Risky Business

Guy Kawasaki keeps his ear to the ground and often picks up on some very interesting material. This week, he evaluates an article in Stanford Magazine, “Effort Effect.” Read the article first, then his take on it. Interesting.

For my part, this bit of the article popped out at me:

Students for whom performance is paramount want to look smart even if it means not learning a thing in the process. For them, each task is a challenge to their self-image, and each setback becomes a personal threat. So they pursue only activities at which they’re sure to shine—and avoid the sorts of experiences necessary to grow and flourish in any endeavor. Students with learning goals, on the other hand, take necessary risks and don’t worry about failure because each mistake becomes a chance to learn.

It was obvious to the researchers which students fell in which category. I wonder if some of the work we do is sometimes as transparently “safe” to our users. For instance, I can tell right away when a web site, web service, or even just a piece of software is crappy. And I’m not necessarily talking about quality, but the needs it addresses, its distinctiveness.

“Playing it safe” crops up everywhere, though. The ‘B’ movie, for instance, is a vintage plucked from the vine of mediocrity, except for when it’s not. In those cases, they are works of great imagination, draped in an ironic patina of ‘B-ness’.

We’re all guilty of playing it safe at one point or another. I certainly am, and even in some of the work I was doing in my last days at AADL felt like B-work: not by anyone’s behest, but simply because we all get into ruts.

So it’s within that striation of thought that I applaud the SirsiDynix decision to punt on Horizon. You’ve got to admit, that took a serious gut-check. I can’t, in good conscience, join the cacophony of hems and haws over this news after, myself, espousing the need for vendors to tear it down and build it back up. This is precisely the type of thing we ought to be expecting from our vendors every ten years or so. I wish them the best of luck with Rome.

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