I had never actually heard the story about Van Halen and brown M&M’s before I came across this Boing Boing entry. Of course, Boing Boing is always a good for fun stories. Here’s one that also has a useful point about dealing with complex knowledge problems between organizations.
Van Halen had good reason to ban brown M&Ms in their concert rider.
Wed, 05 Aug 2009 23:49:58 GMT
Take the time to check out the Snopes article (Snopes.com: Van Halen Brown M&Ms). It presents a design problem of how to ensure that an organization you’re contracting with is exercising the appropriate attention to detail. It reminds me of a similar design hack/lesson I learned first back in the 7th grade. A version of that lesson is, of course, available courtesy of a moment’s effort with a search engine(Directions Test).
What makes this example important is that more and more of our work gets done through other organizations. That increases the problems of incomplete contracts where the tasks in question are sufficiently complex and the environment indeterminate enough that it is difficult, in not impossible. to specify all the relevant conditions in advance. “Brown M&Ms” provides an excellent reminder that the point of the contract is to ensure a successful outcome for all parties.