Friday, August 2, 2013



You might think that publishers—to give but one example—would be looking for original writing. Actually, they are normally looking for some slight variation on a familiar genre because they know it sells. In fact, virtually everything they cannot categorize immediately scares them – and truly original work terrifies them. In practice, virtually the first thing that happens to you as an author is that you get boxed (typecast)—and getting out of that box is incredibly hard.

As can be seen from the extraordinary number of sequels, the movie industry operates much the same way—and, certainly, corporate America is remarkably conservative despite all the lip service that is paid to innovation. Mostly, major companies expand through acquisition. It is much easier to buy companies than to grow a company. Besides, originality, by definition, is new, unknown, and unpredictable—and, therefore, dangerous. And it is notoriously hard to manage.

Yet society desperately needs big original ideas—because the alternative is that we stagnate and then decline. In effect, we need what we often don’t like—at first—to get us firing on all cylinders. Big original ideas mean change, and few of us are happy stepping out of our comfort zones. On top of that, there are always vested interest who will fight like fury to defend the status quo. Look at how Big Oil has embraced alternative energy. In the main, it absolutely has not.

What is a big original idea—and both terms are relative and should be reviewed in context? Well, you need look no further than Kennedy’s decision to put a man on the moon in ten years, or at Apple. But perhaps it is best illustrated by its absence.

During the Great Depression, the Roosevelt administration came up with a whole host of such ideas and implemented them, if not without difficulty, overall with great success. In contrast, we have recently experienced the Great Recession, and the reaction to it has been remarkable for its lack of creativity and vision. Consider me appalled. Surely a nation of this size and wealth should be able to come up with something more original than the Sequester!

But I didn’t really start this piece to write solely about the economy. I guess I’m just expressing a certain frustration at corporatization and the status in general. The ideas are out there—I’m convinced of it—but they are not surfacing in anything like adequate quantities.

We could solve problems like unemployment and growing the economy adequately—but we chose not to. The Usual Suspects are entrenched in opposition. Who are they?

  • Vested Interests - who profit from the status quo and its imperfections.
  • The Ignorant & The Lazy – an embarrassingly large number of people who either don’t understand, or who aren’t bothered to try.
  • The Republican Party – a party with a fine tradition - which seems to have been hijacked. As a consequence, it opposes everything.

Let me celebrate an innovator.

THE ANGLED FLIGHT DECK: If you are, or were, a naval aviator, the angled flight deck was a big original idea. In fact it was invented by British Royal Navy Captain (later Rear Admiral) Dennis Cambell. The British, for some quirky reason, seem to be disproportionately innovative (though they tend to be distressingly bad at making money out of what they invent).

But if your ideas are innovative, yet you do not seem to be being well received, reflect upon the following.

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." -Winston Churchill





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