Late in 2009, this idea for musical stairs was posted to thefuntheory.com. At first glance, I have to say I just love this idea. There are even other examples of musical stairs in use elsewhere, here and here. SO I guess other people liked the idea too.
But why, exactly, does this idea make us think “wow, what a great idea”. Probably because it is childish, fun, unexpected, novel and seems to actually work. Now for some questions…
The challenge was this Q) how can you get people to change the change their behaviour (in this case, using the stairs)? A) Make it fun.
But why was this challenge set? Perhaps the reasoning went like this …”make people exercise more, maybe by using the stairs. We heard that can help” . This sounds like a government target, maybe a way to cut health spending or improve public image. Maybe a public servant started reading about design-led community transformation and got excited about driving cultural change through product design.
A first effort at solving this problem might start out with advertising, or maybe some sort of gimmick to ‘get’ people to use the stairs for a bit. THis would probably be about as effective as a diet. Unlikely to affect long term behavioural change. At this point, I start to think of an old joke:
“How many buddhists does it take to change a lightbulb? None. But the lightbulb has got to really want to change”
Do people really want to walk up musical stairs? For the rest of their lives? I doubt it. But what if the goal was to increase public image, or simply distract people whilst we repaired the escalator? Perhaps this could be reapplied in other areas of public maintenance… what about when roads get dug up or when streets are closed? With a bit of fun, we might actually look forwards to having our day disrupted by maintenance crews.
Let me know if you can think of a way to commercialise this. I’d love to see road crews running karaoke sessions, space invaders games as we wait for pedestrian crossings or impromptu jazz sessions every time a crowd gather to wait for a faulty lift…