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I read about the theory of broken windows or broken window for the first time in a book titled “The Tipping Point: How Small Things Can Make a Big Difference” by Malcolm Gladwell. I was impressed by this management theory where its real impact is relatively known, and it is an instinctive idea that never crossed my mind.
Ideas need to be spread through marketers, influencers and stakeholders, and then ideas shall be proved by experience and the selection of what is cemented in memory, through content, environment and full content, and from here the broken window theory comes.
The high-end neighborhoods find the noble man’s house wide open and no one dares to enter to rob it, while in a simple room in a dilapidated neighborhood, you find the thief entering to steal a poor worker impersonating a security man or passports and in cases at gunpoint.
It started as a theory in the world of criminology, sociology and psychology and was applied in administration. I did not know a source of the theory, it is like all good ideas, and everyone adopts it in research. I found the broken windows theory in criminology to establish rules and indicate the impact of chaos and vandalism on urban areas represented by crimes and anti-social behavior.
The Broken windows theory is a product of criminological theorists: James Wilson, George Kelling, and former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who fought and succeeded in reducing New York’s crime rate by taking care of what some thought were trivial things like cleaning up fragments of broken window. Attention to small details was a way to correct simple things and protects them from growing up and turning into major disasters.
The theory of broken window was also tested by Professor Philip Zimbardo, the author of the most famous experiment in social psychology (the Stanford Prison Experiment) by placing two abandoned cars on the street. The only difference is that the car was located in a troubled neighborhood, in a poor part of the city, and the other car was on a street in a rich neighborhood.
What happened to the cars? It was expected. The car that was located in the troubled neighborhood was vandalized within a few hours, while the other was left intact. The most reasonable conclusion was the belief that poverty, ignorance and marginalization were the cause of the crime. But Professor Zimbardo continued the investigation and the next step he took was to change the position of the car. The windows of the car that was in the affluent neighborhood were broken. What happened? Exactly what happened with the car they left in the marginalized slum. If the neighborhood begins to show signs of deterioration, the next step will be delinquency, vandalism, and then criminality. The environment affects humans. A clean and decent environment contributes to better cohabitation. Applying the theory of broken window to all environments from residential neighborhoods to homes, businesses, schools, hospitals and companies leads to an environment that respects regulations and laws.
The tolerance with a small theft can lead to the persistence of larger robberies, such as corruption that ravages countries. Between theory and practice, I personally believe that “Ghawar al-Toushe” in “Edo Alo neighborhood of Damascus” was the one who invented the theory, the simplest and clearest example of which is Lebanon without electricity under candle lights. We all need to learn from the lesson to repairing broken window before it turns into deep, hard-to-repair wounds everywhere.