Sunset Clause

A body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.

This is Newton’s First Law of Motion.

What’s true for objects, is true for humans and organizations as well: We continue an activity, unless an outside force, such as a deliberate decision, stops us.

Motion is hard to break, and this often leads to inefficiencies, waste and even disaster. I call this the Momentum Fallacy.

Take for example the Mini car. When the Mini was developed in the 1950s, an important design consideration was low cost. To paint the car, the chassis would be held in the air by a pole that protruded from the back to the front of the car. This pole caused a hole in the middle of the dashboard.

The design engineers were classical pragmatists and decided to use this hole to fit the instrument cluster. As such, the iconic design feature of having an instrument cluster, not in front of the driver, but in between the driver and passenger, was born. 

Though this setup was arguably inferior to an instrument cluster placed in front of the driver, it has been enthusiastically copied in many other modern automobiles, despite the fact that current technologies have rendered the pole-painting technique obsolete. This efficiency has now become part of automobile design.

A practical way to overcome the Momentum Fallacy is to use a sunset clause: Any new rule, initiative, or activity will automatically be abandoned after a certain specified time, unless a new and deliberate decision is made to continue.

Permanence is the most dangerous illusion of our time.

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