Skating on thin ice

Imagine that it’s Winter, you’re walking in the forest, and you see a frozen pond with a hundred people skating on it. Now, imagine walking past the same pond with nobody, or just one person skating on it. Would you be more likely to go skating on the pond in the first case or in the second one?”
Luc De Brabandere and Alan Iny

Luc and Alan go on to propose that most people would feel safer in the first case than the second, as the presence of more people will make you feel better about the risk of the ice cracking. But they also rightly point out that a hundred more people on the ice adds a lot more weight for it to support and therefore makes it more likely to fail.

The interesting parallel of this is that, all things being otherwise equal, it’s actually safer to be the first to try an innovation than to follow what everyone else is doing.

Our exercise last week on elephants, swans and frogs indicates that there is still so much room to improve OSS but it probably requires entirely new thinking paradigms rather than following a hundred other skaters onto the ice.

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