A primary purpose of this blog is collect and share ideas that provide supportive evidence and examples of how great business can be as simple as returning to older, tried, and fundamentally important ways of doing business. Hence the title of this blog “By Hand”.
This post is about how a city government used shame, a fundamentally powerful and effective force for influencing our behavior, to get people to obey laws and act more safely. Peer pressure still works long after junior high school! I came across the story while listening to a June 21, 2012 Freakonomics podcast, and a synopsis of the story is as follows…
In Bogota, Colombia, the capital city’s mayor at the time, Antanas Mockus, hired mimes to essentially make fun of citizens who were walking or driving unsafely in city streets. A pedestrian running across the road would be tracked by a mime who mocked his every move. Mimes also poked fun at reckless drivers. By publicly drawing attention to the citizens as they drove or walked unsafely, the Mayor’s brilliant idea was to use peer pressure and our natural desire for social conformity to cause these unlawful citizens to feel shame and change their behavior. The city government did not hand out traffic tickets with financial penalties to these jaywalkers or unsafe drivers; rather it used shame prompt behavior change. As a result, the citizens learned lessons learned by their heart instead of the wallet; and the rate of traffic accidents in Bogota were greatly reduced!
According to a BoingBoing.net article, initially 20 professional mimes shadowed pedestrians who didn’t follow crossing rules, but the program was so popular that another 400 people were trained as mimes.