Strikes, Chaos, Anarchy, are great.

Why Tube strikes are great

Recently The Economist reported on data about the unexpected benefit of the London Tube strikes of 2014. Researchers looked at traffic partners of commuters on London's underground and calculated how they adjusted their journeys to cope with the disruption caused by the industrial action.

It was interesting to note that 5% of commuters (over 150k people !!) permanently changed their route after the service was returned to normal. Here’s a beautiful 1 minute video showing 3,000,000 London commuters coming in and out the city every day.

Why is that?

London’s tube map is a famous piece of art deco design and one of the easiest in the world to understand. It however has a serious flaw. The stations are not represented at their true distance apart, and equally the speed of the trains is not taken into consideration. Much of London’s underground system is, not surprisingly, underground, with the consequence that it’s very hard to notice that some train lines have average speeds up to 3x faster than others.

As a result of these issues what can look like the fasted and most logical route might well be slower. Typically commuters pick their route and stick to it, only changing, and potentially improving their circumstances when forced to.

So what?

All this matters for a number of reasons. The most important being, that not only is what appears the easiest route is often not the best, but, and this is the real kicker, that if you continue to always do things the same way, you don’t open yourself up to potentially finding a better way of doing them.

It is an interesting fact that humans love patterns, and once comfortable with a way of doing things will resist change very hard, even when it is to their benefit.

We all need to consider how we do the a certain way. Much of my work is about helping people see that working harder, and continually doing what you’ve always done is a road (or tube journey) to nowhere.

Being discombobulated, forced out of our existing patterns can be annoying, even painful, but we must do it on occasion, if for no other reason than to confirm that the existing system is after all, the best. For 150,000 Londoners their lives were improved.

Not all of us have the opportunity to take that $40k payrise by working from home. But if we are to flourish in the age of automation we need to reconsider every part of our professional lives, and that includes how we even get to it.