Value exists in a few critical ideas integrated into a product or service that is useful. Value may most easily be found by correctly applying a pre-existing model, plan or idea. That is essentially what a purchase of a patent or a franchise does. This is also what is meant by the term "not re-inventing the wheel". However in every situation there are opportunities to develop and apply innovative ideas, inventions and plans. Unfortunately that's often not an easy task.
The integration of all the ideas needed create a new practical proposal takes time, you can't "make it happen" just because you need a result today. Integration is the result of living with a set of ideas in your memory and your experience until they modify and make sense of each other. Innovations usually take years to come to a stage where successful action is possible. Most of us have vague ideas that keep coming back more and more powerfully in our lives. Any new knowledge is always hard won and must be paid for in advance. You may take up one of your ideas with great enthusiasm and apply much effort to it, but you can have no certainty of a positive outcome for that effort. The most likely result is to reach a plateau which is as far as you can go with today's knowledge. We all need to be constantly working on numerous improvement cycles or innovative projects. The blockage of your progress, a reversal, a business failure may give you the keys that unlock whatever innovation problems you may have been working on. Suddenly you might "understand" how to do something in a way that you could not see before.
Nothing exists until it is discovered by you, there are no shortcuts. As I write this I am planning to use the work I did in "Management Circles" and the success of my Journal web site, as the basis for a new venture on the internet. You can see clearly here how I am integrating many past experiences not only in this article, but also in the whole concept of the Adapt to Experience website. Today (24 Feb. 1998) I've had a long discussion with my friend Carl Horn about the "Useful Common" which is an idea I've been slowly growing for about 15 years. For his part Carl has been fermenting away for several years on a definition and explanation of emotions which he believes would give people a tool to understand and manage their own mental health. The debate was vigorous, but it's impossible to know if it's really productive. Certainly it's not productive yet. You must also have this experience in you own personal and business life. The hand and the mind work together in the process of discovering the world, but this occurs in a social world, so what we think, what it might be possible to think, is socially moderated.
Everybody has this experience, but few people examine the world or themselves intensely enough to break new ground. The secret of generating the energy to break new ground is to have your own well tested data (my own sorted and selected seed) that I develop in my journal. Most people never understand that they MUST come to problems with their own data. Your own data you can TRUST, so when you use it the risks for you are small. People without their own data are forced to rely on what other people are saying. What most people are saying is almost always based on some easy to make assumptions that are often faulty. More and more badly selected ideas are not helpful. It is easy to understand the need good ideas. But it may also be impossible to see a satisfactory alternative to the ideas that are readily available. (For instance for at least 50 years we've had solid scientific proof and in New Zealand two lengthy official reports that confirm the failure of imprisonment as a tool for the correction of criminal behaviour. Yet the demand for harsher sentences and the building of prisons continues.) Knowing you've got a problem does not automatically provide a solution, nor is it possible to "buy solutions" to problems that are caused by people's values, by how people behave, or how they think.
You can't contract out your own ability to think. Working on problems that interest you, collecting your own data, conducting real trials or debates or thought experiments are essential tasks in developing your own thinking. This is the process of "continuous education" and we are all involved at some level. What you choose to be interested in, what you choose to know about, determines who you will become. I can recall a friend, a bar manager, who could tell jokes apparently endlessly. Telling new jokes was for him a way to gain of prestige, a reputation as a good guy among his patrons. In todays world most of us learn a living in some way or other. Your present job or you next job depend on the things you are learning now. Your own knowledge and experience is an asset, but it requires maintenance, updating, new learning to remain valuable. I believe (without any documented evidence) that most people squander this knowledge, they waste it, they fail to examine themselves, what the world is really like and how to learn from the events about them. Your defence against the stupidity of others, your defence against bad professional advice, your defence against misinformation that is the common currency of the news media, is your own data. Without your own data you are likely to behave like a leaf in the wind. With your own data you become like a tree firmly rooted and able to stand against the wind.
If you rely on your memory to collect your data, much of your knowledge will be lost. I recommend keeping a journal. Your journal may be as simple as an inventors notebook. Ordinary hard covered exercise books are excellent in my experience. Transportable, easy to use and low cost. On the other hand exercise books are difficult to index. Many people are today keeping computer journals because it's easy to have the pages indexed so you maintain access to your material. There are alternatives to journal writing. Speech writing and speech delivery for instance is a good way to develop your thinking skills and your ability to convey ideas to other people. Regular meeting with a "mastermind group" is another way to examine what you are doing and to benefit from the ideas of other people. Nobody can do this work for you. Your ability to think is entirely in your own hands, either you develop it or you don't. You will live with the choice you make.
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