On my way to receive my second dose of the vaccine today, I used a well-worn but ‘unofficial’ route for part of my journey, at what is effectively an off-centre T-junction.
This desire-line shortened the distance by no more than 7 yards at most for people going in one direction. Interestingly, there was no desire line going in the other direction.
Why is this?
Well, when the path was built, it was obviously more efficient to build it as a single path. But using the path isn’t the same as building it.
For people going one way, the official path is close enough, even though it isn’t quite direct. It feels like you’re going in the right direction.
For the other way though, the official path feels completely wrong. You’re effectively going back on yourself before you can get in the rght direction. So it makes perfect sense to cut the corner, even though it saves very little.
There’s a nice lesson here for designing processes of all kinds. Obviously, you try and make the process as efficient as possible when you build it. Then look out for the desire lines and reconfigure as appropriate.
Not all short-cuts are are the right thing to build in, but nobody should have to go backwards in order to move forwards.