Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Waiting Place

Behavioral economists Thaler and Sunstein examine “status quo bias” in their 2008 book “Nudge” – why people tend not to change an established behavior unless the incentive to change is compelling. Cerebral stuff! Dr. Seuss addressed the same topic back in 1990 in his classic “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

Read On:
The Waiting Place….for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting. Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.

Dr. Seuss’s words of rhyme and verse humorously illustrate the status quo we all experience in life – in relationships, marriage, work, etc. Even when we attend meetings and tend to sit in the same seats in the conference room, similar to grade school when we conformed to seating charts. Why do we practice status quo? People become predisposed to “yeah, whatever, it is what it is” performance. Let’s face it; status quo is less risky than making a change. Thaler and Sunstein theorize that unless people are given a compelling reason, an incentive, they will maintain status quo. Scary stuff given we live in turbulent times where we need to start considering major changes, initiate innovative thinking if we are ever going to get to the next level.

In closing, I apologize for sounding cynical, but I am witnessing status quo in my industry, foodservice. Everyone keeps doing the same old thing – participating in food shows, advertising in trade journals that nobody has time to read anymore, etc. Makes me wonder, is it only in my industry or is it all industries?

Is it society?

Remember: Stay away from status quo and enjoy the places you will go.


  1. Marketers are well aware of the 'Nudge'. Second rule to getting a response is 'strength of the offer'(first is the list). W/O incentives, people don't act or respond.

    As for Foodservice, I do think the industry is lax in innovation possibly due to the lack of using information like that in CPG or other industries. While at NPD, I saw many foodservice functions without knowledge on how to use info, let alone use it to think differently.

  2. Yes, for many life is what we do while we're waiting to die, but that's certainly not true for everyone. There are many upstarts in our industry that are trying new things everyday... out of necessity if nothing else. You cycnical? Mais non! Changes are glacial at an industry level... and by this year's reported attendance at the "big show" the glacier is melting--slowly.

  3. In all deference to Jackie and Joan’s comments, I have to side with Jim that the mainstream FS companies seem to be stuck in an insanity loop: Keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Initially, the economic crisis ground the activities down even lower, but I am seeing some loosening of the reins of late. Breaking free of the status quo however, continues to elude the bigger companies. I’m convinced that it’s a leadership issue. (But what isn’t?)

    Overall, a thought provoking post, Jimmy. I am familiar with Nudge, but honestly hadnt thought of it in a while. I may re-visit.