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Outside The Box

Being told you are someone who ‘thinks outside the box’ is a compliment. Are people ‘stuck in the box’ and is that a compliment too? It’s a curious question. Whatever the nature of that box is, it must have an inside and an outside, and there must be a purpose in being in and out of it.  

It was the late Edward De Bono who had the idea of deliberately looking at things from different perspectives. Throughout his life he was a wonderful teacher of how to think. He invented the term lateral thinking. The first time I met him I was struck how he still used an overhead projector in his lectures. This was at a time when the misuse of Powerpoint was new but on the ascent.

It’s been 30 years since I watched him and his overhead projector. During that talk he suggested a solution to the parking problems so many cities suffer from. He suggested that you can park in any parking space for free but you had to leave your lights on. People know this is the rule and know if they are too long the inconvenience of a flat battery will be huge. This idea introduced personal accountability, but also the freedom to ignore that and accept the consequence. At the time electric cars weren’t even on the horizon, but the idea of personal accountability is a good one.

Most towns and villages suffer from speeding motorists. If you look at the figures, as I have done as someone responsible for collecting the data from those flashing ‘slow down’ signs, you’ll probably notice a few things. In a 30mph area, the average speed is around the speed limit mark, 33 mph is typical. So on the face of it, what’s 3mph between friends? Not much unless you’ve been on a speed awareness course. Next, when you look at the volumes not percentages, it reveals something interesting. Only 5% of the motorists are the naughty ones doing in excess of 35, some as high as 60, in a 30mph zone. 5% is not much is it?  Then look at the traffic volumes. 5% equates to 3000 vehicles, in the space of a month, driving at dangerously excessive speeds. That is a lot!

In my village in Norfolk, there are two businesses. One is a pub (Shoulder of Mutton), and the other is a mechanics (Page’s Garage). When they are busy, which is often, their punters have to park on the main road which turns the road into a single carriageway. Not wishing to crash, people wishing to squeeze through slow down.

So there are two clear speed reduction methods on offer. Encourage people to go to the pub and encourage people to get their car fixed in the local garage. Failing that, for less than the price of one of those flashing SAM2 signs, 4 bangers could be bought, taxed, MOTd and insured and parked on the road in various places and achieve much more than the flashing sign could.

Why are such things rejected? It might be something to do with them being outside the box. In this case, the box being the traditional way of doing things. Why then are people addicted to the traditional way of doing things? It’s rather like having a building idea rejected because it is not ‘in keeping’ with other buildings, when those other buildings are utterly awful.

Why do budgets have to be spent before a deadline else they will be lost? Why are e-scooters available to rent but private scooters illegal to use? Why are millions spent on public ‘upgrades’ only for the upgrade to be worse than what it replaced? Who doesn’t sense that ‘safety is our priority’ is a utopian statement that can only be fulfilled by removing people’s freedom to choose?

I do wonder what proportion of the UK population are in or out of that imaginary box? I bet that most people want to be out of that box, but I suspect most are stuck in it.