A friend and user experience expert inadvertently lost an entire day's work. It had to be redone from scratch. I asked how the second result compared with the first. He conveyed that the second try was much better, a big improvement.
What differentiates losing work from intentionally starting over is the unexpected nature of the event. Having your prior work available for review just leads to a frustrating rehash. By contrast, an unexpected do-over fires the creative engines to reintegrate and produce a consistently better result.
For this observation to be valuable at least two preconditions must be true. The situation must be one that calls for your best work and the effort required to restart must be within practical limits. One example: a short presentation you're preparing for an all-important conference.
This leaves one problem. How do you purposefully mimic the painful effect triggered by an accidental setback?
Anyone who's ever worked on a critical project has come to the moment when an overwhelming realization strikes them: "this isn't my best work". It's a agonizing moment of transient opportunity.
Don't look at what you've done. Don't try to remember it. Press delete. Walk away. When you return, don't try to recreate the previous effort. Approach the project as if you've never worked on it before.
Has losing a project ever worked to your advantage?
In the "Even Microsoft" section of the post The Relevance of User Experience: Using Every Opportunity to Impress Users by Nicholas Thomas, note the following:
- "with Windows Phone 7: they scrapped years worth of work and started from scratch"
- "It may very well have come down to the gut instinct of one man"
- "next to licensing QDOS its the most important decision they have ever made"