Something amazing happened in my neighborhood recently, that has lessons for your business. And it has to do with cookies.
Portland, as you may know, is among the top cities in America for bicycling, with the highest percentage of people commuting daily by bike. In the Ladd’s Circle neighborhood, a clash of epic proportions was brewing.
The circular hub of the neighborhood serves as a juncture point to several well trafficked bike friendly routes across the city, used by thousands daily. It is the perfect shape to lean in and buzz right through the stop signs at the outside of the circle and zip around the curves, on your way. I know nothing of that, of course!
This however makes it at times problematic for pedestrians. The neighborhood association is making a big stink, and had decided to take an “action” to nag/force bicyclists to stop. Talk had been made of needing to radically alter the engineering of the streets, change signage, etc. All quite costly.
Then, along comes an unexpected solution: cookies!
Yes, Joe Hand decided to take matters in his own hands, doing what he called, “an experiment in kindness.” He put up signage, and handed out a cookie to all bicyclists who chose to stop. And by most indications, it was a huge success.
Hand humorously summed it up by saying a potential solution would be to, “Replace every controversial stop sign with a fresh chocolate chip cookie dispenser. Now, obviously this will be delicious. Sadly this is not a long term solution."
As trivial and silly as this may sound, his goal with this and other experiments is one that we as business leaders would do well to aim for as well: “Address controversial issues with unconventional methods to put fresh perspective on the situation.”
I couldn’t agree more with this thinking.
How many times have you come up against obstacles, both in and outside your company, where things reached an impasse, and trying to force people to change their behavior/thinking just wasn’t working? Absolutely, things can be achieved by declaration. But as we all know, those are ultimately less durable, and loaded with the lack of efficiency that comes with underlying resentment and resistance.
So my question to you is, how can your business use unconventional thinking to create a desirable result for all parties involved? Try setting down your usual tactics, presumptions and biases, and opening to a different way of interacting. Sometimes, the surprise alone of an unexpected approach is enough to get people out of their patterned responses, and closer to resolution.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, below.
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, blogs weekly on green start ups of note at Triple Pundit and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.