Posts Tagged: Dinner



Public Transit: Dinner or Roomba?

Should transit be more like a Roomba? Image by flickr user Juliette Culver.

Disruptive consumer products are naturally geared towards early adopters and spread because this small cohort of early adopting customers allow the products to get a toe-hold in the market.

iPods, snowboards and microplane graters all benefitted from the fact that only a small fraction of the population needed to initially purchase them in order for an overwhelming chain-reaction to begin:

One person rides a subway with white iPod headphones, suddenly everyone’s got white iPod headphones.

One kid takes to the slopes with a snowboard instead of skis, suddenly everyone’s taking to the slopes with a snowboard instead of skis.

One celebrity chef employs a microplane grater to crush some garlic during a television broadcast, suddenly every home gourmand is employing a microplane to crush some garlic.

That the products are highly visible to the appropriate market is only one half of the equation. The other half of the equation is that the choice to purchase a consumer product typically involves only one – possibly two – decision-makers. It’s an easy decision to make with little real risk involved.

No one ever wrote a feasibility report to decide whether or not to buy a Roomba – which is a good thing for Roomba’s manufacturer. As more people become involved in a decision to purchase a given product, the chance of said product ever being purchased approaches zero.

Want proof? Get eight of your friends together with the intention of going out for dinner, then try to collectively decide on a restaurant. You’ll starve before a decision’s ever made.

Maybe we should be working on ways to make investments in transit less like dinner and more like a Roomba.

That’s not to suggest we should be limiting public involvement in the decision-making process. It is, however, to suggest that we should be doing everything in our power to facilitate and ease the public’s ability to actually make a decision.

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