When Traditions Should Change

I had the great honor to deliver a keynote speech this past Sunday on Northern Michigan’s beautiful Mackinac Island. Sweeping vistas. Historic homes. Unpolluted air. It’s right out of a storybook, but there is one tradition that is long-overdue for a change.

There are no cars on the island, which is pretty darn cool. Fun fact: the island has the only public roads in America where automobiles are forbidden. So what could be wrong with this idyllic picture? The only ground transportation comes from horse-drawn carriages.

On the surface, this seems charming and quaint. But it got me thinking… is this really the right approach? As I was traversing the Island, the carriage driver struck the horse to encourage a faster pace. I winced, as if he’d struck me directly. Why are we subjecting these beautiful animals to violent prodding and long hours of work in all types of weather when there is a far better and obvious solution?

No, I’m not suggesting we bring in loud cars to pollute the island. My proposed solution: whisper-quiet electric carriages. Before you toss me into the cold waters of Lake Huron, consider the advantages:

  • Far more humane treatment to the majestic horses
  • Far lower costs
  • Far better land use
  • Far better smells
  • Far better for the environment
  • Far less cleanup (electric carriages don’t poop in the road)
  • Far better experience for guests (faster, more reliable, less guilt)

The carriages could be designed to look charming, paying tribute to the Island’s heritage. If you really think about it, the only reason not to upgrade is an irrational clinging to the past at the expense of logic. I sincerely hope the wonderful people of Mackinac Island consider my plea.

For those of us that don’t live in Northern Michigan, there’s still a potent lesson: let’s not keep our traditions as sacred and untouchable just for the sake of it. Let’s be willing to challenge even the most deeply held beliefs and assumptions to ensure our approach is current and optimized. Let’s refuse to accept things as unchangeable. Let’s release the past and focus on the possible.

When the horse-drawn carriages came to Mackinac Island over 100 years ago, I’m sure they were the optimal solution for the time. Today, there’s an objectively better solution that shouldn’t be dismissed solely based on tradition.

What are the horse-drawn carriages in your business that are ready for an upgrade?