I was in Home Depot the other day looking for light bulbs.  We are slowly switching our house to LED bulbs (they are very expensive, but more on that in a future blog…) and as I was perusing the selection I came across a 57 watt incandescent light bulb.  Maybe I missed it, but I don’t ever recall seeing a 57 watt light bulb in the past.  Based on a vague memory of mine I did some research and found that laws are coming into effect that ban incandescent light bulbs above 60 watts.  Hence the 57 watt light bulb.
I love it when organizations are able to take seemingly onerous barriers, laws, industry regulations or other restrictions and sometimes make something that may actually be a better product for the customer.  There is always a “line” and wherever you draw that line people’s behavior will adapt to operate either right at or below it.
For those of you living in DFW you are well aware of the Wright Amendment, which restricted flights out of Love Field, so as not to jeopardize the financial success of the newly built DFW airport.  Basically, it limited commercial travel to neighboring states for airplanes with greater than 56 seats.  Enter American Airlines with service to, if I remember correctly, Chicago, New York and Los Angles with planes that had 50 seats.  You bought a coach ticket, but effectively got “almost” a first class experience because they had room to use bigger seats to fill the plane up.  I still remember the smell of fresh baked cookies on-board – not a frequent experience these days.
However, walking the “line” conjures up another, less pleasant example from more recent happenings with the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare.)  I don’t claim to know all the details, but as I understand it companies with fewer than 50 people enjoy a benefit over their rivals with greater than 50 people.  Enter companies that are at 50 people and unwilling to expand.  This is a negative impact, but it shows the power of the “line.”

The “line” forces you to do the best with what you’ve got.  It gives you a limit, but at least you know what the limit is.  We all operate under rules, restrictions, and boundaries in what we do everyday.  How we deal with those barriers is what sets the best companies apart from the mediocre.   I’m still waiting for a 74 MPH speed limit…