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Prisoners of precedence

“We’ve always done it that way”. Precedence is a decision killer, we don’t take decisions many times, we just follow the past. more true of marketing. We just rely on many precedents, we priced it that way in the past, we used this media last time around, we used that channel last year! One precedent sets off another.

Came across this amazing email story, some could see the butterfly effect, for me there it is about precedence.

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet,8.5 inches because that’s the way they built railroads in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads. The English built that way because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used. “They” built it that way because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing. And if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts. So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot.

It gets better

There are two big solid booster rockets or SRBs attached to the sides of the main fuel tank when you see a space shuttle sitting on its launch pad. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses’ behinds. Apparently, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass.

The fact is it could have been broken at various stages, earlier the better, but it was never. Probably because no one questioned it! So, the next time you are writing the brief for a 30 second spot, stop for a while and think, question , why a 30 seconder? why a TV spot? why mass media?

It could well be because someone, someday, in some country thought of it to be the right way for one brand! It’s never too late to break a precedence, sooner the better!

Question it, you could be the next Barry Marshall, who proved that 90% of all ulcers are caused by Helicobacter Pylori bacteria.

#precedence #strategicthinking

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