Jeremy Corbyn is sitting on the floor on a train that might or might not be "ram-packed". He looks at the camera and says "we clearly need more trains". More trains. The typical political response. Raise the interest rates. Lower the interest rates. More of the thing we have. Less of the thing the opposition want.
I’m tired of seeing important issues being discussed this way – "This is the lever, now do we push or pull?" It's a way of thinking that is certainly a legacy from a simpler time. And I don’t mean simpler in a good way.
Many of the things we took for granted in the past no longer apply (eg a complete disregard for the environment, the economy always grows).
With the foundations shifting so much, more of the same cannot be our default answer. It is time we start framing our discussions in terms of what alternatives can better deliver on the end result.
An example. To stay with the train theme, readers of this site may be familiar with Rory Sutherland’s argument – if a fraction of the money spent on making the Eurostar quicker was instead invested in providing free Wi-Fi onboard, passengers would happily sit through the longer journey.
That is the kind of thinking we need now. First, understand what actual results we want to create. Second, understand how to achieve it with the least effort.
First, understand what actual results we want to create. Second, understand how to achieve it with the least effort.
As the creative industry we should be leading this paradigm shift – a world of productivity to one of efficiency. From volume to impact.
Here’s a simple idea. Let’s help people have better discussions. Hopefully better discussions will snowball into better decisions that will lead to better outcomes. Here’s a few thoughts on how to make that work:
Ideas that deliver great results usually do so by reframing the problem they’re trying to solve.
That is my main problem with "more trains". It’s no different from "faster horses". It doesn’t question the basic assumptions. It doesn’t go beyond the obvious. It can only deliver marginal gains.
How about questioning why so many people need to travel at specific times, for example? If the discussion is not being able to reframe the problem, it probably isn’t going to go far enough to solve it.
Understand the repercussions
The other problem with "more trains" is that it doesn’t deal with the knock on effects that would have. How do we pay for them? Won’t ticket prices be driven up even further to allow for the investment?
As creative industry workers we never present ideas without an understanding of how they’ll play out. So in turn, as the general public, we shouldn’t accept them presented to us that way.
The story and the facts
If you sell ideas for a living, you'll know that having the data is not enough. You need to be able to give people a good illustration of that data that will get it to stick. Like, say, an image of a crowded train when you talk about how busy commuter services in the South East are.
Facts are what matters, but stories are what make them stick. So you’d be forgiven if the photos were staged or taken from a train in Italy, as long as the data is real. The real problem is just having an anecdote and no hard facts to back it up. We’re not having that.
I know, this is stuff we do every day. That’s the point, though. We already live in an effectiveness economy. It’s the productivity way of thinking that refuses to go away when it has long outlived its usefulness. Especially when we grapple with decisions that will affect the common good. Let’s shake it off one discussion at a time.
Marcelo Peretti Kuhn is strategy director at Forever Beta.