“The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists. I've spent more than a decade studying this and it turns out to be far less difficult than I expected.
The starting point is curiosity: pondering why the default exists in the first place. We’re driven to question defaults when we experience vuja de, the opposite of déjà vu. Déjà vu occurs when we encounter something new, but it feels as if we’ve seen it before. Vuja de is the reverse-- we face something familiar, but we see it with a fresh perspective that enables us to gain new insights into old problems. Without a vuja de event, Warby Parker wouldn't have existed. When the founders were sitting in the computer lab on the night the conjured up the company, they had spent a combined 60 years wearing glasses. The product had always been unreasonably expensive. But until that moment, they had taken the status quo for granted, never questioning the default price.
"The thought never crossed my mind,” cofounder Dave Gilboa said. “I have always considered them a medical purchase. I naturally assumed that if the doctor was selling it to me there was some justification for the price.”
Having recently waited in line at the Apple Store to buy an iPhone, he found himself comparing the two products. Glasses had been a staple of human life for nearly a thousand years, and they’d hardly changed since his grandfather wore them. For the first time, Dave wondered why glasses had such a hefty price tag. Why did such a fundamentally simple product cost more than a complex smartphone.
Anyone could've asked those questions and arrived same answer that the Warby Parker squad did. Once they became curious about why the price was so steep, they begin doing some research on the eyewear industry. That's when they learned that it was dominated by Luxottica, a European company that had raked in over 7 billion in the previous year. “Understanding that the same company owned LensCrafters and Pro Vision, Ray-Ban and Oakley, and the licenses for Chanel and Prada prescription frames and sunglasses, all of a sudden it made sense to me why glasses were so expensive,” Dave says. “Nothing in the cost of goods justified the price.” Taking advantage of its monopoly status, Luxottica was charging 20 times the cost.The default wasn't inherently legitimate; it was a choice made of a group of people at a given company. And this meant that another group of people could make an alternate choice. “We could do things differently,” Dave suddenly understood. “It was a realization that we could control our own destiny, that we could control our own prices.
When we become curious about the dissatisfying defaults in our world, we begin to recognize that most of them have social origins: Rules and systems were created by people. And that awareness gives us the courage to contemplate how we can change them. Before women gained the right to vote in America, many “Had never before considered their degraded status as anything but natural,” historian Jean Baker observes. As the suffrage movement gained momentum, “ a growing number of women were beginning to see that custom, religious, precept, and law were in fact man- made and therefore reversible.”