Having choices make us feel in control
In The Art of Choosing (2010), Sheena Iyengar describes an experiment with rats. The rats were given a choice of a direct path to food, or a path that had branches and therefore required choices to be made. Both paths resulted in access to the same food in the same amounts. If all the rats wanted was food, then they should take the short, direct path. But the rats continuously preferred the path with branches. In experiments with monkeys and pigeons, the animals learn to press buttons to get food. If given a choice between one button and multiple buttons, both monkeys and pigeons prefer multiple buttons. In similar research with humans, people were given chips to use at a casino. They could use the chips at a table that had one roulette wheel, or at a table where they could choose from two roulette wheels. People preferred the table with two wheels, even though all three wheels were identical.
Even though it isn't necessarily true, people equate having choices with having control. If people are to feel in control, then they need to feel that their actions are powerful and that they have choices to make.
Sometimes having many choices makes it harder to get what they want, but they still want the choices so that they feel in control of the decision. The desire to control the environment is built into us. This makes sense, since by controlling the environment we likely increase our chances of surviving.
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.