The long bus

It passes between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. most mornings, except when it comes earlier or when we haven’t seen it at all before someone else gives us a ride to school; in those cases, we don’t clearly know what time it passed.

Waiting in the mornings by the road side

Dorcas, an Ashesi student who I travel with in the mornings, calls the mass transit the “long bus.” (That’s actually a useful re-framing for me because for the first few weeks I referred to it as “my bus.”) I learn an enormous amount from Dorcas, about Ghana, paradigms and faith.  She is another among the young Ghanain woman wise beyond their years.

One morning, I puzzled aloud about the erratic-ness of the long bus’s time table. “In Switzerland,” I explain, “the long bus would pass by at precisely the same time every morning.” “And what if no one is on it?” she asks.  “That wouldn’t matter. People would know when to expect it. Here, I never know when the bus will come.” She took that in and then patiently explained to me, “it will come when it can – it will leave the station when it is full, and then it will come.”

Now that is a paradigm shift for me.

After a reflective pause she asked, “Why do the Swiss waste so much fuel to send their buses if the bus is not full?”

Metro Mass Transit’s “long bus”

I am stumped by her question.


Note: A group of students in my Leadership course are doing a project exploring paradigms — I look forward to learning what they learn. Their insights and questions speed up my own “ah-ha’s” compared to if I had to experience them all myself!

3 responses to “The long bus

  1. A business colleague with a global career commented:

    I loved that post; it really made me think.

    There are different optimization models at play. I guess your long bus model is optimized to get folks to somewhere within a broad time period, perhaps a day.

    The Swiss optimization is clearly different. Perhaps it is to enable dependencies. If a Swiss commits to a 9 am meeting with me, she really wants to be there precisely at 9. So the optimization is, get folks to where they want to go reliably, predictably, so that they can meet their commitments. Even if that means the bus may be quite empty: for the one person on the bus, she’ll make her obligations.

    If this big assumption about models is possible, then there are implications about how African cultures do business with European cultures without having mis -matched models make everyone crazy.

  2. Carl’s assumption about models really gets at the core of what makes me curious about “good” business in our increasingly complex global world — how do we learn to do mutually respectful interdependence? For example, when the value of fuel exceeds the value of time, how do we say that’s wrong except from a perspective where time exceeds the value of fuel…and exceeds the value for whom?!

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