Several years ago, a brilliant engineer devised a new software tool for augmenting decision making. He was justifiably proud of it and immediately released it for use among a small group of colleagues in his company. He assumed that they would take it up, use it to transform their work, and develop innovative breakthroughs accordingly.
The program might have achieved all this, but it was too hard to figure out. Even its inventor struggled at times to remember how to make it work. Nonetheless, he did not empathize with his users. He blamed them. He actually told me he thought they weren’t smart enough to use it. He didn’t say this to be harsh; it was simply an observation, grounded in a common cognitive error. Most of us expect everyone to think and feel the same way we do. But people’s reactions vary, especially in response to subtle but pervasive cues like those in user interfaces.