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The Village Venus Effect

The Village Venus effect example, a term from Edward De Bono, with a fish declaring that another fish in the fish bowl is the most beautiful fish in the whole world

The Village Venus effect describes the experience of someone living in an isolated village and knowing the most beautiful person there. Because the person is the most attractive person they've ever seen, it's easy to think that no one could be more so. Yet, beyond the village is a whole world of people, many of whom could be more beautiful.

The Village Venus effect can remind us that we often think within context and constraints without realising or considering what may be outside them. In that way, it can nudge us to think bigger or look outside our sphere of familiarity.

Travel is always an eye-opener for me. I'm consistently surprised (I should probably get used to it now and stop being surprised) at how ideas or delicious foods from one country or region don't reach others. Sometimes, the simplest way to innovate is to learn what people already do elsewhere.

In design research projects, we deliberately went on inspiration trips to broaden our thinking and escape the Village Venus Effect, often looking at adjacent industries. For example, when working on a premium sports equipment project, you could visit premium food stores to see what makes a food premium. Working in the US, I consistently found Asian stores a great source of inspiration for thinking wider.

I remember each time I went to the next level of my education (primary, secondary, college, Masters, PhD) whether, even though I had achieved well at my current level, I would fit in with the next calibre of students.

The Village Venus effect is related to the challenge of local optimisation—not realising there may be a higher level elsewhere—and the Dunning-Kruger effect, where it's hard to evaluate your level before you know how good "the best" can be. It's also an example of something Daniel Kahneman called What You See Is All There Is—WYSIATI.

If you're hiring and you interview five candidates, should you hire the best of those you've seen, or could there be a set of candidates in a different pool who would all be a better fit than those you've spoken with?

How many builders should you meet with before you're confident you have one who'll do an excellent job for your project?

How often do we unintentionally limit our choices by only looking at the immediate options presented to us?

The Village Venus is a term from lateral thinking originator Edward De Bono.

For a funnier take on the Village Venus watch Flight of the Conchords, The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room.

More ideas from Edward De Bono:

Lateral thinking sketches:


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