Rory Sutherland

Rory Sutherland

The case for building more roads

Suella Braverman was completely wrong to ask her civil servants to investigate the possibility of arranging a one-on-one speed awareness course. This is not because this was in breach of the ministerial code. That aspect of the affair was one of the worst examples of contrived, sanctimonious outrage I have ever seen; it pains me

How to bag the best spot in the supermarket car park

Our local Sainsbury’s, though admirable in every other way, has a slightly inflated estimate of the disabled population of Seven-oaks, with all the plum parking spaces near the entrance reserved for blue badge holders. Every time I drive in, a voice from my inner bastard says: ‘Jeez, if it weren’t for all these bloody disabled

The case against koalas

There was a reason 18th-century rulers were eager for their subjects to grow and eat potatoes: the miraculous tuber offered an alternative source of nutrition to grain, hence reducing bread prices. In the event of a catastrophic harvest, people could survive. To the rulers themselves, however, the biggest benefit was probably what happened when the

Why are beds flat?

Last month in a Swiss hotel, I came across an idea so beautifully simple that I felt it would be immoral of me not to share it. The bed in our room, rather than having one king-sized duvet, was covered by two double-size duvets overlapping in the middle. Eureka! Given that the Swiss are world

What the British could learn from the French

If I ran the British government, to promote more heterodox thinking I would employ a small cadre of French people as an alternative sounding board. I know it may seem ridiculous to seek advice from a country which makes tea with lukewarm water and thinks Johnny Hallyday was better than Elvis but, if only by

Why should everyone have an electric car?

Some excellent thinking this month from the Italian complexity theorist Luca Dellanna: Two days ago, the EU parliament approved a ban on new fossil fuel cars starting in 2035. While I like the idea of greener cars, I’m not too fond of a fast and complete transition.    Let me use the metaphor of the

Private education’s dirty little secret

Someone once said that the two greatest moments you enjoy when owning a yacht are the day you buy it and the day you sell it. You could make a similar case for school fees: nothing feels quite as good as the day you finally stop paying them. Much as we are impressed by the

Rory Sutherland

How to dress for air travel

Even though I fly a lot, I retain the notion that air travel should be treated as a special occasion for which one should dress accordingly. I am writing this from Gatwick, accompanied by one of those canvas bags you get for a fiver at Sainsbury’s Back in the day, if you showed up looking

How to outperform ChatGPT

Much of the magic of Curb Your Enthusiasm comes from the show being plotted but not scripted. The direction of the conversation is agreed in advance, after which the cast – mostly stand-up comedians and hence naturally good at extemporising – improvise the lines on the fly. This makes the show engagingly realistic even in

What really motivates workers (and it’s not money)

I recently heard a tip from an older colleague on managing a department. ‘Everyone is primarily interested in one of three things,’ he said. ‘To motivate them, all you need do is discover which one drives them most.’ People want some leeway to apply their imagination, creativity and knowledge What are the three? They are

The dwindling case for living in London

The recent debate around ‘levelling up’ may be missing something. I would argue that there is another way to consider geographical inequality – and, by this alternative measure, a levelling has been under way for more than 20 years. I’ve spent three decades working in advertising, so it’s unsurprising that I tend to view economic

The case for maths to 18

Recently Chinese 11-year-olds faced the following question in a maths exam. ‘If a ship has 26 sheep and ten goats on board, how old is the ship’s captain?’ Chinese social media lit up with parents furious at their little emperors being asked a question they could not answer. The BBC did find one Weibo user

Why work is no longer working

It is often said that Rishi Sunak has no idea what it is like to survive on a low income but this failing is hardly confined to the über-rich: in reality, few people above median income really know what it’s like to be skint. People may think back to leaner years but, even then, if

Why should I be compensated for a delayed train?

In early 2020 my family and I were due to fly home from visiting a friend in Oman when the plane encountered a technical problem. We returned to departures and were rebooked on to a flight the following day. British Airways then sent us to a very decent hotel, where we were given rooms and

What the media is doing to our politics

An American academic told me that during the 2016 presidential election nobody in academia believed there was the faintest chance Donald Trump would win. Except for the primatologists, that is. It was that silverback gorilla, alpha male thing – and Trump played the role freakishly well. One election tweet showed him enthroned in his private

The allure of ‘delight qualities’

If you were to ask which single business concept deserves to be more widely known, I would be hard-pressed to find a better answer than the Kano model. Developed in the 1980s by Dr Noriaki Kano at the Tokyo University of Science, it is not only self-evidently true, it also provides a simple framework to

The case for ‘premium economy’ train carriages

A few years ago I wrote here about the unexpected symbiosis between economy passengers and business travellers on commercial flights. Largely unnoticed by people in either cabin, those buying each class of air ticket are unintentionally helping out their fellow travellers at the other end of the plane. Precisely because the two classes of passenger

The genius of bottomless brunch

I’m rather fond of the many service stations on the M4, since I am convinced they are all named after Jane Austen characters who never made it into the final drafts of the novels. But as an alternative, west of Lord Chieveley and Lady Membury and just east of Sir Leigh Delamere, you can try

The hidden benefits of smart motorways

In 2015, Holborn Underground station was suffering from serious overcrowding at peak hours, with a bottleneck forming in the space leading to the escalators. So Transport for London tried an experiment. Abandoning the usual ‘stand on the right, walk on the left’ convention, they placed signs on two of the three ascending escalators instructing people