What if we got rid of the white lines?

Louie Sumpter



I recently came across a video on Vox that took a sideways look at what would happen if we removed all the street signs, road markings, traffic lights, pavements, pedestrian crossings and safety barriers from our streets.

Like the majority of people, I was expecting these so called ‘shared spaces’ to result in disaster. But to my surprise discovered that they actually lead to an increase in traffic speed and a dramatic decrease in the number of accidents and rate of injury. Bonkers.

The reason? Well, without all the traditional demarcations and separations we’re accustomed to, road users and pedestrians are a lot more aware of themselves and those around them. They behave altogether more cautiously and are less likely to slip into careless autopilot mode whilst they go about their business.

This got me thinking, if you took the streetscape as a metaphor for the internal workings of an agency, what if we did the same thing in the workplace? What if we could remove the proverbial white lines, yellow boxes and pelican crossing that dictate how we behave and interact with each other? What if we were able to exhibit the same level of self-awareness and consideration that we see in ‘shared spaces’?

Could we create an agency where ideas circulate more freely? Where hierarchy and job roles don’t predetermine outcomes or decisions? An agency where there’s more mutual respect and less ‘risk of injury’? Who knows, I guess that like shared space thinking itself it’s a pretty out there thought.

So my question is this, what are the things that predetermine our behaviours in the agency workplace and if we got rid of them what would the impact be?