June 29, 2007
I stumbled across Paul Walk’s post on breakthroughs a couple of nights ago and meant to have a serious conversation with him during our regular ElPub gathering. Instead I was wearing a silly hat (Facebook login required) and no such conversation happened.
The point he’s picked up on is a good one. Stuff happens when you get together and talk – to quote from someone called Terry Frazier who Paul, er, quotes from in his post:
“Introverts, no matter how smart, rarely make breakthroughs – Breakthroughs do not happen in front of your face. They happen in the connections and gaps and networks that emerge from constant forward action and focus”
This seems to me an important point when trying to shape environments which innovate. Andy Powell from Eduserv (who was also lurking at the pub in a fine pair of virtual shoes) agreed – getting out there in front of peers and competitors was the only way in which thoughts could evolve and grow.
I’d take the point a little further – I reckon introverted ideas don’t go very far either.
One of my major shortfallings is that I have a problem with OPG – an overactive perfection gene. I blogged about this about 5 years ago and drew the graph on left whose asymptoticness (?) illustrates the problem. Voltaire (or Flaubert, depending on who you believe) got there first with the phrase “perfection is the enemy of the good” but I drew a pretty graph so I reckon I at least earn some credibility..
The point is this: you come up with an idea, you tinker, you fiddle, you fix, you draw up a business plan, you dream of word domination. 3 years down the line the thing is still a half formed whotsit on your hard drive / in your desk / on an A4 pad and sweet f/a has actually happened. I’ve got a house and a head full of these swines – perfectly formed, beautifully optimised, wonderfully branded. And going precisely nowhere.
So, what’s the solution? Well, it’s really painful when you’ve got OPG, but force your idea out the door; give it just enough makeup to make it respectable. Make your introverted idea work for itself; get feedback, provide links, test it. You’ll realise before long that:
1. Lots of people have had the idea before. Get over it.
2. If it’s good and people like it, they’ll use it. If it isn’t, it’ll fall on its arse and you’ll learn something.
3. Google probably won’t care how optimised it is when they come knocking. So don’t spend time perfecting – spend time getting a solid user base instead.
This now sounds like a sermon, which it isn’t, more a mantra to keep repeating to myself. After all, I’ve got Stufflinker just sitting there, and IdeaSurface which never really went anywhere…oh, and Moving Words (IE only, never quite got round to the Firefox version) and a bunch of tunes I wrote, and Captionizer and Radish and…
Maybe this is why I think the whole mashup and data freedom thing is important, and why I’m such a big fan of making things happen. It’s better that your ideas are off partying and getting knocked down than just stuck in your head: protected, yes, but also fairly useless.