The persistence of really bad ideas

There are fifty states (proof: Clickable Map of US States.) This is a problem. If there were 5 states or 500 states, programmers would never have been tempted into forcing consumers to scroll through a pull down menu to enter their state when shopping online.

This means everyone from Texas or New York or heaven forfend, West Virginia, has to scroll all the way down in order to buy something.

This scrolling led to a similar breakthrough to enter your country. Afghanis get a big break (so do people from Andorra) but those in the biggest online consuming country on earth have to scroll all the way down to the ‘U’s.

No wonder so many people abandon shopping carts online.

This is not a post about how stupid this is.

This is not even a post about how easy it would be to fix (it’s actually easier to put a text field in than the pull down menu).

Nor is it a post about how useless the precision here is. Knowing the state is not nearly as important as knowing the zip code, and the scroll down is unlikely to get you the right state every time anyway.

No, this is a post about how bad ideas stick around forever.

The reason is simple: in most organizations, you don’t get in trouble for embracing the status quo.

More than a hundred years ago, Kaiser Wilhelm wanted to get rid of his enemies in the German government. He noticed that they were all over 65. So he decreed that this was the official retirement age, and it still is.

If you want to see what happens when you challenge the status quo, just say this at a party, "I know how to fix Social Security. Let’s just raise the official retirement age for everyone who is currently under fifty. We’ll take it from 65 to 70."

Stand back and beware the flamethrowers.