Crisis of Confidence — Why People Think Your New Idea Is Scary and What To Do About It

For most Americans, every April brings a certain sense of dread as the tax filing deadline looms. There are few things more intimidating than a tax code that’s thousands of pages long. Luckily, the tax filing app, Turbotax, does a great job of replacing this fear with confidence by removing ambiguity, giving control, and providing education for it’s users. And it’s a good thing, too. Fudge some arithmetic, and you could be subject to an audit by the IRS and ultimately prosecuted for tax fraud. Yikes. Not only are the stakes high, but the rules of the game are obtuse to say the least. Practically no one using Turbotax understands the tax code, so Turbotax really has its work cut out for it when it tries to replace that overwhelming fear with confidence.

Turbotax takes this fear dynamic so seriously that it actually begins its tax filing tutorial with an emotional check-in, asking its users how they’re feeling before they get started. Just by acknowledging that the people using their software might be a little bit nervous, Turbotax is letting its users know that it’s there for them. Next, Turbotax very clearly suggests to its users the most common path to filling out tax returns, but it very clearly lets them know that they can go back to any step at any point, so they don’t need to worry about getting the answers absolutely perfect the first time. Each step along the way is clearly marked and its completion celebrated. Finally, Turbotax offers tax experts to help with any questions. An explanation about a confusing tax rule is just a tap away. They’ve truly created a system of education on demand.

While filing taxes is an extreme example, the truth is every new thing we design creates a crisis of confidence for our users. New things always come with a bit of fear. Your users might have some idea of what to expect, but you can’t really say for sure. As designers and innovators, we need to be aware of this initial fear and work to counteract it. Instead of trepidation, we need to instill in our users a feeling of confidence. This confidence will give them the will to move forward through the experience and is a key ingredient to make sure they love what you’ve created.

Why Innovation is Hard

So innovation is this super important thing, right? Without it, we wouldn’t have microwaves or modern medicine; we’d still be living in a world where we have to use our hands to flip a physical switch to turn on the lights. Almost 80% of CEOs say innovation is key to the growth of their companies. But with all of our hopes of future profit and driverless commutes, there’s just one problem: innovation is hard — like really, really hard. In fact, CEOs also consistently cite innovation as one of the greatest challenges facing their businesses. So what’s going on here? Why is coming up with new things so dang hard?