Is Free Public Transportation the Answer for Germany to Meet Pollution Norms of EU?


DW Akademie recently reported that Germany would like to experiment with making public transportation free in 5 of its cities to explore if this can help it meet the pollution norms of European Union. The question is if this is the approach that will produce the results that it is expecting to achieve. This in addition to the policy to ban all petrol vehicles by 2030.

Wicked problems:

This is a classic example of what I call a wicked problem. This problem is so multi-faceted with so many different implications that it is extremely difficult to solve. Before we even go looking for solutions to the problem, we need to first understand the real nature or cause of the problem. When we dive deeper, we get to know that the people living in Germany are already aware of the fact that it is important to reduce pollution. In an ideal world, they might even be willing to take public transportation instead of taking their cars out. Some of them already carpool to work. They know that the more cars on the road, the more traffic jams and more time spend sitting in a car (which might or might not be productive, depending on what they are doing in the car while waiting for them to cross the traffic jams.

So, why are more people not taking public transportation? I think we need to delve a little deeper here.

  • Is taking public transport faster? I think it is important for the answer to this question to be an astounding “Yes” in order for behaviour change (from using private cars to using public transportation) to happen.
  • Is taking public transport convenient? If we have to walk about 15 mins to get to a bus or tram stand (at times in extremely cold conditions), you can safely assume that we will prefer taking our cars out rather than taking public transportation.
  • Is taking our own car significantly more expensive? For Most people whom we want to influence to take public transport instead of their private cars, making public transportation fee is no big deal. They can very well afford to pay for public transportation if they decide to take it. To get them to ditch their cars, the financial impact needs to be much more significant than making public transportation free.


With wicked problems like these, we need to explore and prototype potential solutions and try them out in small pockets before rolling out to larger and larger communities.

Given this background info, what could the first prototype look like:

1. Create a smaller transportation system for people to use to reach public transport hubs (without having to walk or drive). These could be on-demand buggies that come to your home to pick you and drop you off at the closest public transportation hub (bus, train or tram stations).

2. Implement surge pricing for parking slots during the day in public parking garages & reduce the number of public parking garages by re-purposing some of these into public areas instead (shops, food trucks, public parks, co-working spaces, etc).

Why would this work:

By implementing this combination, what are doing is making it easy to reach public transport hubs and at the same time making it difficult for people to use their car (as it will get more and more difficult and expensive to find a parking slot). This combination would get people to give public transport a try and once they realise that it is easier, cheaper and faster to get around their city using public transport, it will become their default mode of transport.

Of course, this is not a perfect solution. This is only the first of many prototypes but I believe is a great start to solving this wicked problem.

It is important that we make it easier to take public transportation before we start increasing the parking fee. Doing it the other way would be a sure shot way to create public unrest and will never work.

In conclusion:

In solving wicked problems like these, we need to be careful and look at the problem holistically before we even try to attempt to solve it. And most of the times, solving these complex, wicked problems takes a bit of creativity and a combination of ideas to address the critical areas to solve the problem.

Do you think the prototype I have suggested has the potential to get more and more people to try out public transportation?

PBTO S2E4: Rethinking Vertical Movement Inside a Building

Who is on the show:

In this episode we host architect and product designer Elena Larriba. She works at the intersection between art, science and design. Her curiosity leads her to investigate new concepts, technologies and techniques which she blends together in novel experiments merging engineering, design and craft.

Why is she on the show:

She is the designer of a vertical movement product called Vycle, which is a hybrid version of a cycle and an elevator and can be used for vertical movement. She has since this conversation gone on to create a lot more interesting products.

What did I learn from the conversation:

  • There are opportunities all around us. We only need to look with curious eyes.
  •  One of the easiest way for us to come up with interesting ideas is to combine multiple ideas in ways never tried before.
  •  The importance of imagination in the product creation process.
  •  The importance of repeated prototyping in solving some specific problem.
  • You don’t need to be an expert or experienced for you to have breakthrough ideas. What this means is that anyone on your team can have breakthrough ideas. Listen to them and their ideas.

How can you find more about her and her work:

You can find more information about her and her portfolio of work here. You can also reach her by e-mail.
This episode is brought to you by Skillshare. You can get 2 months of Skillshare for free .

Staying relevant in A Fast Changing World

The 40 – 40 Chasm?

Last week, I was attending a conference for senior marketers in Bangalore. One of the things that stuck with me from that conference was something that host Jessie Paul mentioned – the 40 – 40 chasm. She explained that if you are above 40 in age and earned 40Lakhs INR, you are supposed to be an endangered species in a corporate environment. She went on to talk about how most of us at this age have stopped learning and growing as individuals. What surprised me, even more, was the fact that most people in the audience (again in the 40-40 chasm) agreed with her comment.

Not me! Why?

This surprised me because I have never stopped learning. I learn
– by reading books                                                                                                                                – by listening to podcasts
– by interviewing thought leaders for a podcast that I host
– by attending conferences

and finally
– by participating in online courses via platforms like Coursera, Udacity, CreativeLive.

For the past couple of years, I have even taken a premium membership of SkillShare and this has become my go-to-channel for ongoing online learning (aside of coursera). I have learned from such stalwarts like Seth Godin, Simon Sinek & James Victore.

Free 2-month-premium membership!

All-in-all, I believe that this is an extremely important topic and one that all of us should pay attention to. If you are not already using some of these online platforms to continue to learn all life, I invite you to try out SkillShare. They have been kind enough to offer 2 months of premium membership to all my friends who join SkillShare using this link.

Find a buddy

A long journey (such as life & continuous learning) is best enjoyed with good company. So, find that one person (your son/daughter/spouse or colleague or a friend) with whom you would like to go on this journey and invite them to join with you. This way, not only will you learn something together but build a stronger bond with this person, thereby nourishing the relationship.

Best way to learn is to teach

I remember one of my professors in college telling me that the best way to learn and retain what we learn is to teach it to somebody else. Taking this to heart, I have decided that for my very own internalisation of everything important that I learn and to spread the knowledge, I shall start teaching. As my preferred platform of choice to learn is SkillShare, it was natural for me to choose SkillShare as the platform to teach on as well.

Start of my teaching career at SkillShare

I recently launched a course (first of many more to come, I am sure) on “How to run a good brainstorming session” on SkillShare. You can find this course on SkillShare here. If you do decide to join Skillshare and check my class out, please do send me an email with your feedback on the class and if there is anything that I can do better or could have done differently. I will be grateful for all your advice and inputs. If you think someone in your team, family or friends can benefit from running a good brainstorming session, please do share this course with them as well and help spread the word.

As Harold Jarche says, let’s stay in ‘perpetual beta…’.

Mime Artists & A City’s Transformation

I came across a story that could potentially be a Hollywood blockbuster. This is the story of a mayor who transformed an entire city, an unruly one into one that learnt to follow rules. He did this by breaking all the rules about how a politician should look like or behave like. And the entire transformation of the city started by getting “Mime” artists performing on the street.


To understand the extent of the ingenuity, lets first try to comprehend the problem that was being tackled (sounds a lot like our cities):
  1. Lots of people dying on the roads due to accidents.
  2. Traffic jams galore around the city as neither pedestrians nor motorists would not follow the traffic rules.
  3. Corrupt cops who would prefer accepting bribes & letting traffic violators go against fining them and bringing them in to face the law.
Trying to tackle even just one of these problems would be difficult enough, try addressing all three together.
Lets just take a minute and think about what would you do if you were elected mayor of a city like this one…


Instead of increasing the policing or launching a mass media advertising campaign to ask people to behave, the mayor took a group of “mime” artists to the street and asked them to show people what their rights were on the road (both motorists and pedestrians). And make it a spectacle of doing it. Though, most people dismissed the idea as a gimmick and expected it to not work…


Boy did it work… Deaths on the roads reduced by more than 50%… traffic jams reduced as people started following the rules… This allowed the mayor to weed out the corrupt cops, some of whom then went on to sign up to become the “mimes” on the road educating and humoring people on road etiquette.
The transformation of the city had just begun. This mayor went on to do great work changing how people acted in the cities.
He brought in “The Carrot Rule”, which was that the city will not be allowed to party post 1:00AM and many more.
He was followed by another mayor equally innovative, who changed the way the entire city looked. He built 100’s of public parks, migrated slum dwellers in to low-cost housing, built some of the best schools and libraries in the poorest neighbourhood.
Within 3 terms between them, together they transformed the entire city.
The city we are talking about is Bogotá. The mayors we are Antanus Mockus and Enrique Penalosa.
You can watch an entire documentary film on how these two mayors transformed Bogotá here (Strongly recommend that you go watch this documentary).


There are a few things that I learn from this transformation story:
  1. To solve a large complex problems, you don’t need a large and complex solution. Rather you need simple solutions to solve complex problems.
  2. Trying to solve complex problems in isolation doesn’t really work. We need to look at a holistic solution and a solution that works like a ripple travelling through multiple complex problems and solving them all with the same single idea
  3. Large scale behaviour problems can best be tackled with emotional solutions. Solutions that address our primal emotions like love, hate or shame. This is the exact idea that Mahatma Gandhi used against the British in the Indian fight for independence.
  4. One other reason not to throw out crazy ideas out the door without giving them serious consideration.
  5. The importance of connecting disparate fields to come up with a novel solution for a problem is the best way to solve any given problem.

In conclusion:

From a social context, I think our cities are again in need of such mayors and politicians who are able to think creatively and who can bring together a team that can go about transforming our cities.
From a business context, I think we need to develop the skill to look at a given problem and not be wary of trying out seemingly crazy ideas to solve them.

PBTO S2E3: The Importance of “Imaginativefulness” in the Creative Process

Jeffrey Baumgartner

Who is on the show:

In this episode, we host Jeffrey Baumgartner. He is an entrepreneur, artist, teacher, author and an innovation consultant and not  your typical Innovation consultant.

He is the author of the books, “The Way of the Innovation Master” & “The Insane Journey

He is also the creator of a new & effective creative thinking methodology called “Anti-Conventional Thinking” as an alternative to traditional brainstorming methods.

He also runs the Report 103, which is one of the longest running eJournal or blog on creativity and innovation in business.

Why is he on the show

He is not your typical innovation consultant or author. He is a great guy, who understands the psychology behind creativity and has a great sense of humor. He has coined the term “Imaginativefulness” as in “mindfulness”.

What did i learn from the conversation

One of the most important things that I learnt from this conversation is the importance of letting go of all the seriousness that we carry along with us as business folks and let the child inside of us to sometimes take over.

Another one of the learning is the reinforcement that we have the potential to be at our creative best when we are moving rather than being stationary in our office desk or the office meeting room.

We also discuss briefly about status quo and when is it important to be happy with status quo and when it is important to shake things up and how to go about doing that.

How can you reach Jeffrey:

You can reach him on his Facebook page here. He asks some very interesting questions and gets even more interesting answers for those questions from his friends.