Design Strategy
March 23, 2021

Being aware of your preferences allows you to question them and, at times, abandon them.

Open Reference

Design preferences are obvious biases that masquerade as the virtues of good taste.

Preferences are helpful shortcuts that must be reexamined, so we can abandon them as needed, and they don't become a vice that locks us into our current way of thinking.

Samurai Miyamoto Musashi wrote in 1645, a week before he died, the "Dokkodo" (The Way of Walking Alone). He wrote 21 insights he had gained from his life as a master in the way of the sword. #11 is "In all things have no preferences." This idea in the Dokkodo reflects a reoccurring view we find in older stoic and ancient eastern thought.

Adam Grant, a modern-day social researcher, writes, "When an idea or assumption doesn't matter deeply to us, we're often excited to question it." However, he shares that for deeply held opinions and beliefs, the opposite is also true. We all have a mini dictator in our head who controls what facts and information make it to our brains' reasoning center. Often, information that conflicts with our identity is treated as a threat rather than something curious we should explore.

In design review sessions, I often say if I feel strongly or not about an opinion. It doesn't remove my preference but opens my mind to see my preferences. Others can ask why I feel strongly. And if I state an opinion and make it plain when I don't feel strongly, it allows others to speak more quickly.

This is a detachment strategy; separating oneself from ideas and opinions helps reduce our trigger to dig in or default to our preferences.

As a creative leader, I don't think you have to cast out your preferences, which is part of your style. But being aware of your preferences allows you to question them and, at times, abandon them.

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