Why default settings matter

In countries like France and Austria, they have a 99% consent rate to donate their organs while next door in Germany it’s 12%.

How does France and Austria get so much buy in?

It turns out, by simply redesigning their DMV form to be an “opt-out” instead of an “opt-in” (meaning, you are automatically enrolled as an organ donor unless you check a box to say otherwise), you can dramatically increase the number of organ donors.

Astonishing to think about really.

If you change the default settings, you can change behavior.

It’s not that people don’t care or think that organ donating is a bad thing. It’s that we, as human beings, have a difficult time making difficult decisions. Because we make so many, when we can outsource them, (i.e. leave it for someone or something else to decide like the environment) we will. Especially, if it doesn’t appear to have any consequences.

Not every solution needs to involve moving mountains to fix a broken system.

It’s the small and seemingly insignificant decisions that we don’t even think about that can lead to great things.

Sue them

Have you heard the story of the burglar attempting to steal a skylight off the roof of a high school gymnasium but ended up falling through becoming severely injured? Did you hear that he sued the school and was awarded $260,000?

Well, that story is mostly untrue.

The teenager was attempting to adjust a light to play basketball. While he was trespassing, he stepped through a skylight and did hurt himself. The problem was that the school had a previous incident and failed to act.

(I’ve also heard this story told as a burglar with a knife in someone’s house.)

The problem isn’t the inaccurate form of telephone. The problem is that many of us use this story to validate our fears.

That’s why it’s so important to cite in our era of fake news. It spreads unnecessary fear. People taking reasonable precautions about trampolines, pools, negative reviews should be fine.

While there is no doubt that we live in an era where we can be sued for the coffee being too hot, the risk of being sued is nowhere near as high as the fear of being sued.

What happened at Köln?

In 1975, Keith Jarrett was booked for a solo piano improvisation concert recording in the Opera House of Cologne. It was a highly anticipated show with a sold-out crowd.

The problem was the tech crew had set up the wrong piano. Not only that, the piano they had on stage didn’t have pedals that worked properly, it was too small for the venue size, the upper registers were too tinny and thin and the bass register was too weak.

Jarrett, frustrated, almost refused to go on stage that night. For whatever reason he said Yes. In that moment, despite working in less than ideal conditions, he went out and performed, adjusting his play to the tool he had.

The Producer, Manfred Eicher, later said, “Probably played it the way he did because it was not a good piano. Because he could not fall in love with the sound of it, he found another way to get the most out of it.”

The Köln Concert would later become the best-selling solo album in jazz history, and the all-time best-selling piano album.

Did the album become a success because of the conditions he played in? Did it give it the unique sound we want to hear? Would it have been better if he had the piano that was originally planned?

I’m not sure.

I do know that if he refused to play that night, it would have never happened.

You’ll never know what happens next unless you say yes.

Newsies isn’t just a Disney show

In 1899, there were over 10,000 homeless boys in the streets of New York City. Many of them survived by selling newspapers.

These newsies, who made 30 cents a day, banned together and called a strike, refusing to distribute the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer.

A few individuals with no status, no permission, no authority, no money, no education stood up to the two most powerful men in New York and said enough is enough, follow me.

They changed things.

So, why can’t you?

What did they have that you don’t?

How long do you stand by and let injustice continue?

People have made great change happen with far fewer resources and far less talent and skills than you.

What’s your excuse?

“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” — John Stuart Mill, 1867

How can you sustain the work?

Paula Scher has worked in graphic design for 40 years. Her work spans from album covers, to NY Times articles and the world’s largest independent design consultancy.

How does one continue to sustain this type of work?

As Scher says, “I’m driven by the hope that I haven’t made my best work yet.”

Think about that for a moment. Because it’s how Bob Dylan has made 38 albums since 1962. Or how Isaac Asimov wrote 400 books in his lifetime.

All artists are driven by this idea that today could be the day that you do your best work. And tomorrow, you get to do it again.