Uber is a success because of its maps, according to ad guru, TED speaker and vice-chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Group UK, Rory Sutherland.
Sutherland was speaking at an event hosted by SilverRail in London this week and applied his interest in behavioral science to suggest diffferent ways to approach business problems.
The premise of his talk was that the unconscious - he calls this the chimp mind - is often overlooked in 21st-century commerce because the world is run by economists and financiers who need to be able to justify their existence through spreadsheets and mathematical certainties.
He also identifies an undercurrent of throwing money at a problem because the results can be quantified, at the expense, literally, of more effective but less rational solutions. Trusting one's instinct might lead to better answers.
In the context of Uber, its success is not about convenience, price or scale - the metrics which make sense to Goldman Sachs - but the map on the app which shows how far away the ride is. Sutherland linked this to humankind's inbuilt fear of uncertainty. Knowing your Uber is on its way and being able to see it in context is preferable to the void of doubt that exists if you book a cab by phone and are told to wait 10 or 15 minutes.
He also liked the way in which the payment for the product is separated from experiencing the product.
Having had British Airways as a client, he shared a few insights into his work with them in this context. Putting "delayed" onto an airport departure board was, he told them, tapping into the fear of uncertainty. But putting "delayed by 60 minutes" gives the chimp mind enough information to deal with the inconvenience by removing the uncertainty around how long that delay could be.
In a room full of rail people, he suggested that some of the big recent infrastructure projects fell into the trap of spending big rather than thinking laterally.
So rather than Eurostar spend billions upgrading the line to reduce journey times between London and Paris by half-an-hour, it should have spent millions putting wifi onto the trains so that travellers could be more productive.
Similarly, many of the benefits of the proposed HS2 line from London to the north of England - currently budgeted at £50 billion - could be achieved by using apps and yield management to optimise capacity and use on the existing infrastructure.
He also reminded the young folk in the room how difficult rail travel was before technology, highlighting how easy it was now to access timetables and fares, compared with the olden days of having to phone National Rail Enquiries.
Having said all that, what did he think is the most important piece of rail technology? The table, which turns the train into an office with a view and makes the experience more productive and pleasant than air or car travel.
And that, he said, is something the rail industry should be more vocal about.