[MAYA principle] People like things that are familiar but surprising and vice versa.
Being design consultants to one hundred and forty companies, most of them blue-ribbon corporations, and having been in very close contact with the consumer's reactions, we have been able to develop what I might call a fifth sense about public acceptance, whether it is the shape of a range, the layout of a store, the wrapper of a soap, the style of a car, or the color of a tugboat. This is the one phase of our profession that fascinates me no end. Our desire is naturally to give the buying public the most advanced product that research can develop, and technology can produce.
Unfortunately, it has been proved time and time again that such a product does not always sell well.
There seems to be for each individual product (or service, or store, or package, etc.) a critical area at which the consumer's desire for novelty reaches what I might call the shock-zone. At that point the urge to buy reaches a plateau, and sometimes evolves into a resistance to buying. It is a sort of tug of war between attraction to the new and fear of the unfamiliar. The adult public's taste is not necessarily ready to accept the logical solutions to their requirements if this solution implies too vast a departure from what they have been conditioned into accepting as the norm. In other words, they will go only so far. Therefore, the smart industrial designer is the one who has a lucid understanding of where the shock-zone lies in each particular problem. At this point, a design has reached what I call the MAYA (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) stage.
How far ahead can the designer go stylewise? This is the all-important question, the key to success or failure of a product. Its satisfactory solution calls for an understanding of the tastes of the American consumer.
[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.
Focus is saying no to 1,000 good ideas.
Yet, certainly, the wise learn many things from their enemies; for caution preserves all things. From a friend you could not learn this, but your foe immediately obliges you to learn it. For example, the states have learned from enemies, and not from friends, to build lofty walls, and to possess ships of war. And this lesson preserves children, house, and possessions.