Should you let someone make a mistake?

Should you let someone make a mistake?

On the one hand, the answer is No.  Why should you let someone run into a wall if you can help them?  Doesn’t it makes sense to use your knowledge and wisdom to help people avoid doing something that clearly will end up in failure?  It seems like this is the ethical thing to do.  Help others avoid mistakes.

On the other hand, the answer is Yes.  How do you KNOW it will be a mistake?  How do you know the outcome will be worse?  Besides, even if it is, you are just being a crutch to them.  They are relying on you to avoid the mistake.  I know what I know through making many terrible mistakes.  I made a bunch of stupid decisions, lost alot of money and failed plenty of times.  That is how I built up my experience base.  However, my experience is not a guaranteed predictor of future outcomes.

My last hand says, Yes, but tell them how it could end up.  Explain how your previous experience turned out.  Explain what your experience is telling you.  Maybe suggest ways to mitigate risk or just help them understand what to look out for.  Lend your experience, but let people make their own decisions.  Don’t oversell it.  Don’t force it down someone’s throat.

What if that person is your child or an employee you manage?  Shouldn’t you be obligated to be more prescriptive with your advice?  I imagine it is a balance of sometimes yes and sometimes no depending on the thing.  If my child wants a motorcycle at 16, my answer is no.  If he wants to try a one-handed slice backhand in tennis, maybe I should let him make his own path.  What if it is borderline?  What if I am torn?

Life is hard.  Decisions are hard.  Maybe a tougher hand will yield fewer mistakes and people will learn.  Maybe it just creates a bunch of bad habits and people don’t learn at all.  Life is hard.  I don’t know if this puts other people in angst as much as me. I think about this sort of thing alot lately.

User Experience Design is the art, craft and science of designing outcomes.  As a designer, you never want someone to make a mistake.  Yet in life, it seems we SHOULD let people make mistakes.  It doesn’t feel right that UX Design would be so at odds with normal life behavior.  Hmm…Something to think about.


Whatya think?