Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Tradition Makes You Blind To The Obvious

Before 1989, catching a flight was a workout. Wheelies didn’t exist. So everyone at the airport lugged their luggage by hand and huffed and puffed through the terminals.

It was dreadful. And also fascinating.

We actually put a man on the moon (1969) before someone had the bright idea to put wheels on a travel bag (1970).

Sadly, the first rolling suitcase was a flop because many men felt it was an ‘unmanly’ invention. A ‘real’ man carried not only his own luggage but that of his partner too. 

Eclipsed by sexism, everyone forgot all about rolling luggage until pilot Robert Plath reinvented the gliding suitcase 20 years later.

The remix was an instant hit.

This wasn’t the first time a simple and convenient solution took forever to get to market.

At the Bombay Table Tennis Championships in the ‘50s, a Japanese player called Hiroji Satoh changed the entire sport of table tennis with an incredibly plain invention.

An inch of foam on both sides of his racquet. 

Now nobody could hear the ping pong ball hit his bat. Only silence.

That may seem harmless, but at the time everyone played off the sound of the ball bouncing off the racquet. An experienced player could determine where the ball would go by ear alone.

So nobody stood a chance. 

Despite that he was the worst rated player of the tournament, Hiroji steamrolled his opponents and became the champion. All thanks to a blindingly obvious innovation.

Everyone was just so used to tradition that no one thought to look outside the norm and glue some foam to a ping pong bat.

The same happened to Dick Fosbury who ‘flopped’ his way over the high jump bar and took the gold at the Olympics in ‘68. Although first ridiculed, Dick’s technique soon became the standard.

And that’s where the trouble lies.

Standards and traditions.

Once we get used to them, it’s very hard to look at the world without them. 

Take watch advertisements.

Every watch advertisement has the hands set to ten past ten because it resembles a smile. (Just type in ‘watch advertisements’ in Google.)

The hilarious point?

The ‘10:10’ presentation has rooted itself so deep in the head of every marketer, that even digital watches are set to the same time. Even though it looks nothing like a smile.

So not only does tradition make you blind to the obvious, tradition makes you blind to its origin.

Always question why things are done the way they are.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach