Disability is often an engine of innovation
You sit at the end of a long line of inventions that might never have existed but for people with disabilities: the keyboard on your phone, the telecommunication lines it connects with, the inner workings of email. In 1808, Pellegrino Turri built the first typewriter so that his blind lover, Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano, could write letters more legibly. In 1872, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone to support his work helping the deaf. And in 1972, Vint Cerf programmed the first email protocols for the nascent internet. He believed fervently in the power of electronic letters, because electronic messaging was the best way to communicate with his wife, who was deaf, while he was at work.
Perhaps one day someone will write a history of the internet in which that great series of tubes will emerge not as some miracle of technical progress meant to connect people faster but rather a chain of inventions each meant to help more and more types of people to better communicate. Disability is so often an engine of innovation, [which] may sound suspiciously close to the cliché that necessity breeds invention. But a more accurate interpretation is that each of those inventors, by empathizing with someone whose problems they had become intimately familiar with, was able to create things they might never have created for themselves. They were finding the expertise and ingenuity that arises naturally when people are forced to live a life different from most. Their empathy allowed them to see past the specifics of what they knew, [and] somehow, in solving problems for someone at the edges of experience, they created products that turned out to be useful to everyone.
I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.
The most consequential assumption behind all his work (ed. Don Norman, leading authority on design and usability) is that even if human error is to blame, it is hard to imagine any human not making these errors. Humans might fail—but they are not wrong. And if you try to mirror their thinking a little, even the stupidest and strangest things that people do have their own indelible logic. You have to know why people behave as they do—and design around their foibles and limitations, rather than some ideal.
His great insight was that no matter how complex the technology, or how familiar, our expectations for it remain the same. […]. This is what you have to understand if you are to design an app that people can use the first time they try it, or a plane that humans won't crash, or a nuclear reactor that humans can't cause to melt through the continental shelf.
The creative act is a letting down of the net of human imagination into the ocean of chaos on which we are suspended, and the attempt to bring out of it ideas.
It is the night sea journey, the lone fisherman on a tropical sea with his nets, and you let these nets down - sometimes, something tears through them that leaves them in shreds and you just row for shore, and put your head under your bed and pray.
At other times what slips through are the minutiae, the minnows of this ichthyological metaphor of idea chasing.
But, sometimes, you can actually bring home something that is food, food for the human community that we can sustain ourselves on and go forward.
[Many people] think it means accept failure with dignity and move on. The better, more subtle interpretation is that failure is a manifestation of learning and exploration. If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it. And, for leaders especially, this strategy — trying to avoid failure by out-thinking it — dooms you to fail.