I’ve noticed that beauty often comes in attention to the details. The kitchen utensil that does its job perfectly every time. The keyboard that I use constantly. The location of the shift lever in my car. The layout of the website that just makes sense.

It’s kind of crazy, yes, but these things matter a great deal.

But how do you keep this design sense from becoming all-consuming? Because we can spend WAY too much time obsessing about stuff that really doesn’t matter that much.

It comes from knowing – and watching – how people struggle with your product. Not with the goal of convincing people that you’re smart and they just need to figure it out.

Instead, with a sense of curiosity and even wonder.

I had a team I was managing in a large company, and I pushed them to look for surprises. It even happens in everyday conversation – people are constantly saying things which surprise me and then cause me to wonder what I can learn.

And you can learn from even the smallest things! Why did it take someone five seconds to find that menu on my website? Clearly there was a little bit of mental gymnastics going on there, and maybe I can help them move along a little more effortlessly.

This happens in my own behavior too. When I picked up that tool, why did it feel uncomfortable for a few seconds?

Curiosity plus thoughtfulness leads to learning.