You would think that with Congress' near-record-low approval rating we as a population would want the change we have been craving for so long, right?
Stick with me here, this blog isn't about politics, it is simply that this is the best example to break the ice. So with us clamoring to "throw the bums out" you'd think that we'd see fresh faces each election cycle. Looking at the incumbency rate, that isn't exactly the case. More broadly, we can see Congressional tenure figures paint an interesting tale about who we are as individuals and then voters.
With something as personal and powerful as politics, you'd imagine that we're the ones we've been waiting for. But, despite the nature of that beast, it is difficult to make a better mousetrap without it getting zany and complicated. Instead there is a resignation to just keep doing what's been done before because change is new, scary and full of doubt.
After all, KFC still sells varietal chicken meals. Auto manufacturers still make four-wheeled devices that ferry us to and fro. We want the same, familiar things because they make us feel comfortable and in control of our lives. As was brought up in the "Same thing but different" blog, doing the same as others is key but the true difference is in how you tweak it just so to make it distinguishable. Chicken crispiness and car options come and go, but the concept remains.
An excellent example of showing us that we don't know what we want even as we demand something else was made by Howard Moskowitz. He is a consultant who was hired by many food companies to help reinvent products and increase sales. The long story short: His research concluded that what focus groups say they want is often at odds to what they actually like. That sentiment has been echoed loudly over time, especially by Apple's late Steve Jobs.
If you'd like to "see" this concept play out in front of you, I'd urge you to watch a fellow Ohioan's three-part series on the matter as it relates to video games. Each part is only about 12 minutes long, entertaining and very informative.
It's a little disparaging to think that we as individuals actually want our politicians and businesses to tell us what we want. That we as individuals can't handle real innovation and change. But that's just the trick. It isn't so much the individuals as it is the "we." The 1997 sci-fi comedy "Men in Black" had an excellent quote pertaining to this conundrum. The context is they are talking about revealing the existence of ET life on earth:
Edwards: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.
Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow.
If you want to effect change in a company, your own business or on a Congress, keep in mind the above. "People" don't know what they want so it is up to you to present them pre-made, pre-packaged options from which to choose. Provide context and do the work up front to make your good or service more acceptable and easily understood. Don't buck the formula too much (up front).
Be careful you don't innovate your way into a corner or failure. Not only seeds of success can be sown, but so too the winds of foolishness.