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Books: The Myths of Innovation

I just finished reading The Myths of Innovation. It's a short, enjoyable read, and I recommend it. I kept track of some of my favorite quotes:

By idolizing those whom we honor we do a disservice both to them and to ourselves...we fail to recognize that we could go and do likewise. -- Charles V. Willie [p. 1]

Freeman Dyson, a world-class physicist and author, agrees, "I think it's very important to be idle...people who keep themselves busy all the time are generally not creative." [p. 12]

As Howard Aiken, a famous inventor, said, "Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats." [p. 59]

As William Gibson wrote, "The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet." [p. 66]

[Alex F. Osborn wrote about finding ideas:]
  • Produce as many ideas as possible
  • Produce ideas as wild as possible
  • Build upon each other's ideas
  • Avoid passing judgment. [p. 92]
Jobs explains, "I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance." [p. 107]

Even the (false) proverbial mousetrap, as historian John H. Lienhard notes, has about 400 patents for new designs filed annually in the U.S., and we can be certain that no one is beating down their doors. More than 4000 mousetrap patents exist, yet only around 20 ever became profitable products. These days, the best equivalent to the metaphoric mousetrap is "to build a better web site," proven by the 30,000 software patents and 1 million web sites created annually. Certainly not all of these efforts are motivated by wealth or wishful thinking, but many inventors still hope that the "If you build it, they will come" sentiment is alive and strong. [p. 113]

DDT and airplanes were a perfect match. Here [image of plane spraying DDT], DDT is being used on cattle to give them extra special flavor. [p. 142]

Automobiles speed the police to crime scenes, but they also help thieves get away. The rising tide of technology raises all boats. [p. 146]

The best philosophy of innovation is to accept both change and tradition and to avoid the traps of absolutes. As ridiculous as it is to accept all new ideas simply because they're new, it's equally silly to accept all traditions simply because they're traditions. Ideas new and old have their place in the future, and it's our job to put them there. [p. 147]


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