I was caught in a traffic jam a couple of weeks ago and despite the fact that I was trapped on a major road doing no more than 10 km per hour for three hours, watching the people around me proved to be a very interesting exercise.

As I watched the other people trapped on the road, I noticed a number of different strategies that people employed to cope with the situation:

  • Some people just wanted to be able to see what was ahead.  These people made sure that they weren’t caught behind large vehicles that obscured their view.  They employed a variety of strategies, they moved from side to side, they changed lane, they pulled back –all designed to give a better view of what was ahead.
  • Some people just wanted a steady progression.  These people left plenty of room ahead so that they could move along at a steady pace, every now and then someone would jump into the space that they left, but they would just drop back a little further to maintain their slow and steady speed.
  • Some people wanted to feel like they were getting somewhere.  These people would stop, wait for a large gap to appear in front of them and then they would speed right up to the car in front before stopping suddenly.
  • Some people just wanted to know what was going on.  These people were checking the internet, had windows down talking to other drivers and were happy to proceed at a slow pace as long as they knew why
  • Some people pulled into the roadside stop to wait it out.  These people were in no hurry to get anywhere, they just didn’t want to put up with the traffic jam.

There were no doubt many other strategies in place on this day, all strategies for dealing with uncertainty along the way to their destination.  Regardless of whether they were the slow and steady type, the speed up type, the just need to see what is ahead or just need to know what is going on type, they all seemed to manage the situation with calmness and good humour.

I wonder where else these strategies might be helpful…

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Written by Lisa Smith

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Lisa is a professional thinker dedicated to helping people unlock their innate creativity and to empower them to think differently – for themselves. She is passionate about building innovative cultures and about harnessing and engaging talent to create thinking communities. Lisa holds an MBA, specialising in organisational change and innovation, which forms the nucleus of her work. She relishes opportunities to share the Minds at Work thinking strategies with government bodies, socially responsible corporate, educators, community groups and farmers, helping them to turn their big ideas into realities.