Most Advanced Yet Acceptable
Humans are driven by the two opposing forces of neophilia and neophobia. We’re innately attracted to what’s new, but we are apprehensive when we do not understand it.
These are the underpinnings of industrial design giant Richard Loewy’s concept of MAYA. MAYA is an acronym for Most Advanced Yet Acceptable, and it has been presented as the key to selling anything.
The idea is to find the threshold where a product is innovative, yet intuitively understood. Once found, this threshold represents the ‘optimal newness’ needed for an idea or product to take hold. People want a fresh take on an old classic.
Products and ideas that merely regurgitate previous ones have little pull, but being too novel can also diminish their allure. We can graph this phenomenon, illustrating the general idea of how novelty affects our interest.
The optimal newness of an idea or product is the point at which we experience the most advanced, yet acceptable—MAYA.
In their book Made to Stick, Dan and Chip Heath explore why certain ideas endure and others die out. They present concreteness as an essential component of sticky ideas. Abstract ideas are difficult to grasp, nearly impossible to visualize, and provide us with little to latch onto. Concrete ideas are easily visualized and understood because they take advantage of the building blocks which already occupy our minds.
Our ideas and how we convey them will move along the concrete-abstract spectrum as the language or medium we use to explain them changes.
Your economics professor using complex economic terms to describe a demand curve leans abstract. When your professor draws the demand curve on a graph, it veers more concrete. When your professor constructs a demand curve by polling how much soda each student would buy as the price increases, it hones in on the concrete.
The Heath brothers suggest that we speak in concrete terms if we want our ideas to stick. Abstract confuses, concrete conveys. Humans can’t grasp the abstract without additional effort, and humans often avoid that which is not intuitive, as the principle of MAYA illustrates.
Reinforcing MAYA with Concrete
Our ideas can benefit a great deal from this understanding of how to sell using the Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable principle and why speaking in concrete terms is better than abstract ones.
The more novel something is, the more abstract it becomes. When sharing our ideas, we want to avoid veering too far into abstraction, but we need a certain degree of novelty to intrigue.
People are afraid of anything that’s too new, but they want something “new enough.” They want that slight jolt of excitement.
People are afraid of anything that makes them think too hard. They want simple ideas that are easily understood.
People want the Most Advanced Yet Acceptable idea, and they want it in concrete terms.