Thursday, 15 March 2012

Undies in the safe

Some time ago, I went to a conference in Konstanz. I put a few item in the room safe (££, passport, etc.)... and forgot to remove them when I checked out. Oops! Rather inconvenient!

This week, I've been in Stuttgart. How to make use of the room safe while also being sure to remember those important items when I check out? Solution: put my clean underwear for the last day in the safe with the higher-value items. No room thief would be interested in the undies, but I'm not going to leave without them, am I? That worked! It's an example of what we're currently calling a "resilient strategy": we're not sure that that's the right term, so if you (the reader) have better ideas, do let me know. Whatever the word, the important idea is that I anticipated a vulnerability to forgetting (drawing on the analogy of a similar incident) and formulated a way of reducing the likelihood of forgetting, by co-locating the forgettable items with some unforgettable ones.

The strategy worked even better than expected, though, because I told some people about what I'd done (to illustrate a point about resilience) while at the conference. And on my last evening, I was in the lift with another attendee. His parting words were: "don't forget your knickers!" In other situations, that could have been embarrassing; in the context, it raised some smiles... and acted as a further external memory aid to ensure that I remembered not just my clothing, but also the passport and sterling cash that I'd been storing in the safe. Other people engaging with a problem can make the system so much more resilient too!


  1. This is great! I've tweeted it to #rsdiary (Resilience Strategies Diary) to go with the other examples: