doesn’t fit them and doesn’t define who they are- too bad. You’ve saved time and bother. What of the things you lost?

Nurturing relationships are custom jobs; they don’t come Off The Shelf.

Off The Shelf