Innovation + Perspiration – a Formula for Success?

Mitch, our own sage from Omaha, writes:

Dreamers And Engineers – It Takes All Kinds to Build a World

This is about collaboration. History likes to single out one man or woman behind a great deed, an important movement, or an amazing building, and label them a ‘genius’. Maybe some of them were, but 99% of the time great things were accomplished by collaborative teams.

Thomas Edison, the Wizard of Menlo Park, New Jersey, is credited for the invention of more things than I care to list, but he wasn’t a great genius, really. He was a competent engineer and a great administrator.

He had a hundred nerds, boffins and rough-necked mechanics working for him that did most of the work, Edison mostly contributed the paycheck and the facilities.
One of those nerds (or maybe he was a boffin) wanted to be the one-man-genius-who-would-do-great-things.

Nicola Tesla worked for Edison in the early days of his career, then went off to do some seriously comic-book mad scientist stuff. But none of it ever went anywhere. A lot of his ideas were picked up and used elsewhere, but not in ways that made him a lot of money, or earned him much credit. As awesome as it is that he made giant lightning generators, the man died alone, near penniless, and in love with a pigeon.

I’m not saying this to tarnish either Edison’s or Tesla’s legacies, but to point out that each of us can contribute amazing things to the world without being a genius. We just can’t do it alone. Anyone can have a brilliant idea. Anyone can be inspired by a brilliant idea, and come up with a great way to use it. Anyone else might see that use, and think of a way to market it. Why don’t we? Because those three people may never meet. They may never talk, or exchange their ideas.

This is the only time in history that a glass blower in Lichtenstein could partner with a distiller in St. Louis, Missouri and an advertising guru in New York to sell schnapps in art-glass bottles, and have the whole thing happen in 2 months without anyone quitting their day jobs.

We need to share our ideas, and listen to other people’s ideas, to truly collaborate and make these great things. Dreamers and engineers and craftsmen and administrators have to make the effort to find each other.

Of course, they’ll all fight over who was really the ‘genius’ behind it all, but only after it all becomes a success.

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