I have often been asked by people near me saying “how did you come up with all these parts and glue them together in your head” I then usually answer, “you need to think the maidsafe way”. First though we need to recognise that I came up with seeds of ideas that others helped me develop over time. This is a very tough thing to describe and I suppose it is a few different parts that all come together in a weird idea soup. To try (and probably fail) to sum this up I think it may involve:
- FInd a vision and go all out towards that
- Look for the parts considered impossible and consider them solvable (always)
- Figure out the logic at the very heart of the issue
- As the parts solve themselves try and use those core algorithms to integrate with the next problem
- As these structures build into a system, be prepared to start again (many times)
- Know the whole time until all the parts do compliment each other you will never know what it looks like
Now if this sounds difficult, it is. If it sounds easy, it’s not. There are other significant parts you will need to do:
- Find people to pay you enough to live on (no more) to achieve this
- Provide a reward mechanism for supporters
- Find criticism whilst avoiding negativity
The last part is significant and extremely difficult. The investor part is less difficult, but will cause you to be interrupted in your thoughts continuously. You learn to work with these interruptions (I do it by working through the night and knowing I will not be able to think complex systems during the day). The people who disturb you in this way will all tell you that you need to sleep and take a break, its strange, but true.
Learning to shun negativity whilst seeking critique is the extremely difficult part though. The proportion of critiques to informed opinion is pretty imbalanced in some forums, particularly those that find themselves at the peak of voices wanting to be heard, such as many Internet sites. This is certainly an innovator’s dilemma and may be related to the commonly known version of that paradigm.
What is an Innovator or Inventor?
This is an unusual stance I think. It is a person who is looking sideways at things we all look at and consider impossible. It is also a person who wants to make something more efficient or simple, occasionally its just somebody who looks at something and sees something very different from the rest of us. An invention to me is a fix for something. Many people invent all the time and do not even consider it. I see inventors of the past and think that it’s great. I do think though an invention is a single thing, so perhaps the person who invents a new widget will only ever do that. This is where I see the difference between inventors and innovators. I think invention is the continued output of an innovator. A single invention may be stumbled upon by anyone, an innovator seeks the next problem immediately as that is what drives them.
I think this drive for finding better ways defines innovators and just like a Physicist or Engineer, they likely will not stop. The search for the next answer can be like a drug. It drives people to despair and ruin on occasion. Innovators look for hard problems, so monetising in Invention seems to easy an issue and unfortunately innovators are forced to protect an invention by stopping finding the next problem and doing a relatively boring (to them) job of monetisation. This should not be misunderstood, monetisation is one way to get an invention to the masses sometimes. I strongly feel this should not always be the way though, look at Jonas Salk and his polio cure, he just gave it away, polio got cured, how much was that worth to a monetisation expert? how much was it worth to society? Which is the most important?
An important excerpt from Wikipedia
But as he was sitting in a park and watching children play, he realized how important his work was. He saw that there were thousands of children and adults who would never walk again and whose bodies would be paralyzed. He realized his awesome responsibility, and so he continued his task with renewed vigor
What if in our work we could see the people we could help, would the drive for monetisation really be so important in all cases?
In any case, we know now I see innovators as those who constantly invent.
Incremental or step change
Every innovator will be doing something that he or she is told by the educated in that field is impossible. This is great and food for the drive required. This is even more pronounced though as the size of the invention is described. I find myself finding people intellectually lazy, by this I mean we as a species seem to want soundbites and fast summaries of complex ideas. The more complex the idea the harder this becomes, until the Invention cannot be summarised to a sentence. So incremental improvements are easier to fund and understand and we humans love it. A fatter coffee jar that does not slip out of your hand so easy, a wheelchair with ratchets to allow users to go uphill easier, a battery that lasts longer etc. These are all soundbitable (another invention :-)) and easily sold to investors. This is because investors can understand it, and if you add a market size, selling price and some hockey shaped growth curve to a spreadsheet they are as happy as Larry. This is especially true as they can show their expertise of coffee jars and batteries and pontificate market opportunities etc. These investors are not the ones you want to work with, honestly. There are some real forward looking smart investors out there, it’s hard to get to them in todays wash of ‘theres an app for that’ pitches, but they are there, persevere and find the smart guys if you want to stand half a chance.
So back to the step change proposition, the invention that is so large it has few words anyone could understand to describe it and maybe has revenue potential so huge nobody would believe it. Here I think of aeroplanes (if nobody else had been trying), telephones, television etc. In many of these cases though there was a furor and race to get to the line, it seemed many thought these were possible. What though if a huge changing invention were to come about, what would we all feel then? Imagine, what did we call a wheel before we seen one, or a telephone before it existed, it’s a tougher question than we realise as we are not good at thinking about these issues, they show our fallibility.
In today’s world of “explain it in two words or a short sentence” then the wheel would be hard, the telephone impossible to believe. I wonder if they would have actually succeeded?
Of course I am talking about innovators with no financial means to look after themselves here. For the wealthy these questions are less relevant. Edison and Tesla are great examples of both sides of this fence.
So a step change leads to an incredibly difficult place for an innovator. That innovator will find themselves asking why why why can nobody see this. I think again its my old friend nature. If we improve to quickly then we could be wiped out. If we back all the things we do not understand we may kill the planet around us. So I believe we are built with a defense against massive change and this defence is for the best. So a large innovation is gonna be a fight, that innovator will need tenacity and the ability to make it happen, even with very limited resources. Nature made some of us very tough and this is one reason. This is also a reason to not worry about revenue models of how to monetise, these innovators will be a different breed and will certainly know 1+1 = 2 and understand they want to have enough cash that nobody else suffers this pain. I think that is why so many set up foundations for education and research, its just to valuable to not let it happen. Added to that the revenue model may be one that does not exist or can be believed (charge people for talking into a bit of bakelite!), another problem.
Is it worth it
This is the whole point. The innovator cannot only see the advantage of an innovation, he or she can see the faces of the children who will die if this is not done! Oh yes it’s worth it and that motivation is more powerful than any soundbite or wondering how much cash you will get. So worry not about monetisation, worry more about not doing it, this is what drives true change in our society and what makes humans different. We need to not be to far removed from that premise and this is one place capitalism fails dramatically. We must find ways to let people dream and that means removing stress. This is one thing maidsafe will meet with project SAFE, give people back control, give them cash and remove the stress. Then when they dream (as opposed to worry) they may see a solution and the childs face I mentioned and that is where the magic will happen.
Thank you, David. This states more explicitly what I’ve gotten from reading and listening to your interviews: The Vision of some of the doors this technology opens, and your tenacity to bringing such a vision to life. I’m all in.
Great stuff David. I’m getting to know you and the “MaidSafe way.” I’m learning a lot, an old dog, and think the world needs a lot more people thinking like this, and with the ability to use this thinking to create change.
The way so much “innovation” fails to address vital issues like the ones which inspire you, and instead creates problems by pursuing lower, counterproductive goals troubles me greatly. Which makes me all the keener to see MaidSafe succeed!
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