Why That New Idea May Not Be The Best Idea

By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

As designers we are always looking for new solutions to our clients’ problems.  We scan the design magazines, trade shows and the Internet looking for a new product, a new technique, a new application, or just a fresh approach, something to inspire our creative juices.  It’s good to try and learn new things. Keep in mind, though, there’s a difference between innovative and novel.  Don’t jump on an idea or solution just because it’s new.

I’ll bet most of us have had a moment or two when we’ve looked back on a project we’ve done and thought, “what was I thinking?!”  Maybe we were following a trend, or something clicked and an idea or inspiration seemed to fall into place.  In hindsight we realize it was not the best choice we could have made at the time.  So why didn’t we see it?

We humans are curious beings.  We are always on the lookout for new and interesting things.  When we walk into a room what we notice first is anything that is different from what we are used to seeing.  If we stay in a space long enough, the novelty will wear off.  We become accustomed to what at first seemed new.  Our attention will then be drawn to the next new thing that we encounter—perhaps some detail we didn’t notice at first.  Later, when we recall what the room looked like, we will remember that detail rather than whatever element first caught our eye.

Psychologists call this the “recency effect.”  Whatever we have experienced most recently—whether a new environment, object or idea—is what we are likely to remember best.  Subconsciously, our choices are influenced by whatever has stimulated our thoughts, feelings or imaginations most recently.  Without realizing it, we may allow ourselves to be swayed by what is novel and regard it as innovative, when in fact it is only different.

Watch for this phenomena the next time you are in a team meeting.  Someone will toss out a “new” idea, and the other members of the team will gravitate towards it and advocate for it, whether or not it really is the best solution.

When you feel yourself being pulled by a new experience or idea, take some time to step back and let it settle in.  You may find that even a few hours away, with your mind turned to other matters, you have a different perspective.  You may come back re-inspired and refine your solution even further.  Or you may find that your “new” idea doesn’t seem so new after all, and refocus your energies around a better solution.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this subject in our LinkedIn Group!

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