August 9, 2022

Whoa bro, are you trying to get us all killed here?


The world is often unkind to new creations.

Human beings by nature are suspicious of novelty. They will ignore and question and even ridicule things they’ve never seen before.

After all, the discovery of, defense for, and dedication to the new, has always been an evolutionary risk.

Think about the first caveman who dared to paint on walls or milk a cow, make fire or cook meat, or even lie down in the grass to take a nap in the middle of a hot afternoon.

His friends must have been like, whoa bro, what do you think you’re doing? Are you trying to get us all killed here?

This ancient wiring never went away. People’s radars for those colorful but poisonous berries are always being calibrated. They’re still skeptical of new ideas that challenge the status quo.

And that’s what makes innovating so difficult. The entrepreneur who’s trying to pioneer a new discipline, create a new category, start a new conversation, evangelize a new problem, launch a new industry or offer a new solution, they’re taking a significant risk. Fighting an uphill battle every step of the way.

Just like the caveman, their friends will see their work and go, what the hell is this thing?

The hard part is parsing the feedback. Because on one hand, people’s criticism can be useful in exposing your product’s faults. If a customer isn’t as close to the innovation as you are, they can expose flaw that you never thought of, or weaknesses you secretly hoped nobody else would point out.

That’s ultimately a good thing. Even someone like me who isn’t even remotely interested in people’s feedback about my art, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and take one for the team, in the name of progress.

Now, the other side of the coin is, it’s also easy to overreact to early customer feedback. Because when you’re inventing something new, what the hell do they know? If you’ve challenged the status quo with a product nobody has ever seen before, then people’s feedback is irrelevant. It’s merely a projection of their own insecurities.

Who are they to criticize something that, until this very moment, didn’t exist?

Ipod launched at the turn of the century when the digital music format was only starting to become popular. People were like, what the hell is this little white box?

In fact, if you read the original reviews of the music player, the device was greeted with a rather tepid response. One critic said that carrying the player around in your pocket was akin to putting those velcro weights on your ankles and then riding a unicycle to work.

Another critic commented that rather than becoming a glorified consumer gimmicks firm, Apple should spend a little more time sorting out their pathetically expensive and crap server line up.

Has the world ever been unkind to your new creations? What helps you parse out the feedback from people who have legitimate concerns, and people who simply don’t get the joke?

You know, it’s not the most satisfying answer, but sometimes you just have to let time tell the story. Sometimes you just need to follow your inner guide, even if you look like an idiot and risk alienating those who don’t understand.

It makes the creative process much more of an uphill battle. Each piece of critical feedback essentially asks you, what the hell is this thing? And your heart will hurt every time.

However, if you learn to treat that resistance as a tax on innovation, it’s almost certainly worth paying.

Schopenhauer famously said that every truth passes through three stages before it is recognized. In the first stage it’s ridiculed, in the second stage it’s opposed, in the third stage it’s regarded as obvious.

Your innovation might not survive all three stages. But you will.

And regardless of the outcome, you’ll be stronger for having taken the journey.

Are you willing to fight the uphill battle of educating the market on a problem they don’t know they have?