One of the great hallmarks of our success as a species is our desire (and ability) to impose our will on just about every aspect of our environment, including each other.
In the design of services and processes for example, we are often tempted to impose detailed control over just about every aspect we can think of.
But just because we can does not mean we should. In trying to control every imaginable aspect of a project, we risk creating an unnecessary amount of work, setting up unrealistic expectations and alienating users.
There are more things beyond our control than within. Knowing what we can actually control, and learning to bend and flow with the rest just seems really sensible to me.
Take for example, the propensity for humans to find and exploit the easiest way through a given process. We will cheat if we can! It is in our nature to be lazy. Instead of working out increasingly elaborate mechanism to thwart cheating, why not accept the fact that cheating will occur, and work with that fact?
What if we made cheating work for both parties? What if we reduce the impact of the cheating such that it doesn’t matter when it occurs? Credit card providers for example have the appropriate policies and procedures set up such that the level of fraud that does occur has minimal impact on their bottom lines and the integrity and usability of the whole system.
Users sometimes apologise for expressing their laziness. I see it as a great grounding truth for designers. People want convenience. They don’t really want to have to make too many decisions. Or think too hard about something. If we want to delight users, we need to enable laziness!
Working with the nature of things is one of the core tenets of Daoism. Benjamin Hoff’s book The Tao of Pooh is a fun introduction to the subject.
An in-your-face example of not working with the nature of things (humans in this case) is teaching abstinence in place of real sex education and access to birth control. Studies have clearly shown that in US states that teaches abstinence only, unwanted pregnancies and sexual lot transmitted diseases rates are significant higher. Clearly people are having sex regardless, which is the nature of things.
Unfortunately we seem to be able to delude ourselves for a long time…