Friday, May 25, 2007

insight: understanding bad-ness

How many times have you taken a sip of wine and the first sensation you have is of a swarm of ants chewing on your gums, or of a large over-ripe melon exploding on your soft palate?

I'll draw a distinction between this sensation and that of a wine that's corked or otherwise tainted. This is just bad luck - the wine wasn't designed to taste like that, and you got a flavor the wine maker didn't intend.

What I'm talking about is wine that was designed to taste that way. The more wine you drink, the more likely this has happened to you. If you're like me you find yourself wondering who the wine was made to please, since it's so obviously. . . unpleasant. . . to you.

Musashi called on his students to "develop intuitive judgment and understanding for every thing." The ability to see through an experience to appreciate the motivation behind the experience isn't easy to develop, but it is enormously helpful when it comes to keeping your cool in the face of experiences that are ex vi termini bad.

This goes deeper than issues of taste. You could argue that the example I gave above was fundamentally flawed, in that the wine "just wasn't right for me" and could be "just right" for someone else. You could drag out the old aphorism "one man's steak is another man's poison".

I'm not buying it.

I'm talking about products and services that are designed around a wrong set of requirements, or a misunderstanding of the requirements of the targeted user. These products and services will never be right, because they are designed wrong.

And in certain cases, wrong isn't merely a question of fit - it's a question of producing an outcome diametrically opposed to the one you wanted to create. Coca Cola Blak comes to mind.

It's easy to build products and services that draw from the nova-bright intuition of smart people. It's hard to build products and services that are truly derived from real problems, that reflect the authentic voice of the consumer.

Seeing through the bad-ness to understand where it came from can turn an otherwise miserable experience into an educational one.

Enjoy your Friday.

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