Oh Deere, Built to Last (and Love)

Old-fashioned John Deere tractor

As many-most of you well know, I’m no fan (understatement) of “built to last.” I do not see longevity as an achievement of note. (Yup, I’m an Orioles fan, but Cal Ripken’s “iron man” record is pale by comparison with, say, Ted Williams’ “last .400 hitter” achievement, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, or Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA.) My mantra is clear: “Built to rock the world” rules! Google may well be on the scrapheap just a dozen years from now—but it has surely “rocked the world” in a way that will indeed be remembered in biz history headlines 50 or 150 years from now. To be sure, if you “keep on rockin’ the world,” I’m delighted if you last—think, at the moment, Apple. But longevity for longevity’s sake??

But, perversely, this Post is about “built to last” in a traditional and admiring way. We’re burying about a mile of power line on our VT farm. Though the pros (electricians, excavators) are in charge, our 1985 John Deere 2350 with 245 bucket loader time and again has been indispensable—and at age 22 it’s as perky as ever. Sure there’s been a replacement part or two along the way, but the solidity and durability of the machine rolls on like the Mississippi.

And its superb design—Deere’s longtime hallmark, so unexpected in “farm machinery”—makes it a work of art as well as a piece of work.

Hats waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay off to John Deere!

Design, speaking of which, may be “in” right now and correctly so (and I do, I admit, crow for having “gotten there” 20 years ago), but it ain’t easy, especially the “usability” part. I have bought two coffeemakers of late, a Cuisinart and a Krups, and the design in both cases stinks up the kitchen—in particular, the Krups pot pours poorly and the water-loading process in the Cuisinart is a bad joke. Reminds me to “stick with Braun.” Also reminds me of the difficulty of getting so-called little things right, such as pouring effectiveness of a pot or, God knows, the quality and durability and usability of zippers!

(More “hoorays” re design and durability—I’m doing a lot of brutal brush clearing at the moment, and I am in love with my work-hiking boots, bought for our New Zealand trek 4 months ago. They come from Jack Wolfskin, a German company, I believe—at any rate I bought them in and hauled them home from Frankfurt.)

[Photo credit Luc Gallopin.—CM]

Tom Peters posted this on June 25, 2007, in Design.
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