Years ago my wife used to drive a Mini.
Not the larger ones you see around today, this was the original tiny Alec Issigonis design.
One lunchtime, she’d driven past Piccadilly Circus tube and was turning into Haymarket.
Suddenly she felt a bump.
The next thing she knew the Mini had turned sideways.
She tried to brake but she had no control over the car, it just kept moving sideways.
It was being pushed along on its side.
At the same time she could hear people screaming.
When she looked to her right all she could see was the surface of the road as she was pushed sideways along the tarmac.
When she looked through the windscreen all she could see were people on the pavement waving and yelling.
When she looked to her left all she could see was the front of a massive truck trying to come through the window and crush the car.
And the truck just kept going and going and going.
She could hear the glass shattering and the metal being twisted and broken.
She was sure the car was going to be crushed with her in it.
Then suddenly it all stopped.
The truck’s airbrakes hissed and the giant engine went quiet.
People began prising the doors open and helping Cathy out of the remains of the Mini.
Three men climbed out of the cab of the truck.
One said “Sorry love, we never saw you there.”
Cathy was shaken up, she said “Why didn’t you stop?”
The driver said “We just thought the engine was running a bit lumpy.”
And that’s how her Mini got written off in broad daylight in central London.
Although it was directly in front of the driver, he and the two people in the cab with him couldn’t see it.
So they carried on driving.
Their senses told them there was something wrong, but they carried on anyway.
They didn’t stop and get out and find out what was wrong.
They assumed “the engine was just running a bit lumpy.”
Their mind defaulted to the option that wouldn’t require any thinking.
Eventually the fact that everyone on the pavement was yelling and screaming and waving at them caused them to think maybe they should stop and take a look.
Which is when they found they’d been pushing a car with a woman inside half the length of Haymarket, and they hadn’t even noticed.
Because they were on autopilot.
Which, to be fair, is the way most of us do our jobs.
There’s a well known saying “Don’t reinvent the wheel.”
It’s similar to another saying “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
These are the exact opposite of creativity.
Because they say unless there’s a reason to change something, don’t change it.
Don’t even question it.
They are designed to make not-thinking sound like a clever thing.
Well if that’s true we don’t need people we just need machines.
Because that’s what an autopilot is – a machine.
A machine won’t reinvent the wheel or fix something that isn’t broke.
A machine will just carry on without thinking.
But if we do want new and exciting answers then we do need to reinvent the wheel, we do need to fix things that aren’t broke.
Because we need to question things to think creatively.
And for that we don’t need autopilots, you need nosey, awkward, questioning human beings.