Reverse Engineering Bad Ideas Into Brilliant Ones

by Rebecca Vickery, Account Director at Rufus Leonard

Have you ever been in a meeting when someone said, ‘that’s a really bad idea’? Chances are you have, or maybe you’ve said it yourself. A bad idea in the context of a customer’s experience with a brand can result in a loss of sales, trust and even the customer.

Nevertheless, the beauty of a bad idea is anyone can come up with one and arguably, it’s easier than coming up with a good one. So, what if for every bad idea there was a way to reverse engineer it into a brilliant one? 

It’s an approach an agency I came across recently take to planning and executing compelling customer experiences. By challenging clients to first construct the worst possible customer experiences, they actively encourage them to develop empathy with their customers and identify real problems waiting to be solved. I decided to try it for myself. I’ve taken 3 bad experiences I encountered recently whilst travelling and explored how they can be reverse engineered.

1. The Flight Booking Trade-Off  

When booking flights my final decision usually boils down to a trade-off between time vs. cost vs. comfort and it’s very much dependent on my reason for travel. So, one of the biggest problems with airline booking engines is they only provide a partial view of the travel trade-off for my flight rather than for my end-to-end journey. To calculate my entire travel time requires multiple visits to bus, train and airline websites – or in other words, too many clicks! Why can’t the booking process be simpler and more joined up?

Last year I came across LuckyTrip, a travel app which allows you to simply set your budget and after 1 tap serves up a destination, hotel and experience. Whilst spontaneous travel appeals to me, it’s the integration between Skyscanner, and Rome2rio that excites me most. Omio have also made positive progress in streamlining the booking process, categorising travel options by smartest, cheapest and fastest – very much a user centric approach.

If airlines followed suit, shared more data and better integrated with third parties, such as airports, hotels, bus, rail and taxi companies, surely it would be a win-win for passengers and airlines? With the speculation that Airbnb may enter into the online flight booking market, the need to streamline the flight booking process is fast becoming a customer expectation, rather than a point of differentiation for airlines. 

2. The Wi-Fi Conundrum At The Airport

In the UK the internet is something we all expect access to whenever we go, you could even say it’s become a public amenity. So, being asked to provide personal details (including my home address) to access (limited) internet at the airport seems like a step into the dark ages of customer experience. Especially when I’ve already provided my details as part of the flight booking process – why can’t my Wi-Fi access be unlimited and automatically activated after my boarding pass has been scanned, without the need to sign up?

With developments in iBeacon technology with success stories such as Los Angeles International Airport using iBeacons for the despatch of wheelchairs. And similarly, last week Delta announced they will now automatically check-in passengers with the mobile app – one step less for passengers to worry about before boarding the plane. There is an opportunity for airports and airlines to better serve passengers with bespoke content whilst at the airport.

For example, if my flight is delayed send me a push notification with a discount voucher for a snack while I wait. Or if I’m running late, give me helpful information about the time/distance to my gate – rather than a passive aggressive message about my Wi-Fi usage. In a similar vein, I was pleased last week to read that Delta will now automatically check-in passengers with the mobile app – one step less for passengers to worry about before boarding the plane.

3. What’s Below?

Have you ever been on a flight, looked down and thought – what’s that below? If you’re anything like me as you glide over vast mountains, beautiful lakes and sprawling cities, you can’t help but wonder what it’s like down there. The reason we’re left wondering is due to a lack of information provided on the flight. And I’m not talking about the limited ad hoc updates the pilot offers you about the countries you’re passing by or the temperature on arrival. Why can’t passengers spend their otherwise dull flight learning more about the history, local delicacies or traditions of the places they are flying over?

For many people, arriving at the airport and boarding the plane is the start of their holiday, so the onboard experience should be reflective of this – both exciting and engaging. With Wi-Fi now available on planes and Delta announcing the use of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and iMessage in-flight, the opportunities to serve personalised, real time content dependent on a planes location are yet to be fully explored for passengers.  


From Bad To Brilliant

These bad, boring or backward experiences all have the potential to be reversed engineered. By dismissing bad experiences or ideas we’re dismissing the important, underlying brand experience problems just waiting to be solved. So, the next time you’re in a meeting and someone says, ‘that’s a bad idea’, take a minute to think through what’s bad about it, so you can transform it into a brilliant one.