In Ireland a few years back they had a spate of traffic crimes.
People being booked for speeding, reckless driving, illegal parking.
It puzzled police that the same person was committing all the offences.
A Polish person called Prawo Jazdy.
I say ‘person’ because they couldn’t be sure of the sex.
Sometimes the offender was disguised as a man, sometimes a woman.
Sometimes disguised as old, sometimes young, different colour hair, with or without glasses, bearded or clean-shaven.
Always a different disguise.
What puzzled them was why would anyone go to all the bother of disguises over traffic offences?
And why would they always use the same name?
There were over fifty different offences on record.
The descriptions were different each time, but it was always the same person: Prawo Jazdy.
For a small country like Ireland, fifty offences committed by the same person is something to investigate.
So one of the backroom staff went online to see what she could find out about the Polish criminal: Prawo Jazdy.
Lucky she did.
It turned out that Prawo Jazdy is actually Polish for “Driving Licence”.
Every time the Irish police stopped someone for a traffic offence they’d asked for their licence.
Then they’d copy all the details: sex, age, address, name.
But they hadn’t really been copying the name.
They’d been copying the words Driving Licence (in Polish) printed at the top right corner of the licence.
In June 2007 a memo was circulated around the Irish Police.
It read (in part):
“Prawo Jazdy is actually the Polish for driving licence and not the first name and surname on the licence.
It is quite embarrassing to see the system has created Prawo Jazdy as a person with over 50 identities.”
You see, the Irish police behaved the way most people behave.
Here’s some strange words in a foreign language so that must be his/her name.
We never think further than the obvious when there’s no indication that we should.
Because actually, really thinking is hard work.
That’s why the mind defaults to the easiest solution.
And of course defaulting to the easiest (most obvious) solution is the enemy of creativity.
In any meeting you’ll get people who think their job is to spot what’s wrong.
Not to spot what’s right.
Because spotting what appears to be wrong (the obvious) is easy.
Spotting what’s right (the unexpected, the possible) takes a lot more thought.
As Buddha said “Act, don’t react.”