• Renate Ruby

Monkey see, monkey can't do.

Another element of this change in our industry is the rise and popularity of HGTV and other home design programs, Houzz, Pinterest, and any medium that lets clients into the process of interior design.


Economics Scientists Michael Kardas and Ed O’Brien from the University of Chicago School of Business published a study in February of 2018 called “Easier Seen Than Done : Merely Watching Others Perform Can Foster an Illusion of Skill Acquisition”. Oh boy, do interior designers know this is true! In this study it’s revealed that it is human nature to over-estimate the amount of skill you are acquiring by simply watching an expert perform that skill, however there is no actual skill acquired.


The more people watched an expert do a task, the more confident they became that they could indeed do it themselves. However, in practice, no matter how many times the subject watched the expert perform the skill in question, their ability to actually perform that skill themselves was always the same - the couldn’t do it!


Oh, they thought they could do what the expert was doing by simply watching them do it, but their false sense of confidence was shattered when they attempted the skill and failed. When performing a task like pulling a table cloth out from under dishes it is absolutely clear to everyone if the subject succeeded or failed.


But what about skills that require judgement to assess success? How could they know if they succeeded or not? As we have learned from Paul Graham in his essay Taste for Makers our clients are ill equipped to even tell that they can’t do it.


Let that sink in….your clients WANT to do your job, they think they CAN do your job and they do not have the knowledge to SEE that they can’t do it.


Experts make things look easy. Our jobs look easy from the outside, and design shows and websites foster the idea that design is subjective and easy - we as professionals know better. We know we are better now than we once were, and our increased skill over time comes from the kind of work our clients are not doing. (Seriously, real Paul Graham - it will change your life.)


We have to communicate not only what we do, the value of what we do, but help clients understand that due to forces beyond their control that it's in their best interest to hire us, give us basic direction about what they want to have, and what they are prepared to pay, and then let us delight them! It's a very different sell than offering to split your discount with them.


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