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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe, and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this week by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

I have a couple of things on my mind this week…mostly on the subject of change.

I was fascinated to read about the recent goings on in Samoa, where the government and citizens accomplished something historic this week. At 6 am on Monday, the entire country started driving on the other side of the road…except that in this case, rather than switching from the left hand side of the road to the right hand side, they actually went the other way…essentially moving from the American system to the British system.

There were some very interesting things about the way this change has been accomplished. First of all, the Samoan prime minister – whose name I will not even attempt to pronounce for feat of butchering it – went on the radio just before the deadline to tell everyone in the country to stop driving their cars. Which, apparently, they did. And then, at 6 am, he told them to change sides. Which they did. Apparently without any major incidents.

I am, to say the least, impressed by the orderliness of the Samoan society. But I’m also impressed by the reasons that Samoa essentially went against the grain in making this adjustment – it is cheaper to import cars from Australia and New Zealand, where people drive on the left hand side of the road, than from the US and most of Europe, where they drive on the right hand side. In other words, they took a cool, calculating look at economic reality, examined the facts and the implications, and did something that almost nobody has done since cars were invented.

Three other interesting notes. One is that the government reportedly set up practice tracks so that people could get used to driving on what for most of us is the wrong side of the road. Another is that the government declared a national holiday for the two days following the switch, believing that this would take the pressure off both the drivers and the roads, giving them a chance to get used to the whole idea. And finally, the Samoan government also banned the sale of alcohol for a couple of days while the switch was accomplished, figuring that inebriated drivers would only make the scenario fraught with peril.

This is, I think, a pretty good example of leadership well exercised. The Samoan government went against conventional wisdom, made a practical decision, and then enabled its citizens to work through the implications of the decision by a number of means, raising the likelihood of success.

It often is said that people are afraid of change, but it may be more accurate that people are afraid of change poorly implemented. If you respect people’s feelings and trepidations, and communicate clearly with them about why changes are being implemented and then do things that make the process go down more easily, then maybe change isn’t so intimidating.

Good lesson, I think.

Finally, I want to note that today happens to be the 30th anniversary of my first date with the woman now known to this online community as Mrs. Content Guy. On that first date, I took her to a local Mexican restaurant where I was a regular, which I thought would impress her. It didn’t. In fact, some months later, she told me that she didn’t really like Mexican food…and even today I marvel at the fact that she went out for a second date, and then a third.

I mention this not to be publicly romantic, but rather because Mrs. Content Guy did something the other night that she’d never done before. (No, no, nothing like that. Boy, do you have a dirty mind.) She suggested that we go out for Indian food on the last night of my vacation.

Now, this was a big deal. Mrs. Content Guy’s general aversion to spicy food, which dates back to that first date in a Mexican restaurant, has persisted throughout the past three decades. But because I like spicy food and various ethnic cuisines, she’s accommodated me…first by going to these kinds of restaurants and ordering the least spicy options, but gradually, over the years, experimenting more and trying this dish and that one. I’ve sort of helped her along by cooking with spices at home and not telling her; it’s really funny when she sees me making some dish that I’ve been making for years and objects when she sees me throwing in some spices only to find out that this is how I always make it.

Supermarkets often make the mistake of selling lowest common denominator products – with as little spice as possible – because they think this is what most customers want. And while this may be true, they ignore the opportunity to educate shoppers, to bring them along with new and different tastes, to help them experience new places and cultures through unusual and distinctive cuisines. It can be done through an aggressive and differentiated sampling program, and a foodservice effort that puts a premium on taste, flavor and quality.

This isn’t just an altruistic effort. It can lead to new and incremental sales, and create more interesting connections with shoppers. It’ll also make the store smell a lot better, and just making the selling experience – not to mention the shopping experience – a lot more fun.

And clearly, it is never too late to learn. Just ask Mrs. Content Guy, who fell in love the other night with an appetizer called Masala Dosa. It took 30 years, but it was worth it.

Maybe tonight we’ll go out for Mexican…

For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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