Thread of nuts and bolts, mobile phone networks and bathroom tap fittings are just some of the standards that make life easier. Standards allow things to work together and reduce risk of non-compatibility.

Creating standards for almost everything would be the most logical way to avoid Haphazard business practice and smooth out day-to-day living, yet all it seems to have done is cause political crisis?

Standard History

Building of the first railways was probably the genesis of standardisation.  A golden period of innovation, the early rail networks were a hotchpotch of different gauges, materials, designs and models.  It quickly became apparent that to create a financially viable and sustainable railway would require compromise and agreement on the bits of innovation worth keeping, (to become the standard), and the bits to discard.  

Arguably, the most important and successful standard to date has been the humble shipping container, which accelerated global trade almost overnight.

As industries began to see the benefit of standardisation, so the political and policy arenas soon followed.  Trade agreements between countries set standards on how certain goods were made or services provided – the SWIFT payment system* in banking being one example.   

Trade Blocks

These agreements multiplied quickly, and after World War Two, trade blocks like the EU began to form. As the scope and scale of the agreements grew, so did the need for political and legal consensus.  From flying to phoning, these agreements have made the world easier to navigate, yet as the political situation in the West is demonstrating, there are consequences to standardisation.


Brexit is just one example of the kickback against standardisation, and the perception (rightly or wrongly) that control is being taken away – standardisation, for some, appears to mean the removal of choice.  And in some ways such concerns can be said to be solid.

Standardisation Debate

In computing, debate constantly rages when should a standard be adopted. Creating standards too early can stifle innovation, but leave too long it stifles wider diffusion.

When considering Haphazardness, it will be important to take account of the consequences of supposed solutions.

* SWIFT: The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication


  1. Thanks Jasmine for the thought provoking comment.

    The question you ask perfectly highlights one of the issues in developing any idea, the interpretation others lay on the words used to describe it. In this post, I was focused on the standardisation of a product or service. Then I extrapolated on a provocation to wonder if this continuing move towards creating standards that we can all agree on is partly the behind rise of populism – i.e. choice being removed. There is an accompanying post already live on Haphazard Routine, which I would suggest is closer to the question of ritual.

    Every morning, my ritual is to make coffee, normally in a cafetiere. Although jug sizes may differ, the plungers and design all seem pretty standard. So my ritual is making the coffee using a standardised method. Does this answer the question? John M

  2. A standard is something fixed in space, like a template; a ritual is something performed in time, supremely, liturgy.

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