Innovation: Smashing Old Shit Together to Create New Shit

I was recently reading a section from Charles Duhigg’s book Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity, where he states, “… innovation becomes more likely when old ideas are mixed in new ways.” I found that statement to be true when you actually take a step back and look at some of the largest and most successful (by financial standards) companies.

Take for instance Google; It began its life as a tool to sort through and find higher quality information faster on the Internet. Now look back at the mostly forgotten card catalog that was an essential part of libraries. Granted there are significant differences between the two as you dive deeper, but both “tools” are rooted in the idea of being able to find the information we want faster and easier.

Facebook… The once beloved startup success that captivated the hearts and minds of many a tech enthusiast and VC, but now has found itself in the position of being the villain in almost discussions of digital privacy. I digress… Facebook captured so many old ideas rooted in our human evolution and did a fantastic job of connecting them to our digital lives. For example, we humans are hard-wired to seek out social connections and community. When Facebook mixed in a little bit of that community with the relationship status information you then had a sprinkling of hormones added to the experience. Tie that all together with an ability to communicate, display friendships, and early exclusivity and you have the recipe for Facebook. Well, add in some luck, psychology and VC money-fuel too.

So what’s the moral of the story? I think the biggest takeaway of “… innovation becomes more likely when old ideas are mixed in new ways,” is that when you’re trying to solve a problem, write a book, or start something new, more often than not we should: take a step back and smash some shit together from different niches , connect it all with duct tape, and then smooth out the lines like a sculptor who’s almost ready to fire their sculpture.

Hopefully, that quote lit your brain up a bit more and my smattering of words and examples entertained you. If not, just go read the book ¯_(ツ)_/¯.

The End.

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