Some sage thoughts from J Mays


I'm always looking for feedback on my evolving list of innovation principles.  What works?  What doesn't?  What's missing?

Last year Esquire ran this list of aphorisms from the mind of J Mays.  I've been holding on to this list since then, and this afternoon I took another look at it.  Seeing them afresh made me feel that a few fell naturally into some of my framework of innovation principles.  Is it narcissistic to take the thoughts of another person and put them into buckets of your own making?  Yeah, probably. 

Anyway, here I go… thinking by Mays, buckets by Rodriguez:

Principle 1: Experience the world instead of talking about experiencing the world

"A designer is
only as good as what he or she knows. If all you know is what you've
garnered from fifteen years of living in Detroit, it's going to limit
what you can lay down. If you've had experiences around the world,
you'll be able to design a much richer story for people to enjoy."

Principle 2: See and hear with the mind of a child

"If you go into a
person's house and look at his surroundings, you'll see exactly who he
is. If you look at the same person in his car, you'll see who he wants
to be"

Principle 3: Always ask: "How do we want people to feel after they experience this?"

"What does the cutlery look
like? What's the plate look like? How's the food laid out on the plate?
Has the environment been completely thought through? Part of the reason
I go to a nice restaurant is to get the entire vibe."

Principle 8: Most new ideas aren't

"There have been more
not-quite-right Mustangs than Mustangs. It had gone a little bit off the
rails in the seventies, came back in the eighties, and went a little
off the rails in the nineties. We did a lot of research before we
designed the 2005, and we came to the conclusion that the ones that were
really important, the ones that everybody logged in their heart, were
between '64 and '70. I wanted the 2005 to feel like we were picking up
in '71. So I basically erased thirty-five years of Mustangs in order to
get the story focused in everybody's mind again."

Principle 18: Learn to orbit the hairball

"Success has a lot of fathers."

"Clich├ęs are more correct than we give them credit for."

Principle 20: Be remarkable

"Believe it or not, there's an art to plowing a
field. My father had an exact way he wanted it done, a laser-straight
line over the length of the field. I just had to train my eye. If you
lay out the first line wrong, then all the other lines that you disc
will turn out crooked. There was a precision in those fields that I took
into automotive design."