Sunday, 5 March 2006

Wake up and smell the coffee?

Firstly an apology for the dreadful pun.

This blog is going to be about systems thinking and games in the large: rule-based systems and their behaviour. Part of the motivation for the name came from thinking about one of my favourite caf├ęs, Dal Professore in Naples (try the Nocciolato, it's great). In most large Italian cities, coffee houses of this quality are routine and the coffee is cheap: perhaps one euro for an espresso. Yet outside Italy, 'coffee houses' which are both much more expensive and serve considerably worse coffee dominate. Why? The outcome in Italy seems, to me, better than the outcome elsewhere, and it is certainly different. What is it about conditions there that has allowed places like Dal Professore and thousands of others to thrive?

The answer is clearly complex: the Italian habit of taking a quick coffee standing up obviously allows for faster throughput; a focus on the flavour of the coffee (rather than the size of the cups or the number of different varieties of muffin); a culture that encourages opinions about taste; an economy that supports small businesses versus large chains; and so on. I'm interested in how the rules determine the behaviour. Usually, I think there is no deus ex machina dictating the outcome, no system to be praised or condemned. There are just complicated interacting constraints, contexts and capabilities which determine what happens. Hopefully this will be
a space to discuss this kind of systems thinking in a number of domains. Welcome.


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