Crossing the Street

This may be a little too esoteric or perhaps I'm stretching to have something to post but I noticed something this morning on my commute that made me think.

It seems as though people who have a lot of experience walking in a busy urban environment react to crossing the street differently than those who are less experienced. This observation goes back some years but the thought just crystallized in my head today. In the past I've complained about Cincinnatians waiting on a corner when there's a "Don't Walk" indicator, even though there's not a car for miles. I was always amused when someone would proceed to venture across the street and like lemmings the rest would follow. I mistakenly attributed it to the nature and personality of Midwesterners. My bias had blinded me to the truth.

In fact, it seems to be experience that's the dividing factor. When you have tons of experience in a crowded city you naturally develop the skill to look in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. When faced with a "Don't Walk" you immediately take note of the traffic light, is it green or yellow. If it's green you know you have time. You also take note of the traffic, if the light changes would the oncoming traffic be blocked by the cross traffic? Out of the corner of your eye you check to see if anyone is turning and if they are on a phone or not paying attention. This all happens without a conscientious thought in an instance. 

On the other hand, you see someone who rarely navigates the downtown streets and they are overwhelmed by all the traffic. The constant motion distracts them. They don't know where to look. There's just too much information and they don't know how to filter out the meaningless and focus on the critical. When they see someone who obviously has more experience they willingly take clues from her. 

I realize this seems obvious, but there's a lesson for decision makers here. Today, marketers and managers are faced with an onslaught of information, opportunities and distractions. The temptation is to be distracted by all the glittering objects. The response is often to make decisions with only a sliver of the information rather than letting those who have experience in their area of expertise give them clues about what to look at. Managers are responding to an erroneous belief that they, as the leader, should know everything, they should make every decision. I've been amazed to see CEOs spend hours reviewing decor decisions for an office remodel. I've seen COOs worry about the formatting of email signatures. I've seen senior managers fret over who's going to sit in what cubicle. They're not looking at the traffic light, they're oblivious to the oncoming traffic and you know what that could lead to.

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