Old, not old-fashioned

Posted by Jenni Armstrong on 25 July 2013

There was once an old man called Shaw. He grew up in Queens and worked in Manhattan. He was an almost retired salesman; spending his days moving from one meeting to another; from Madison Avenue to 86th and everywhere in between. In those days, getting around wasn’t easy. Few people had cars and the subway service was limited. Most people walked or, like Shaw, travelled by horse drawn cart. That’s what he loved most about his job. For him, there was nothing better, nothing more beautiful, than going through Central Park and hearing the horse’s hooves clip clop along the way. Shaw would often wonder, “Why do they insist on driving those damned automobiles … when a horse can get you where you’re going”.

This typifies our all too frequent reaction when faced with something new; when faced with change. Shaw would insist that his traditional form of transport was best. He would construct stories about why this was so; post-rationalising the pros and cons of both. The horse connects man with nature. It’s better for the environment. It’s safer. It’s a sign of sophistication and so on.

We all do this. Consider how people talk about vinyl and the ‘superior sound quality’. Consider our justification for ‘real’ books. We love to touch and turn the pages. We love the smell of the ink and the paper. We love getting lost in a bookstore. Our love of books, vinyl or travel by horse drawn cart is not old-fashioned; it’s nostalgic; it’s romantic and, perhaps most importantly, it’s human nature.

We hold on to what we know. We cling to familiarity and our most common experiences. We don’t like change. We only like change we like. We now know that the car is superior to the horse; that the iPod wouldn’t exist if we insisted on only listening to vinyl and, let’s face it, Kindles save trees.

In this increasingly complex world, where the only constant is change, it seems that human nature may be at odds with the new rules of business, innovation and progression. This then raises the question – are those rules at odds with human nature?