Greetings from Sweden where innovation is almost everywhere. Today I’d like to share a few observations about public transportation and its role in Swedish life…

As one might imagine, public transportation is more widely used here than in the U.S. where most Americans spend an awful lot of time driving to work alone. And there are lots of very compelling reasons why Swedes rely on a remarkable assortment of buses, trams, trains, boats, and even shared bicycles. Reasons that include public transport’s central role in the design of cities and regions, its abundance, quality and reliability, and the high cost of driving an automobile. Still, this is a somewhat more reserved society and jokes abound about the challenges Swedes face when participating in a “shared” enterprise like commuting. Some of you have probably seen the following meme…

Swedes at the Bus

While it’s not entirely fair,  it isn’t entirely off the mark. A lot of Swedes do like to keep to themselves or at least have a bit of “alone” time. But then, a growing number of Americans seem to go through life attached their iPods and earphones and more than slightly oblivious to the world and people around them.

But back to our story…

Even great public transportation requires people to wait sometimes…a reality that has sparked some exciting new ideas. In the town of Hallinden, local officials have installed games like “Tic-Tac-Toe” and mirrors at bus stops to keep people amused and even encourage them to interact until their bus arrives. It’s a simple and clever way to deal with one of the greatest challenges of adulthood: DWELL TIME. A challenge that adults around the globe struggle with in a wide variety of settings that include standing in line at the grocery store, waiting to see a doctor, buying tickets for a concert, and being put on hold by the phone company…not to mention waiting for your least-punctual family member to be ready to go anywhere.

Tic tac toe

And in the city of Umea an energy company has installed phototherapy lights powered by renewable energy at bus stops to counteract the darkness in winter that has often been cited as a leading cause of depression.

Two creative ways to reinvent the challenge of waiting that could spark your thinking about how to make your company or organization’s dwell time more meaningful.

We win in business and in life when we don’t keep people waiting. Or, when we make waiting a time to learn, play, and become more energized.