Golden Lesson 5: Changing the context (the Shoe Culling Principle)

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I live in a small flat.  I have two teenage daughters who have grown quite a lot since we started this blog.  They have acquired many pairs of shoes in that time.  I have often raised a call to arms to do a shoe cull.  Usually this has resulted in maybe 2 pairs of shoes exiting the flat.  It has never worked – we are overun.

A few weeks ago I tried a new method to get Family Cassidy to focus on the “Shoe Problem”.

I thought Tess and Maddie needed to see the real issue at hand – the real nature of the problem.  And to allow them to make decisions and tradeoffs “Ah yes, I have 5 pairs of the same type of shoe and thus maybe the 5th pair, which is quite manky now and hasn’t been worn for 3 years, should be culled”. (OK I admit I have a middle aged male’s view on shoe ownership.)

So I was up early one morning and prepared the living room to expose the full nature of the problem.

It was a bit of a surprise when they awoke.  Initially it led to lots of warm reminiscing about shoes and moments they had shared (the shoes in question and Tess/Maddie).  This was an unintended cosequence, though maybe part of the “letting go” process.  However, this presentation of the shoes in the living room also made a cull much easier to achieve and the shoe population was decimated (well, let’s say reduced quite a bit).



What did this little experiment (well, bit of fun) do? It made it easy to cull by: (i) allowing decisions to be made easily (seeing that maybe there was only one studdded high heel and thus it was useless), showing that a certain pair could be let go as there were at least two similar pairs which would full that shoe purpose - allowing comparison/contrast/prioritisation; (ii) putting all the shoes in one place (no ferretting about to find shoes in various corners of the flat/cupboards – they were all in one place) and in taking up the living room – no way to escape:  easy to focus – make the decision – act.  (Also it was quite fun.)

Overall I think it changed the context of the decision.

I think this is important in bringing about change.



When I gave up the car for the initial year I was forcibly changing the context of my mobility decision making.  It made me look to other ways of meeting my mobility needs- it made me look at other ways of living my life, choosing new ways of travelling, comparing and contrasting prices/availabilities etc.  It was a bit of a pain doing this  - it wasn’t exactly seamless (see Golden Lesson 2) – but I had to do this.

For other people voluntarily considering any move to giving up the car, the change needs to be made easier: people need to have confidence that it is doable, and there is a safety net if things go wrong.  As with the shoe cull: Tess and Maddie needed to be sure that they have alternative pairs of shoes if other pairs were to be killed.  They needed an easy way to make an informed decision.  In a car free context, being able to  understand: Will i save money?  Can I still pick up the kids when needed?  How will I do my shopping? How will I feel?  How will I get to work? Can I easily get a car club or hire car? What if it all goes wrong?  What are the benefits to me and my family? A decision making “tool”  needs to be available – in one place or via one service.  To be personalised.  To be accurate. To be reassuring. (Importantly technology can REALLY help here and can ALLOW new organisational approaches to deliver such tools.)

And even if the car isn’t being given up – it’s not an option for many people – some tool would be useful.  Cassidy Family have learnt that there are so many benefits from giving up the car/walking more/using public transport more etc, as this blog has talked about.  However, only by easily and seamlessly and personally answering the questions above can the context of decision making be changed and new ways of mobility be seen to be “worth it” “for me”.  Ideally such tools would facilitate action as well – “yes I am reassured and I have guarantees that  it’s for me – I’ll buy in now and I will start benefiting now”.  A change in the context within which to make personal mobility decisions and a view to a new future context for personal mobility/lifestyles.

Below is my favourite quote – in fact the only one I know!  It’s applicable anywhere there’s a problem.  For Golden Lesson 5 aswell.  Individuals (and cities and rural areas) have transport problems.  There is a need to think differently to solve them.  There is a need to change the context within which thinking and decisions are taken.  It’s The Shoe Culling Principle – change the context for decision making – change the terms of reference – reframe the problem – find a new solution – make action easy.

Oh, and make it fun.

We Cannot Solve Our Problems with The Same Thinking we Used When We Created Them ~ Inspirational Quote


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