“What do you think is the most underrated quality a product designer should possess?” — on Quora

NEGATIVITY – Yup, I said it.

Which is why I upvoted an answer on Quora from Sylvan Aros, who observed :

  • “Being basically lazy!”
  • “It helps to be a bit of a cheapskate, too …”

Those aren’t just snide, snarky comments. They’re true.

Most of this answer is based on quotes from The Evolution of Useful Things by Henry Petroski (1991) … because … it resonates for me.

Form Follows Failure

“Here then, is the central idea: the form of made things is always subject to change in response to their real or perceived shortcomings – their failures to function properly. This principle governs all invention, innovation, and ingenuity; it is what drives all inventors, innovators, and engineers.

… whereas the shortcomings of an existing thing may be expressed in terms of a need for improvement, it is really want rather than need that drives the process of technological evolution.

soooo ….. Be Judgmental

Although only a few may originate policy, we are all able to judge it. — Athenian statesman Pericles

Inventors as Critics

“Inventors are not satisfied with things as they are; inventors are constantly dreaming of how things might be better … This is not to say that inventors are pessimists.

On the contrary – They are supreme optimists, for they pursue innovation with the belief that they can improve the world, or at least the things of the world.

Inventors do not believe in leaving well enough alone.

By focusing on the shortcomings of things, innovators altered those things, in order to remove the imperfections, thus producing new, improved objects.”

Henry Petroski, “The Evolution of Useful Things”

 

The Flipside

You can sugar-coat it as “critical insight” or “logical analysis” or “clarity”, but society generally doesn’t appreciate the negative perspective.

This is especially true of corporate culture:

  • “Unfortunately – Just not a fit
  • “Really not one of us
  • “Such negative energy
  • “Clearly not a team player

It’s The Emperor’s New Clothes>Syndrome

emperors-new-clothes1

Soooo …

Go Negative

A corollary of “the value of negativism” is something which has come to dominate our socialMedia Culture: The Tyranny of the [ Like ] Button

  • … but that’s another rant

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