The Aeron is the bestselling office chair of all time. Though when it was first designed, people inside the organization hated it, outside designers thought it was hideous, and facility managers who make the bulk purchasing decisions were disgusted by it. But someone gave it the green light anyway. That person was a tastemaker.
Most of us are tasters. We know what we like and what we don’t like. But as Malcolm Gladwell explains in Blink, our preferences are highly unstable particularly when what we’re evaluating is potentially revolutionary or game changing. We just don’t have the vocabulary to describe something that’s so different, and so it’s easy to label it as ugly or weird. What we don’t realize is that not long after, under different circumstances, we’ll love it.
So what does this mean? Our own initial gut preferences, our “taste” is often an unreliable indicator of success. That’s why we’re in awe of taste “makers”. They seem to have the uncanny ability to sense, not how something tastes right now, but how it will taste in the future, in a world where preferences inevitably evolve.
But is taste-making skill or simply bravado? Hard to say, but one thing’s for sure, if we want game changing innovations, we need it.
Every now and then, at the meeting to determine whether the project gets the green light or not, someone has to stand up and say, “It’s different, but I can see how it might work. We should try it.”
Someone has to have the guts to be a tastemaker.
If not you might be missing the greatest opportunity of all: the chance to give the market something they never knew they wanted, something even you never knew you wanted.