Saturday, February 13, 2016

How removing food vendors eliminated riots

In his book "The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do, and How to change", the author Charles Duhigg cites a peculiar case of an army major posted in Iraq who eliminated riots by implementing a small policy change.

He analyzed video tapes of recent riots and identified a pattern. Violence was usually preceded by a crowd of Iraqis gathering in a plaza and growing in size over the course of several hours. Food vendors and spectators would show up. Then someone would throw a bottle and all hell would break loose.

The major met the mayor and requested him to keep the food vendors out of the plaza which he agreed to.

A few weeks later, a small crowd gathered near a Mosque, it grew in size through the afternoon. Some people started chanting slogans and by dusk people started getting restless and hungry. People looked for the kebab sellers normally filling the plaza but there were none to be found. The spectators left, the chanters became dispirited and everyone was gone by 8pm.

Buy the book

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

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