Creativity always comes as a surprise to us; therefore we can never count on it and we dare not believe in it until it has happened. In other words, we would not consciously engage upon tasks whose success clearly requires that creativity be forthcoming. Hence, the only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be.
—  The late economist Albert O. Hirschman on creativity and the power of failure. Pair with Debbie Millman on failure and the creative life, then dig into our ongoing archive of notable insights on creativity.

When Congress cut the agency’s budget last year, it didn’t account for the value of passengers’ time. This omission is a common government failing. A Department of Motor Vehicles budget does not include time spent waiting for a driver’s license, nor does the I.R.S. budget account for the hours we spend filling out tax returns.

This glaring omission creates perverse incentives for government agencies. Cutting staff improves an agency’s bottom line, while wasting citizens’ time has little material consequence for it aside from expressions of annoyance and outrage in tweets and articles (like this one).

The political scientist Albert O. Hirschman pointed out two mechanisms that can motivate an organization to shape up. The first is what he called “exit”: the ability of customers to go elsewhere or refrain from buying, moves that can pressure even the most inefficient monopolist.

But exit is not an option if you want to fly: We can’t avoid the T.S.A. unless we can afford to fly in a private jet, drive up to a plane and just get on. (The agency does offer expedited PreCheck service at major airports, after a prescreening process, which helps frequent fliers but might take some pressure off the T.S.A. to improve conditions for everyone else.)

Mr. Hirschman also spoke of a second factor, which he called “voice” — the ability of customers to stamp their feet and create a fuss. But government agencies don’t heed all voices equally, and members of Congress have very powerful voices. That may explain why, in our experience, the lines at Reagan National Airport are relatively well managed, especially the PreCheck lanes used by members of Congress.