The Worst Hammer in the World

August 21st, 2013

In a recently blog post I started writing about expectations. In summary:

“You can’t expect everyone (anyone?) to understand something without the proper context.”

This really ties in with something Merlin Mann said a while ago on Back to Work. (Side note, that show needs transcripts.)

To paraphrase/misquote Merlin:

“Everyone has their reasons. Very rarely does anyone do something because they think it’s a really stupid thing for them to do.”

At face value this is a fairly benign and obvious, but it has deeper implications. The implications I’d like to focus on now are those associated with the initial reaction.

People tend to react negatively to something new, especially if they don’t understand it. It’s not only very easy to berate something but it can be cathartic and if you have an audience it might even be entertaining.

This behavior is nothing new, but the internet makes it very easy to yell frustrations into a webcam and post online for the world to see.

“Web comments are a satisfying outlet for people who enjoy pressing a button right after saying something asinine.” – Merlin Mann

Rash, lash-out reactions betray a closed-minded nature that is unwilling to seek out either context or thought process. It displays an unwillingness to accept other people’s ideas, opinions, or needs as relevant or perhaps even possible. “It’s not how I would have done it, so it’s stupid.” “If I don’t like it, neither should you.” “How could/why would anyone enjoy something that I think is obviously stupid?”

Following every Apple event comes a series of tweets, blogs, and forum comments lambasting Apple for decisions they made, because the decision “doesn’t fit my need/wants/expectations. So why would anyone want this?”

I like to call this “I’m not in charge” syndrome.

To some extent this is the easy way out, perhaps even “cowardly” means of dealing with things. It takes a lot more effort to recognize the legitimacy of someone else’s desires when they do not align with your own.

Granted, there are certainly times and places where a quick and angry reaction is not only acceptable, but called for. Yet, it is also tends to be a pervasive mentality and I don’t think that is a good thing.

This is a complicated topic and there is a lot of finger pointing for the cause and effect, but at a very basic level this is like getting irritated at a milk jug because it can’t be used to pound a nail into the wall.

Uninformed and non-constructive criticism is detrimental to innovation. It does nothing to foster creativity. Instead, it creates an emotional barrier of annoyance and resentment. Granted, a portion of this may be due to a lack of tact, but the problem still exists.

Lately, I’ve seen some examples of this on Kickstarter. (Most recently with Sound Band.) Everyone has a different use case for Sound Band and some of the suggestions offered actually sound really good though many of them come across as small-minded requests from people who are not looking at the larger picture, they only want something to fix their personal annoyance.

There’s a definite difference between wanting something that adapts to your current workflow and considering how something new could alter your workflow in a beneficial manner.

There’s a lot more to say on this, but that is enough to think about for now. Food for thought: How do you respond to things you don’t understand? What things can you do to subdue your initial (and irritable) reactions?