The learned man is not the man who provides the correct responses, rather he is the man who poses the right questions.
In The Price of Fish, Michael Mainelli and Ian Harris caution us against seeking precision in our understanding of problems and outcomes. They state that acknowledging possible outcomes is okay, and they see it not as a lack of precision but instead as a “sign of maturity.” We are fond of the quote from John von Neumann with which they drive the point home2:
There’s no point in being precise when you don’t even know what you are talking about.
Precision has long been a core value in business and design. Certainty is a desired context for many business decisions, and often we implicitly assume that problems are clearly understood and that the outcome can be predicted to a greater or lesser degree. The application of formal systems of design often thrives on iterative cycles in which all the kinks and rough edges can get worked out.
But what if this is no longer possible? What if time to market makes quality both a benefit and a risk? What if things are changing too rapidly to establish which aspects of quality will actually make a difference in the marketplace? What happens when business puts known costs of efficiency ahead of the unknown cost of a dissatisfied customer? Is there a way to predict which trade-offs in the quality of an experience are important? How do you move forward into the unknown ...