Fine-tune

To 'fine-tune' something is to make small changes as you make it perfect

Today's story: Mattresses in a box
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Fine tune

This is a good one. Now I’m going to show you the English expression “fine-tune.” This is a verb phrase. To fine-tune something is to make very small changes as you try to make it perfect.

Before we go any farther, let me share where this comes from. To “tune an instrument” is to make the small changes to the instrument so that it produces the sound you want. I’m not musical at all, but I know that every time you pick up a guitar, you have to tune it. You have to adjust the tension of the strings so that when you pluck a string, it makes the sound you need.

You tune a piano so that striking every key produces the same sound on your piano as it does on other pianos. And in both cases, this is a very delicate process. When you tune a guitar, you don’t crank the pressure way up and way down. You delicately make a little change here—then try it. Ah, a little too much, back the other way. Try it again—how does it sound now? Almost there, a little more. Oops, that was too much, let’s go back a little. There—perfect. That’s the thought process of tuning a guitar.

So that’s what I want you to keep in mind when we talk about fine-tuning something. You make small adjustments here and there, trying to get the best possible outcome.

When you are designing a new product, you will fine-tune the product. You will make many small changes, trying to get it exactly right. Today we talked about the new generation of mattress makers . And I said, they can combine materials to fine-tune the product.

Today, a mattress manufacturer has hundreds, thousands, of combinations of materials, foams, layers, coverings, thicknesses. So they might make a prototype mattress that’s feels perfect—but it traps a lot of body heat in the top later. The test users love the mattress, but they’re burning up at night.

Okay, now they add a different type of foam on the top layer. How’s that? Too bouncy? Okay, let’s change the base layer to make it thicker. Yikes—that didn’t work, now let’s re-adjust that top layer. Ah great, now we’ve got a mattress that feels right and doesn’t trap heat.

But wait a second. What’s that smell? Why does the mattress smell like chemicals? What can we add to the foam to reduce the smell? Try a new coating to disguise the smell of the foam layers. And on and on and on they go, fine-tuning the product, until they think it’s perfect.

If you’re giving a speech, you can fine-tune the speech. You read it over and over. How does this sound? What if I moved this part closer to the beginning? Let’s change a few words here or there. Hmm, seems a little long. Can we cut anything out? You’re fine-tuning a speech.

The same goes for authors of books and magazine articles; the last round of revisions is fine-tuning the manuscript so that it’s just right.

You can fine-tune a skill set. Golfers—oh man. They spend a lot of time fine-tuning their golf swings—and I’m not just talking the pros. A lot of amateur golfers hire instructors to watch their swings. They videotape themselves and analyze the tape. The instructors—who charge by the hour—give endless small tips to help the golfers fine-tune their swings, to make small adjustments. How are you holding the club? Where are your feet pointing? How much is your back arching? How far back to you go? What’s your follow through like? Where are you looking as you finish the swing? All these are ways to fine-tune your golf swing.

You can fine-tune a machine. What adjustments can you make to a machine so that it runs more efficiently? So that it produces fewer errors?

You can fine-tune a business process, like a workflow. Let’s say you produce English lessons every Monday and Thursday, and these lessons require the participation of a lot of people. What changes can we make to the process that make it more efficient and make it less likely that we make a mistake? Can we adopt a new tool? How do we communicate? Those are all ways to fine-tune a business process.

Quote of the Week

It’s time for a quote of the week; we’ll keep this one quick. Today’s is by Oscar Wilde; this is not the first Oscar Wilde quote we’ve used. I think I once said he’s always a good source for a quote. He said, “Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.”

Dull means boring. Think about that for a second. “Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.” He’s saying that if you’re truly brilliant, you’re up late at night…or your brilliance shines through later in the day. He was not one of those “early to bed, early to rise” types from what I know.

Oscar Wilde says, “Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.” You don’t have to agree with it to think it’s funny!

See you next time!

And that’s all for today’s lesson. On Thursday, we’ll start our first of four Holiday Special lessons. These lessons will be shorter and about holiday-winter type topics, and a little easier to understand. The first one, on Thursday, will be about snowmobiling. So you can look forward to that coming up in just a few days.

See you then!

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Story: Mattresses in a box