The Chicken or the Egg-Which came first?

This old adage comes up often in the world we live in.  People are always trying to get to the genesis, the beginning of things, and the Chicken or the Egg analogy seems to be the most widely used method of dealing with this.

For many of us, and even for me, I sometimes get caught up in trying to explain one versus the others.  It goes something like this:

  • You cannot have a chicken without an egg first, where else would chickens come from?
  • Eggs come from chickens, how could you have an egg without a chicken first?

I thought about this for a while this morning and have come to the following conclusion:

Neither answer is correct!

The reason why is that there needs to be a customer first.  Who cares about chickens or eggs if there is not someone ready to consume or purchase either.  This conclusion has a number of ramifications that I will explore a little further as I complete this thought for today.

Let me explain the foundation for my argument first.  I am a root cause guy.  I spent 6 years living, eating, sleeping and practicing root cause management when I worked for a Japanese-American joint venture in the automotive industry.  I was one of the first hires for this organization and we had over 350 staff members when I left to take a different career pursuit.  Even though I don’t work in the automotive industry daily now, the time I spent with this chicken and egg mentality has had a profound impact on my life.

I have a phrase I use with groups quite often that goes something like this:

America is a country that is full of solutions for problems that do not exist, or may never exist.

Think about that.  When was the last time you saw somebody trying to encourage you to purchase or invest in something that didn’t quite make sense to you.  It happens to me all of the time.

My answer for the “Chicken or the Egg” riddle is that the customer came first.

Customers typically drive all behavior, or at least they should in most cases.  Why try to solve a problem unless there is someone whose life will be changed as a result of your work?  This was crystallized even more for me when Dr. Stephen Covey used this phrase in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.

“Begin with the end in mind.”

The late Dr. Covey had described in a short sentence something that needs to be at the forefront of most of what I do, and probably most of what you do.  How can you begin any project, any journey, anything without knowing what you seek to accomplish first?

Don’t think just about Chicken or Egg.  Think about destination or outcome.  Consider the purpose.

Why do you do what you do?

Why is your career what you do today?

Who is your customer?  How will they benefit from your work?

If you want to understand which came first, ask the customer.  He or she will help make this very clear in your mind.