I remember watching Evita and chuckling when Antonio Banderas looks into the camera and declares that politics is “the art of the possible.” I understood it, but didn’t want to accept it. Nearly 30 years later I may have figured out how to accept it while still moving things forward. Perhaps this will help you in your work too.
Most of you should know that I am not one to settle for the status quo, nor is anyone around me. We like shaking things up, questioning everything, changing what’s possible, doing great work, and teaching others to do the same.
At the end of the day though, there’s a limit to how quickly we can move, and it’s important to think about that so we don’t try to do high minded things that are ultimately impossible today (but not tomorrow!) In other words, we need to look for the art of the possible if we want to change the status quo.
A friend recently pointed me to the MAYA Principle, which stands for Most Advanced Yet Acceptable. Raymond Loewy coined the term and is known as the father of industrial design. If you like a rounded design of the 30s, 40s, or 50s, the odds are pretty good he was behind it: from streamlined steam engines to Greyhound buses to Coke bottles, Loewy designed it.
Loewy talked a lot about creating designs that looked futuristic, but not too futuristic so that the masses would accept them. I call it “familiar with a twist.”
To that end, we just spent nearly a year working through BAD ASS HVAC which takes things that are very familiar to the HVAC industry and puts a twist on them. That twist provides far better comfort and air quality than a standard system that looks almost identical to BAD ASS HVAC with an untrained eye.
That familiarity seems to be the key - we all like futuristic things, but we all have some resistance to them at the same time. Some have A LOT of resistance to it, which we talked about recently looking at late adopters and laggards, but if that twist is applied well, most will not only accept it, but embrace it.
Perhaps telling our own story of figuring out how to make our system MAYA will be helpful as you consider what it might look like in your life.
A Painful Metamorphosis
One of my catch phrases is that “half measures deliver quarter results”, typically thinking about air sealing an existing home - either do it right or don’t bother, otherwise you end up in the Gulf of Disappointment after chasing low hanging fruit.
Alas, in developing the HVAC 2.0 program we figured out that better residential indoor air quality, comfort, and electrification often involves a half measure: upgrading HVAC but not the building shell. Very strange for someone who until then had focused heavily on insulation and air sealing. I got called an HVAC guy by a Passive House friend a month back and it put me back on my heels a bit.
Our MAYA key was figuring out that by running a blower door test on a home and asking a bunch of questions (aka the HVAC 2.0 Comfort Consult) we could figure out if HVAC alone was likely to solve client problems. Our guys were used to doing dog and pony shows at free quotes, not getting paid for their time. With a Comfort Consult we gave them a path to get paid for their expertise while still offering a very basic free quote. That’s MAYA to many HVAC contractors.
Like I said, this was painful because we’d worked very hard to figure out a scalable process to sell and execute comprehensive performance retrofits. But in the end we’re finding that the market for those retrofits is likely no more than 100-200K homes in the US per year until something changes.
Instead we built that path in as the most advanced step in the HVAC 2.0 process. Anyone who wants one of those projects has access to them through an HVAC 2.0 contractor, which was our ultimate goal.
Getting from selling only complex projects to giving customers options of buying either simple or complex ones was a turn that has taken several years, and we owe that to our HVAC 2.0 early adopters, particularly Michael Housh.
HVAC 2.0 is now MAYA, or close enough that we can attract more contractors and help them genuinely improve their businesses and improve the health of homes across the country. But again, this was a tough iterative process that took years and required us to destroy one preconceived notion after another. What dogma do you need to question in your world?
How does MAYA apply to you?
If you’re reading this, you’re probably trying to change things for the better. Are you doing it in a way that’s most advanced, yet acceptable? Is it a path others can follow without it being too hard?
It’s a question worth pondering, it’s critical to making big shifts. And remember, once we do MAYA, we can move that much further the next time until we actually get to where we want to go. The hope is that multiple quick evolutions can look like a revolution when we look back in 20 years.
What does MAYA or “familiar with a twist” look like in your work?