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Flying Seraph

Beware Of Averages - The Kiss Of Death

Imagine you’re standing barefoot with one leg in red-hot coals. The other in a bucket of ice.


On average, you’re comfortable…


Clearly, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let’s face it, you’re in sheer agony. Just two very different factors causing the pain, simultaneously.

Certainly not warm and comfy.

If this amused you, then ask yourself: how many times in the past 6 months you have heard the expression ‘the average person’? The average Mum? The average teen? The average (insert ethnic descriptor)? The average light user?

Possibly in someone’s write-up of a ‘Persona’.

Very likely in some segmentation work.

The convenience and simplicity offered by averaging (sometimes simple stereotyping) is enticing. But is often outweighed by its tendency to obscure vital differences. Or even mask important similarities.

If you’re trying to make breakthroughs, you don’t want to be working with average people. You need people on the fringe. Spiky people. All of them. With each person’s individuality respected and studied. But, at all costs, not blended to form a pseudo-trifle.

For it’s highly unusual folk, people with frustrations and work-arounds, who feel intensely, now, what the majority will come to feel later, who will be most useful. So please don’t take away their sharp edges by averaging or rounding.

Only after you’ve solved for each individual, should you go wider as you prototype and test. Even still, watch for individual responses and don’t fall prey to averaging.

As in all our endeavours, light and shade are needed equally – each making the other stand out more noticeably. Averaged out, we leave ourselves with only greyness and dullness to work with.

If you’re still (in thought only, I hope) standing with one foot in the fire and the other in ice, then by now you’re nearly dead.

Therein lies the only average I can count on…

…the simple human truth that, once born, the average person will probably die.


Please follow me on Twitter: @MarkSareff

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