On the Inability of Most People to See What a Genius You Are

Jul 26

You’re a designer, or developer, or entrepreneur. You make stuff. You create. You make it happen on the daily. Etc.

You’re getting pretty good at it, too. So good that sometimes you produce amazing, potentially world-shaking solutions. Clever, original, inventive stuff. The stuff you’re proud of. Ingenious answers to difficult questions. Stuff that wasn’t there, but then it was. Because of you.

But here’s the thing about ingenious solutions:

Don’t expect the work to speak for itself. Even the most ingenious solutions must be sold.
—Suzanne Young

“Why!?” you lament, “It’s clear that this solution is amazing and wonderful and does everything it needs to do and more—everyone should be able to see that.”

And then they don’t. Because everyone isn’t you. If they were, you’d likely be out of a job. In fact, it wouldn’t be a job—it would just be one of the things that everyone on Earth just does in the course of a normal day. But what you do isn’t normal. And so it requires an abnormal way of operating if you want to do your job well.

New Things are Strange Things

The unfortunate truth about ingenuity is because of its originality, not many people have a framework for what to do with it. Sometimes people aren’t rejecting your ideas in spite of their apparent (at least to you) genius, they’re rejecting them because of it*. Your solutions are new, and this new thing isn’t proven, it isn’t trustworthy, it isn’t what we know, or what we can neatly fit into the cognitive confines of our worldview. It’s risky to even entertain.

So what do we do with things we don’t understand? “We burn them!”

Most of us outright reject unproven, untrustworthy, unknown things. It’s pure instinct, buried under layers of experience, bias, anecdote, and preference, an unconscious, lizard brain-like reaction to meet new things head on with skepticism, as if our survival depended on expelling what we don’t understand.

We’re predictable like that. The more ingenious the solution(s), the harsher and quicker the rejection. So don’t fight it, use it.

Armed with the knowledge that your ingenuity will likely be rejected if presented unadorned allows you to control the steps leading up to the rejection. You can frame the story. You can tailor your pitch to the people in the room. You’re free to lead the person you’re trying to convince on a journey, so that you can all arrive at your ingenious solution as if it was an inevitability, not an unwelcome intruder.

Make a Better Introduction

You can’t expect people to welcome a strange guest into their personal space without some explanation and backstory, especially if it’s a guest they’re likely going to live with for a long time. Part of our job is to come up with the solution, but part of it is to manage the introduction, to play a matchmaker role of sorts.

“I’ve taken some time to get to know you, and I think you two would be perfect for each other. I know you’re a little wary of things you don’t know, but let me tell you a little about this one to set your mind at ease…” Everyone can see it, because you led everyone there. Everyone can believe in it, because you convinced them of it.

If possible, create ingenious solutions. Wow the world. Please your clients. Make them yacht-loads of money. But always pitch and sell your solutions from an empathetic standpoint, knowing your listeners and taking into account their biases, instincts, and potential barriers to acceptance.

Be a genius, but also be an empathetic matchmaker. That way your genius can attract more admirers than just you.

*Sometimes they’re rejecting your ideas because your ideas suck. Or don’t solve the problem. Or create new problems you didn’t foresee. Or maybe you’re just a jerk. Your mileage may vary.