Just read this brilliant and incredibly timely (for me anyway!) post from the always passionate Kathy Sierra.
To avoid the Zone of Mediocrity, you must suspend disbelief.
You must be willing and able to turn off (temporarily) The Voice inside that says, “We’ll never get away with this. People will hate it.” That doesn’t necessarily mean The Voice is wrong, but until you can shut if off, you’re virtually guaranteed to stay with safer, incremental ideas. But remember–“safer” really isn’t safer anymore, unless you’re looking only to avoid criticism. Safe will keep you safely out of the spotlight. If that’s what you want (and sometimes that’s the best approach), then fine. But if not…
(side note: this is somewhat like The Inner Game approach or Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain or any of the other approaches to creativity that get your logical “talking” mind out of the way so all the more useful but non-speaking parts of your brain can get on with the important things you’re trying to accomplish.)
And it’s not just suspending disbelief about what users (or critics) will say… you must also suspend disbelief about what your company will let you do. I first experienced this at Sun, where it was almost impossible to creatively brainstorm about ways to improve things without someone jumping in with, “Yeah, but they’d never let us do that.” End of discussion. End of chance to do something amazing. Every time I do an internal workshop, the partipants are far more negative than when some of those same people are in a public version of my passionate users workshop. By taking them outside their company and having them brainstorm or work on fictional or other people’s projects, their minds are free to move about. I’ve nearly quit doing in-house workshops because the “they’ll never let us do that” syndrome is so strong.
You can’t help users kick ass until your employer lets YOU kick ass.
It reminded me of the city of Mediocritaxa – well worth a visit.