Guy quotes the Starbucks test as a simple detection mechanism. (In his blog, Sutton attributes this to Bill Maher.)
'If you walk into a Starbucks and order a "decaf grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one Sweet-n'-Low and one NutraSweet," ooh, you're a huge asshole.'
But compare this with Seth Godin's enthusiasm (Yes Substitutions) for companies that offer this kind of opportunity to their customers.
'I had lunch at the Pump in NY today. The Pump is about 350 square feet (total) and it's a money factory. They have nearly 50 ingredients, all healthy stuff, and offer them in precisely 41,000,000 combinations. So, you can have whole wheat pita with egg whites, chicken breast and hot sauce, no onions. Or no pita, double egg whites, double hot sauce and brown rice.'
So how do you describe the person who wants this combination? There are many organizations (both public sector and commercial) that seem to agree with Robert Sutton and regard their customers as assholes, for wanting anything slightly non-standard. Or perhaps regard them as cheats if they try to get something for nothing. (See my earlier post on the Ghetto Latte.)
But in an unpredictable world, the sustainable business is one that caters for the diverse tastes and behaviours of its customers, rather than dismissing them as assholes. The challenge is to build systems (both technical systems and management systems) that deliver a good level complexity without losing reliability or efficiency.