When To Pave Cowpaths, When To Tear Up Roads

The legend of how the streets of Boston got to be so annoyingly not built for cars or traffic is they paved the cow paths. The rest of the city then was built around the naturally formed routes.

Myth or not, we see examples of this all of the time. What’s important is we distinguish when we want to make the unofficially popular official, and conversely, when we want to make the officially unpopular…dead.

If everyone is doing something a certain way because it’s obvious, makes (enough) sense, and is becoming a norm, pave the cowpaths. Make the unofficially popular official. It didn’t take businesses long to get Zoom up and rooming during the pandemic for this reason.

However, if nobody is doing something anymore and you’re still sticking to the unpopular guns of sunk-cost self-defense, tear the road up and reconsider. We have to recognize when it’s time to make the officially unpopular unofficial again. It’s 2021 and faxing is still a thing. Seriously.

Just like Willie Sutton said, “I rob banks because that’s where the money is,” we want to pave the cowpaths when it’s where the good things are happening, but tear up the roads when it no longer services a proper purpose.

Ps. to my Boston friends, I am in no way suggesting they tear down Boston and rebuild it from the ground up, at least without notifying you first.

Pss. Hopefully, they’ll give you better notice than the Vogons gave the earthlings in the Hitchiker’s Guide if it ever comes down to it. Hopefully.

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