What’s this place optimized for?

Everything around us, notes Jason Crawford, is a solution. It may be a ‘local maxima’ rather than a ‘global maxima’, but everything around us is the best idea we’ve had yet (given the culture and incentives).

And these solutions all influence our decision. The punchline to behavioral sciences, says Kristen Berman is environment, environment, environment. The question to ask then is: A solution for who?

“If you go to a mall how could you not spend money? People have thought deeply about how to get you to spend money, they’ve thought deeply about getting you to buy something. It’s a hard fight, and it’s getting harder. Amazon Prime is the gold standard for this. They’ve figured out something about human behavior and it’s going to be hard to fight that.” – Kristen Berman, October 2021

Cinnabon is a tasty brick and mortar example of how place matters. The stores are in places of captured traffic and infrequent visits. Da Buns, said Kat Cole, are treats. So the frequency of customers affects the type of product.

Another instance is that oh-you-know-it smell. That wonderful waft was an accident. The first location lacked enough room for the oven to go in the back – per best practice prescription – so it was jammed in the front. Learning their lessons, the second location prioritized moving the oven out of the way. Whoops. Luckily for us all, they fixed that.

I’m not as strongly behavioral as Berman (though I did update) but her idea of wise designs hits home. In 2014 our family went on a Disney Cruise. We had a blast. But one evening my wife scheduled dinner with a Disney Vacation Club (their timeshare component) representative. It was there, in that office, sweating bullets that I realized something about myself. I’m bad at ‘No.’

This guy was good. Each objection he countered. Each escape he blocked. Each obstacle he climbed. Somehow, like Aladdin, we escaped.

Now I know about ‘No’ and good design and Berman’s advice.

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