How is social business like urban traffic?

I posted this over at GigaOM Pro:

I think there is an important parallel between urban travel and social business. There is a now well-understood but counter-intuitive law in traffic engineering, called Braess’ paradox, where closing streets can lead to better traffic flow.

Linda Baker, Removing Roads and Traffic Lights Speeds Urban Travel

The brainchild of mathematician Dietrich Braess of Ruhr University Bochum in Germany, the eponymous paradox unfolds as an abstraction: it states that in a network in which all the moving entities rationally seek the most efficient route, adding extra capacity can actually reduce the network’s overall efficiency. The Seoul project inverts this dynamic: closing a highway—that is, reducing network capacity—improves the system’s effectiveness.


It turns out that you don’t have to actually close streets off to cars to get these effects, you can institute what is called ‘shared streets’, where traffic lights and markings are removed, forcing drivers to operate on a more social basis: making eye contact with other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. These approaches share a common basis: movement in the system requires multilateral agreement. In Braess’ world, unilateral optimization is blocked, and in shared streets, social interaction is made necessary.


sourceEmily Badger

My belief is that this is quite like the adoption of social principles in business.

Go read the whole thing, where I lay out Boyd’s Law, among other things.

How is social business like urban traffic?

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