Benefits of Messy

Good example of how random shock can help create improvements. From Messy by Tim Harford.

“...In 2014, some of the workers on London’s Underground system went on strike for two days. The strike closed 171 of the Tube’s 270 stations, leaving commuters scrambling to find alternative routes using buses, overground trains or the stations that remained open. Many London commuters use electronic fare cards that are valid on all forms of public transport, and after the strike, three economists examined data generated by those cards. The researchers were able to see that most people used a different route to get to work on the strike days, no doubt with some annoyance. But what was surprising is that when the strike was over, not everybody returned to their habitual route. One in twenty of the commuters who had switched then stayed with the route that they had used during the strike; presumably, they had discovered that it was faster or cheaper or preferable in some other way to their old routine. We tend to think that commuters have their route to work honed to perfection; evidently not. A substantial minority promptly found an improvement to the journey they had been making for years. All they needed was an unexpected shock to force them to seek out something better…”