For Impact


Tools for Thinking – Path Dependence

For Impact Ideas | | Nick Fellers

David Brooks wrote a really cool op-ed in the Times, Tools for Thinking. He writes about a question, “What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?”

A bunch of really smart people debated this question and highlighted several concepts including Path Dependence. Path dependence, as David writes, is “something that seems normal or inevitable today began with a choice that made sense at a particular time in the past, but survived despite the eclipse of the justification for that choice.” He uses the example of a keyboard. When typewriters were first invented, they needed a keyboard that would SLOW typing – so the letters didn’t jam. Today we still use the QWERTY keyboard but without any need to ‘slow typing’.

Actively thinking about ‘Path Dependence’ in your business or organization could be radical (and simple).

Seeking path dependence within our sector, our company and our lives gives a framework for identifying actions toward which we should re-visit the WHY and the WHAT.