In 1899, the head of the US Patent Office was quoted as saying, “everything that can be invented has been invented.” If that quote was said today, most people would think he was out of his mind or even insane. Take a look at the new inventions and technologies we use on a daily basis: smart phones, navigation systems, bluetooth devices, laptops, and the list goes on. However, not all ideas that are proposed are accepted with an open mind. Some ideas are shot down immediately as being “impossible.” This begs the question, “Where is the line between creativity and insanity?”
What is insane?
In 1969, defying the odds and the doubters, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Originally, this was believed to be an impossible feat and one would have to be crazy to attempt such an excursion. However, once Neil Armstrong achieved this “miraculous” goal, insanity was transformed into inspiration and ingenuity. So once again I ask, “What is insane?” Does an automobile that has the capability to drive itself constitute an insane idea? Maybe, but recently it has been legalized in California and it’s actually becoming more common. A few weeks ago Elon Musk, a billionaire entrepreneur, revealed an idea that would allow people to travel from New York to Los Angeles in 45 minutes. Musk’s transportation system would be based on the same type of technology used by banks that send your deposit from the drive-thru window to the teller. This vacuum-sealed transportation tube would carry 6 passengers at a time and travel at speeds up to 4,000 MPH.
Immediately after Musk’s idea was announced on the news, the broadcasters used the term “crazy” to describe this project. We all know that what is considered to be crazy is based on how many people agree with an idea. Once an idea has gained a certain amount of supporters, the idea will move out of the realm of crazy and into the possible. Although Musk’s idea, at the moment, seems out of the ordinary, is it really crazy? Is it impossible? If so, should Musk quit now before he even begins to make his dream a reality?
The following ideas were once considered to be crazy and we now take them for granted. Some are even considered to be necessities.
Automobiles Television Calculator Cameras GPS/Navigation
Light Bulb Computer ATM Machine IPOD/IPAD Elevator
Remote Control Airplane Toilets Refrigerator Telephone/Cell Phone
One of the main ingredients of being successful in the business world is being able to adapt and change with the times. For instance, 3M, formerly a mining company known as Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing, is now known for Post-It Notes and Scotch Tape. Johnson & Johnson did not have any consumer goods experience when it changed the world with the development of the band aid, a product we can’t live without. Hewlett Packard did not have any experience in the computer industry when it created its first personal computer. Marriott did not have any skills in the hospitality sector when it built its first hotel.
The only thing that is constant in this world is change; change is inevitable. We have seen the facsimile come and go during our careers. What may seem crazy today may become normal tomorrow. Consequently, the best solutions to our clients needs are often based on thinking “outside the box.” Some may label this type of thinking as “insane,” while others may label it as “creative.” However, if this type of thinking creates successful solutions to complex problems they will no longer be defined as insane, just like traveling to the moon or using a remote control or a cell phone is no longer considered insane.