Category Archives: Innovation

The (loss of) (the inadvertent) kindness of strangers

Old-style parking metersIt seems that my town of Brookline, MA, is going to replace its coin-only old-style parking meters with the new “buy your time from a central machine and apply sticker to car window” or “pay and display” kind of meters. Modernization, I suppose. (The meter maids will keep their jobs, though.)

We get the convenience of paying with a credit card—not having to worry about carrying quarters around with you—but the downside is you now never get any “free” time. With the old parking meters you might pull into a spot and find that the person who was there previously had put in too much money. A gift, in essence. The (inadvertent) kindness of strangers. But a gift nonetheless; a surprise. Free time.

But that only happened because the “time” remained with the machine. Now the time—in the form of a piece of paper with the amount of time you’ve purchased—stays in your car. When you drive away, you take the time with you. Now there’s no chance of stumbling on to someone else’s leftover time. And that’s a shame. Of course, the main upshot from the point of view of the town is that they increase revenue since no one gets any free time any longer. But at what cost?

And I’m not entirely certain about the convenience. Yes, you don’t have to cart around change, but now you have to walk to the machine to get your slip of paper and then come back to your car and attach that to your window. Moreover, as a meter maid told me, “these new machines break down all the time. So you might have to walk way over there to find one that is working.” (On a side note, she was a very friendly meter maid, talkative, smiling, and chatty. She clearly didn’t let people’s views of meter maids bother her. She was having a good time.)

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Interviews over there: Bill Taylor

A quote from my Cool Friend interview with Bill Taylor, author of Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself:

If you’re a leader or you’re in an organization that’s kind of a middle-of-the-road organization, it looks pretty hopeless out there. You’re an organization that says to itself, “How do I become the most of something in my field? How do I get out of the middle of the road?” Maybe it’s the most exclusive, maybe it’s the most affordable, or maybe it’s the most local, but the organization and leaders that are thriving are the ones that embrace this “most of something” mindset and aren’t satisfied with doing things the way everybody else does.

Interviews over there: Richard Pascale

Need change? Forget the experts. Some people in the community already have an answer. Find them. Engage the community, which has to own the solution. Positive deviance only works from the inside out. Read my Cool Friend interview with Richard Pascale, co-author of The Power of Positive Deviance.

Interviews over there: Stephen Shapiro

My Cool Friend interview with Stephen Shapiro, author of Personality Poker: The Playing Card Tool for Driving High-Performance Teamwork and Innovation.