There has been many attempts to define what is likable? What is beauty? Is there a formula? It seems there is and it makes a lot of sense. It is called “Optimal Newness” as defined by a research team from Harvard University which conducted a study in 2014 to know “what sorts of proposals were most likely to win funding from prestigious institutions such as the National Institutes of Health—safely familiar proposals, or extremely novel ones? They prepared about 150 research proposals and gave each one a novelty score. Then they recruited 142 world-class scientists to evaluate the projects. The most-novel proposals got the worst ratings. Exceedingly familiar proposals fared a bit better, but they still received low scores. “Everyone dislikes novelty,” Karim Lakhani, a co-author, explained to me, and “experts tend to be overly critical of proposals in their own domain.” The highest evaluation scores went to submissions that were deemed slightly new.” writes Derek Thompson in his 2017 article for The Atlantic – The Four-Letter Code to Selling Just About Anything”.
Derek talks about Raymond Loewy the legendary designer and his evolution into this larger than life figure who, Cosmopolitan magazine wrote “ has probably affected the daily life of more Americans than any man of his time.” And Loewy based most of his work on a simple principle he had arrived upon through his observation that “consumers are torn between two opposing forces: neophilia, a curiosity about new things; and neophobia, a fear of anything too new. As a result, they gravitate to products that are bold, but instantly comprehensible. Loewy called his grand theory “Most Advanced Yet Acceptable”—maya. He said to sell something surprising, make it familiar; and to sell something familiar, make it surprising.”
You can see the play out in industry after industry, from Hollywood hits to cable television, to music playlists, baby names to Silicon valley. We know AirBnB was called the eBay for Homes, Uber AirBnB for cars and now scores of startups – Uber for “something”. We all remember the Steve Jobs unveiling of the iPhone at Macworld in 2007 – he kept talking about 3 revolutionary product in their class – “A wide screen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary new phone and a breakthrough internet communication device” over and over till he asks “are you getting it?” He was connecting the familiar with the excitement of the new.
Derek quotes Max Planck, the theoretical physicist who helped lay the basics of quantum theory, as saying “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
Derek delivered a lecture on this topic:
Here is the link to Derek Thompson’s article :
The Four-Letter Code to Selling Just About Anything.What makes things cool https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/01/what-makes-things-cool/508772/