Tidying Up Broken Windows

Perhaps a little behind on the reading list, but a good halfway through Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, I wanted to make reference to the Broken Windows Theory he promotes. This is in fact the topic that pushed him to create a whole book around epidemiology, inspired by the sudden drop in crime in New York City and a theory to explain it. Instead of focusing on more visible police presence, the idea was to appeal to human nature by essentially tidying up and making mugging, graffiti and other criminal activity out of place. Direct action began on the NYC subway system by removing graffiti from 1984 onwards, removing vandalised wagons from service until they were cleaned up and once one was cleaned making sure it stayed that way.

Apart from deterring criminals from thinking they can take over uncared-for areas of the city this cleaning up also provided a real psychological boost for the residents, the people who just wanted to go about their everyday lives without threat. My favourite part describes how the police force used to let delinquents spend three days finalising their graffiti artworks on train carriages (day one preparing the canvas, day two outlining the “art”, day three adding the colour and details) before arriving with paints and other materials to completely eradicate it. Quite demoralising for the disaffected, but hey.

It made me think about some of the basic practices we put in place for clients when they embark on any project with us. After auditing the existing digital estate, we work together to decide on the essentials and focus on those channels and that content, anything off-message or off-target gets removed and all energy spent on sharpening and optimising the important components. This is a great exercise that leads to a massive simplification and makes conversations about starting a Facebook page much more meaningful – does it fit your marketing strategy, product, audience?

Over 6 months ago now Ashton x Ashton went through a major personal tidying up process, inspired by a joint reading of The Art of Tidying Up, definitely recommended for those of you looking to declutter in any way. Never mind subway carriages and petty crime in New York, do those 5-year-old misshapen socks still make you happy? Get rid. Twenty bin bags later, we were feeling much more streamlined and refined at #Minyhome.

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