A Very Dim Mirror

In one of my favourite scenes from Inspector Morse, Morse tells Lewis a little about his adolescence and how he promised himself that he’d never forget what it felt like; and then he delivered the kicker, that of course he did, that everyone does. There are many reasons I accepted the fallibility of memory, but that scene was probably my earliest introduction to it; and I carried the inevitability of that separation of present and past selves with me into later life. I still believe we lose touch with the experience of adolescence, but one thing exists that can remind us how it felt: the Windows 10 upgrade cycle.

Peering Down The Road Untaken

Having worked on various business improvement projects over the years, this video on requirements gathering made me chuckle and wince at the same time. However, it isn’t just large-scale projects that suffer from the issue: even the most apparently simple aims can suffer from a strong bias to repeat what works.

As the almost fanatical resistance displayed by adherents of disproved theories shows, once the human mind has a solution to an issue it will hold onto it even when presented with almost overwhelming evidence it isn’t the best solution. And this tendency to accept the status quo is even stronger when there isn’t an external challenge.

So, as happened in the video, people can become fixated on the method rather than the outcome; rebuilding the existing world rather than taking the opportunity to build a more functional one.

Obviously, this favouring of an existing approach over a bespoke one saves time, so is helpful for non-critical tasks (such as the route to work on an ordinary day or where to buy more socks), but for the things that will have a large impact it’s worth taking the time to challenge our assumptions at least a little.

A More Fluid Interaction

Sean Follmer’s idea is good just for the reasons he gives, and I can see others:

Being able to “pass” objects to people in other locations? Remote support and training gain most of the advantages of an on-site presence.

Furniture that changes shape in response to the user? No more fiddling with handles to obtain an ergonomic layout or guessing if you will be using someone else’s desk for long enough to justify adjusting the chair.

But, the real benefit isn’t in the workplace.