Latent Potential: Finding 5% of a wing

David Oliver got me thinking about Evolution…And I was finally reading Rules for Revolutionaries…which mentions Stephen Jay Gould’s 5% of a wing problem. So all this is buzzing around in my head…

Maybe it’s just my past life as a scientist but I love the idea of the 5% of a wing…We all know what a wing is good for…but what is 5% of a wing, a proto-wing that can evolve into a full-wing good for? It has totally different characteristics and justifications than a full wing – it’s for warmth or mating dances or…?

How would you know it’s a wing? How could you guess what it might grow into?

So, how do you study behavior that doesn’t exist? What you’re studying then is Latent Potential. A pre-wing that might turn into a wing. Peering into the future to discover how current emotions, leanings and proclivities will evolve into mainstream behaviors and expectations is tough.

I was reading Kicker’s Blog today and saw this slide, which ties it all together for me:kick_expect It says that the best products (among other things) Use conventions or something radically better. So how can we know or guess or intuit that what we create, if we break with conventions, will somehow synch up with that Latent Potential in the user?

In Kicker’s interview with Jack Schulze, he says that design is about cultural invention.  I think it is great for us to be trailblazers, to (in the evolutionary sense) mutate common sense, reverse polarity, break the box etc…but then we expect that our innovation will resonate universally with some deep seated feelings in others. That’s tapping into the 5% of a wing, the latent potential in others.


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