Friday, October 24, 2014

Never take a fence down until you know why it was put up. (Robert Frost)

I’m a strong believer in the law of unintended consequences. I think it fits my basically pessimistic nature. 

So, while the marketeers and execs and genius designers are all ready to – oh, I don’t know – turn every word into an icon or have all navigation be done by gestures, I’m usually the one who has to rein things in. Honestly, sometimes I feel like the ballast that keeps the balloon from wandering off into the troposphere. Unfortunately, all of that gives me a reputation for being rather conservative, which I do not relish. 

Now, this is not just a matter of my saying “no” to everything. What I like to do, instead, is ask these questions:
  1. Do we know already if it’s working or not working, or are we merely guessing?
  2. Do we know if the new idea will work as well? What would we be basing that on?
  3. Would you like me to help you answer that second question?

It’s that third question where I really like to position myself. Basically, I’m not shooting down their idea so much as simply getting them some feedback on it. Yes, I do have my opinions on the topic. And, yes, those opinions are typically based on spending a lot of time with real users … and seeing things work … or not work. But wouldn’t it be great if we could get this out of the realm of total conjecture and seat-of-the-pants intuition and see whether something will actually fly or not? 

My Dad, the electrical engineer, took one of Frost’s poetry classes 
while at Dartmouth (the buildings in the background). 
It was his favorite class.

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