A few weeks ago I read a letter called Please Don’t Help My Kids. This excerpt resonated with me:
It is not my job … to prevent my children from feeling frustration, fear, or discomfort. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn that those things are not the end of the world, and can be overcome or used to their advantage.
Doing something the first time is a challenge. I have 2 young kids, and I watch them struggle with the most rudimentary things. Eventually they figure it out. Usually it comes with tears and pleading. But that’s how they’ll learn to do the next thing. That’s how they’ll get the confidence to take on the next challenge. That’s how you level up.
Learning to program
I was fortunate enough to take a programming class at The Starter League last fall. The word on the street is Ruby on Rails (the programming framework we used) is so easy: “You can make a blog in 5 minutes.” Jeff Cohen and Raghu Betina are amazing teachers. They taught me that, yes Rails is easy, but first you need to feel frustration and discomfort before you can really learn.
The first four weeks of class was comprised of handwriting Ruby code without Rails. It was frustrating because “I thought I could do this in 5 minutes.” Maddening because “I have to do this every time!?” Enlightening because once I learned about what Rails did (after 4 weeks), how it worked with Ruby, my mind was open. I was like Neo in The Matrix when he sees the world decoded.
Make it “idiot-proof”
Are we doing ourselves a disservice by building conveniences into our products? As makers we’re always trying to add convenience for customers. We all try to build features and products that lessen friction.
We never stop learning after childhood though. Maybe things shouldn’t be too easy. Friction is good. That’s how we learn.
Is idiot-proofing for idiots?
At CES earlier this month there were cars that drove and parked themselves. That is truly amazing technology. First you had to shift your own gears with manual transmission. Then automakers created automatic transmission. The car knows when to shift. You don’t need to think about it. Now they’re developing self-driving cars. They’re making cars idiot-proof. Consider a generation that will never know how to drive a car.
I took a road trip last summer. Against my better judgement I took a sketchy dirt road because my GPS navigation told me to. I drove for what seemed like hours down a dirt road not knowing where it would lead. If I had read a paper map I would have discovered that the road I was driving on was taking me a few miles away from where I wanted to go.
What’s the perfect balance for making things easy, but still difficult enough to make it a worthwhile experience? Is idiot-proofing for idiots, or am I an idiot for thinking so?