When Innovation Holds You Hostage

Everyone’s got ideas. My father-in-law has a million. They just pop out of his head the same way you and I breathe.

  • Before any of us could spell “metrosexual,” Dad made his own “Magic Cream.” No chapped hands in the winter and nobody called him a girl.
  • When we weren’t sure if the kids needed changing, Dad invented diapers with a smiley face, which told you when they were wet.
  • Way before I was even born, Dad had created the Bug Zapper. It vacuumed up apartment pests just like THAT.

Dad is not a formal inventor. But he loves to tinker with his creations. And all of them, perhaps accidentally, have since been productized. For example:

The best thing about Dad, as an inventor, is his complete lack of ego. It was always about the product, and how it could theoretically be improved.

Which leads me to think about Alibaba. Wall Street is going crazy for this company:

  • A middleman – doesn’t buy or sell anything.
  • Biggest U.S. IPO ever – market cap of $236 billion.
  • $8.5bn revenue on $300bn sold on its sites in 2013 alone.

I’m not that innovative myself, unfortunately.

But I admire people who are.

And it’s insanely great that someone figured out how to match and surpass the power of Amazon, eBay, and Paypal combined.

And there’s one thing I do know as sure as I’m standing here today.

No matter how inventive you are, or think you are, there’s always somebody better at it than you.

So it pays to keep a very open mind. To destroy your own inventions, regularly. And then to incorporate the technology of those who are superior.

Quickly and effectively replacing yours, with whatever powers theirs.

Rebranding, repackaging, redefining and starting over again.

And then going about your day, more profitably.


Disclaimer: This blog is written by Dannielle Blumenthal in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the National Archives and Records Administration, or the United States government. Photo credit: Fengschwing / Flickr

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William P. Long

Proving once again what Einstein said is true, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” And personal humility paired with necessity is the (‘kindest to yourself and others’) mother of invention! Great submission Danielle!