List anxiety

I’m curious. Does anyone else feel that there are too many lists being made these days?

I remember when presenting design work clients might dislike for instance an idea for a front cover. Then they would often list lots of things that were wrong with it… I don’t like the picture off centre, the font is too big, that’s not really the blue I had in mind, our logo is too small, perhaps we should have a square shape not A4 etc etc.

We’d have a discussion and often I’d persuade them to let me change just one or two of the things on the list and see what happened… More often than not, they’d see it with just those changes and be happy. All the other list items turned out to be red herrings.

There are lots of lists in blogs. How to improve employee engagement; how to save time; how to boil an egg so the white is cooked and the yolk is runny. I’ve noticed how often my first response to lists is to feel anxious and inadequate. Oh my god, I’d better learn this list if I’m to give good advice on engagement, manage my time and boil an egg effectively. Of course, that anxiety usually means I rapidly distract myself with something else. No wonder I’m still struggling with that egg boiling.

Am I alone in this? I’m not against lists, I’m sure I’ve written plenty of them. But I think that list-making can be a pit paranoid, an attempt to create a perfect, comprehensive framework into which our raw, imperfect, paradoxical lives can be squeezed neatly.

These long lists of what’s right or wrong with a company or practice tend to make me think: oh goodness, this is a tough thing to crack. Yet, as with my design experience, I often find that changing just one or two things can resolve the other problems too. Or that there is another more intriguing issue underneath all of the listed ones.

Lists will always be with us. Could we at least have some funnier ones?

1 thought on “List anxiety

  1. Chris Corrigan

    Why lists don’t work:

    1. They gloss over depth.
    2. They simplify solutions
    3. They inhibit learning
    4. They devalue introspection
    5. They train users to expect easy answers
    6. They provide “solutions” to “problems” rather than analysis for situations.
    7. They falsely elevate the list maker to “expert”
    8. They are usually offered too earnestly
    9. Reply

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