Walking on the streets of London and buying goods in Marrakech

Posted on 20/10/2009


I have been intrigued by the inherent (potential) trade-off of efficiency and creativeness. The need to crunch and get stuff done fast and the more time expansive and less efficient methods to create art. Let me tell two stories to create some debate, the topics are ‘Walking the streets of London’ & ‘buying goods in Marrakesh’.

Have you noticed how hard it is to walk down a street in London? Do you go to the left or right? The city is always so full of tourists or folks that grew up thinking ‘go right’ (like me), that navigating street or tube traffic can be dangerous. The city is also built up on village roads that have been connected over time, so nothing is straight, it is a bunch of curves. I am used to using the sun to guide my way, although that tends to get taken out with the daily rain. So generally I find myself dodging random people on the sidewalks and disorientated following my google maps on my blackberry – no wonder it takes cab drivers two years to get their licence.

Buying goods in Marrakesh takes a long time, as nothing has a set price, rather a personalised price just for you. You start with observing the good, such as a carpet, for anything more than a second and you have the shop keeper’s attention. At this point the discussion begins, with you having to go first so that they can get a sense of just how personalised to make the price. After 20minutes and some back and forth, some grimaces, some awkward moments, a stare down, the carpet is yours – and generally you suffer from winner’s curse or you do not really know how to feel about whether that was a good deal or not. On the one hand, all of this is very inefficient, imagine if you had to walk on just one side, always. A grid would make the world a much easier place to navigate. If you just put price tags on everything, it would be faster, maybe sell more, higher prices maybe, not sure.

On the other hand, it would be far less interesting. We like the short blocks, different ways to walk to work or get from A to B. There is pleasure in the process of bartering, it is a ritual and exchange that increases the happiness of those involved.

Would love to know your thoughts and how you have struck a happy medium between the two, next blog will some ideas I have had…

Cheers, Steve

Latest genius music playlist based on the first song, a bit more rock n’roll:

  • Kashmir, Led Zeppelin
  • Money, Pink Floyd
  • Evenflow, Pearl Jam
  • Pride, U2
  • All apologies, Nirvana
  • Riders on the Storm, The Doors
  • Money for Nothing, Dire Straits
  • Give it Away, Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Fly Away, Lenny Kravitz
  • London Calling, The Clash


  • Book: Breath by Tim Winton, a really nice coming of age story with surfing as the backdrop. Not convinced of the ending, although the adventure and energy about surfing was amazing.
  • Film: Long Way Down; a follow on to their successful Long Way Around documentary, this time riding from Scotland to South Africa on motorbikes. It has the usual ups and downs of travelling 65 days with a bunch of people and difficult times; it is also a great advertisement for Africa, wow is it beautiful. We have been to a couple places, and after watching this we have added many to the list!
Posted in: Business, Life, Strategy