Dangers of being focused on design execution

These days I am enjoying a show in which participant magicians come on stage to fool two experienced magicians who act as judges.

The experienced magicians claim that they know every trick in the book, as they have been doing it for 35 years. And that too in a city known for magical things, Las Vegas.

The show is quite a delight to watch, both because of the magic tricks and the suspense about whether the judges will be fooled, that they will not be able to figure out what was done.

I am intrigued by the premise of the show. The participants do not have to impress the judges, or delight the judges, they have to fool the judges. This is different from most competitions where delivering a masterful performance is enough.

Most acts delight you. Some participants have decades of practice. But if the judges know how it is done, all that does not matter.

Now in the craft of product design, one can take years to get better and better and people will be impressed, and they will tell you that they are impressed and delighted. And this positive reinforcement will further motivate you to move in directions where you have more chances of winning people’s approval.

And that, will keep you away from truly innovative ideas.

Because by definition, you are doing things which people already know and recognize, even if these things are extremely difficult to execute.

But it’s an entirely different thing to be so innovative that you come up with something beyond people’s existing mental models.

The people who end up fooling the judges on the show are all who came up with their own original ideas in magic, not those who became masters of what was known or understandable.

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