Couple of weeks ago I was having lunch at our office. Me and my colleagues were talking about ice cream and our favorite flavors. Pistachio and salted caramel got mentioned. I personally like fruit flavored ice creams.
We didn’t even mention vanilla ice cream. No-one has a problem with vanilla but it’s rarely someone’s favorite. Yet, if we had gotten ice cream for the whole office after lunch, we probably would have gone with vanilla.
In fact, in Finland (and many other countries), vanilla is the most sold ice cream.
In Don’t Call It That: A Naming Workbook, Eli Altman calls this the “Ice Cream Principle.” It goes like this:
“Tell 10 people to go get ice cream with one condition: they all have to agree on one flavor. The flavor is going to be chocolate or vanilla every time. Groups of people don’t agree on what’s cool or interesting, they agree on what’s easy to agree on.”
Altman’s book is about giving names to products. The Ice Cream Principle reminds you not to make the naming process too democratic. However, you can still take this principle and apply it to other parts of your work.
If your goal is to move people instead of writing code, you need to incite people to action. You need to move people emotionally.
One way of doing this is to be interesting and cool. And vanilla isn’t cool. Wisdom of the crowd applies poorly to creating interesting things.