Seeing the world differently

In The Independent newspaper recently, there was an article by Steve Connor: “The hunt is on for gravitational waves”, that reminded me of this idea. He wrote “Astronomers say that if we could detect gravitational waves it would not only be a wonderful fulfilment of Einstein’s classic theory, it would have practical implications in that their detection would suddenly light up some of the darkest recesses of the Universe. It would give us a radically different view of space, based on something other than the detection of electromagnetic radiation (such as light and X-rays).”

We have a fundamental problem when trying to create products for other people to use. We have to have a clear understanding of how they see the world, how they will react to a new product. Will it help or hinder? Will it delight or disgust? How can we see it as they see it? The truth is that we can’t.

Here is an experiment for you to try. Imagine that you have red-green colour blindness. Look around, can you imagine what that would be like? You would not be able to distinguish between red and green, both would look like a muddy yellow. Can you imagine it? I find it incredibly hard to do.

Now consider that many of us take decisions about software user interfaces every day. How often do we test them for legibility by those with colour blindness? Never? Should it matter? Well, unless you want to make your product unusable by up to 10% of the population, yes it should. Think about it: you would never casually dismiss 10% of your market, but you may already be doing so.

So trying to see as others do is tough, but how about seeing as others don’t?

Now I have you thinking about how the world can appear differently, let us go back to Einstein and the dog. How about trying to see our world and our markets in a completely different way? What if we imagine that we can see the world through ultraviolet or infrared lenses? That might be revealing in some markets, but how about thinking about your market in terms of monetary flows (as an economist might), or in terms of value generation (who have small flows out but big flows in). I work a lot of the time in creative industries, so how about thinking of them in terms of beauty generation? Who shines then?

All of this is intended to help us find a different way of looking at the world. Through a different view, we can find new opportunities that are invisible to those stuck between 390 and 750nm of the electromagnetic spectrum (visible light).

Then we can impress our colleagues with amazingly creative insights by “seeing like Einstein”. Though perhaps not “smelling like a dog”, which is likely to get the same reaction that my pleading gets from my sons.