Beware “I’ve never seen it so it doesn’t exist”-type thinking. It comes from a dumb place.
Case in point: A few weeks ago I was having dinner with my family. My niece, all of 12, noticed that I was wearing a pair of TOMS. She’d never seen a guy wear TOMS so she tried to tell me that guys don’t wear them. That was her exact thought process: I’ve never seen it happen so it doesn’t happen.
I tried to explain that just because a boy in her class didn’t wear them didn’t mean no other guys did. I showed her my size 12 shoes, and explained that most women have smaller feet than men. She wasn’t convinced; the world was the way she thought the world was and that was that.
I think this is the way all children are — they can’t believe something without experiencing it. They don’t know that something can be scary and fun at the same time until they ride a roller coaster, or that something be both life-affirming and soul-crushing until they fall in love. I think this is okay. That’s why you get to be a kid — so that little by little, you come into the world, slowly learning all the way that nothing’s as simple as you once thought.
Thing is, a lot of businesses and organizations still employ this kind of thinking, which often manifests in one of two ways:
1) It won’t work because we’ve never seen it work, so we won’t try it.
Isn’t “not working” the state of everything that ever worked right before it worked? Isn’t perseverance — not to give up just because it didn’t work the first time — one of the most important lessons we’re taught as kids? Isn’t failure something that we are told over and over to accept as part of the natural creative process?
2) I don’t want to try this and fail in front of everyone.
A lot of people want to see proven results — that someone else has gotten — from an approach to believe that the approach works. I get this, because it makes sense, but I wonder how often these businesses and organizations realize that in waiting for someone else to try an approach and succeed before they’ll put out to sea, they’re invariably letting someone else get a leg up on them, not to mention a marketplace.
The Microsoft Surface launch yesterday was undeniably interesting, and their commercial is totally boss, but they’re gunning for second place. Apple’s iPad owns 91% of tablet traffic (while having something between 62% and 75% of the market). So why now? Why didn’t Microsoft (and, by extension, Google) do this before?