The snake queues and the art of choosing

“It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Albus Dumbledore to Harry in The Chamber of Secrets

In the corporate world, lockdown seems to be a leveller, sort of. You are the CEO of a company- ok, wash dishes at home. Manager in a company- wash dishes at home. Intern in a company- ok, wash dishes at home. And, if you are on twitter and you have seen the snake queues outside alcohol shops then this question is for you. If all abilities are the same, how do you stand out? Each one of us gets to make our choices. Snake queues on your timeline feed? Ignore or React? Just retweet or retweet with a comment or react with a solution or simply ignore?

“It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Albus Dumbledore to Harry in The Chamber of Secrets 

While coming down from his battle with Tom Riddle and the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets, Harry fears the similarities between his immense powers and that of Voldemort. However, Dumbledore assuages and disproves Harry’s fears that Harry might become evil one day by explaining that one’s intentions are the bedrock of one’s identity, not one’s capabilities. Quoted here

Our reaction to a situation is a personal choice. Not just on twitter, we make umpteen number of choices everyday. The way we dress up, the way we spend time, the show that we pick up to watch – all are outcomes of choices that we make- some are conscious choices, some are sub-conscious choices. Our choices define us. But a simple post of snake queues can teach us some skills, skills of making choices and critical thinking.


“I believe our ability to create meaningful choices remains our greatest tool for innovation.”

Sheena Iyengar

We have a Dumbledore in Sheena Iyengar– the professor of management in Columbia Business School.  Sheena Iyengar has made a lifelong career around ‘Choosing.’  She examines many facets of choice and as she writes, gives talks, blogs, her aim is to inspire people to make right choices. She says, “We may think we know our own minds, but the forces that influence our choices are many, varied, and often surprising. Most of those forces affect us without our knowledge, and they do not necessarily operate in our best interests.”

“Our choices construct our relationships, careers, world-views, and identities– we are the sum of our choices.” Sheena Iyengar

Let us come back to the stories of snake like queues outside liquor shops. It starts floating on our social media feeds. What are the choices we have? 

  • Forward 
  • Forward or retweet with a comment
  • Reply with a comment 
  • Ignore
  • Ignore, but ponder about it.

One of the ways to develop critical thinking skills is to observe our social events and raise questions to understand it better. This is a social learning skill, where we develop thinking habits to raise a few questions around a social event near us. The event may not be immediately relevant to us but it may seed thoughts contextual to our interest. In this case, the case of long queues outside alcohol shops can be observed through various perspectives. These perspectives could be related to technology, consumer behaviour, service processes, language, financial, policies etc. A person with interest in digital wallets can have questions around digital ticketing or token system.

For example, my interest lies in Behavioural Economics and Service Innovations and the first few questions that came to my mind are below for your reference:

  1. Process: how might we reduce the wait period and manage social distancing?
  2. Process: Is there an app for token system?
  3. Behavioural Economics: Will you consume less alcohol if you have to queue up for three hours to source a bottle of alcohol?

Thinking is a skill that starts first with observation and this is followed by questions. Learning from social cues like people and events around us is an open book learning. We may not want to pick up every situation, but we can definitely choose to be in an observation mode for some events that spark our interest. 

How do we turn thoughts into action?

Cartoonists pick up the daily observation and turn it around in their own style. 

This is an illustration in The Times of India, the day after long queues. It is a part of cartoonists’ job to observe events and present it in humorous style. Cartoonists & comedians have a sharp observation skill for mundane events around us.

I am not a cartoonist. I didn’t make a lovely, amusing illustration but I made a step-by-step guide to implement a token system as a response to snake queues. See the post here. Action fuels thoughts and evokes responses. The post got shared, garnered some comments and some action too.

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