I was once told a story by someone who had been to an open air opera. I think it was Sarah and it was in Italy but those bits of information are not germane to the tale.
What is important is that it was in the open air and the sun was shining, or at least it was warm and dry. During the performance there were refreshment vendors wandering amongst the audience, selling their wares. Focaccia con salame or cornetti con panna perhaps? They may have made do with bags of peanuts however.
Part way through the show the weather turned and the heavens opened. The vendors put down their trays of drinks and snacks and instead picked up a tray of umbrellas. They kept their trade going.
This little story showed me that there is clear business opportunity through disruption. Necessity is the mother of all invention after all. My lean startup training reminded me that we should not start with solutions but rather with problems that can be solved.
I was thinking of this in context of town planning. It’s a long story but we were thinking of using data to help plan better the built environment. Development tends to be around available land or used to try and modify behaviour, yet we all know how this doesn’t work. Opening a new road just leads to more traffic. The drive to improve traffic flow just leads to driving into greater congestion. People are too fickle and selfish. They will pick and choose what is right for them ultimately rather than what they were supposed to do.
Using data would mean that you can study actual people flows rather than observed ones. It will allow developers to build where people naturally go rather than where it is hoped they will. Developing to influence people’s behaviour is a noble intention but is ultimately flawed. As humans we will always look for the easy way.