To See What You're Missing

card2207 A recent Jessica Hagy Diagram caught my interest (do the ol’ click-to-enlarge thing), reminding me of things I’ve said before about thinking differently and challenging assumptions. It’s an important process and one I fancy as a kind of specialty of mine. In approaching any challenge, I’m continually trying to see it from a different angle in order to get the necessary perspective to see the solution, whether it’s conventional or not. Along these lines, the other day Seth Godin wrote about the scientific method,

If you enter a conversation looking for something to test, measure and ultimately change, it's likely you'll find it. That change makes you more competitive, and you continue to cycle past your competitors. On the other hand, if you enter a conversation concerned about maintaining the status quo, it's likely that this is exactly what you're going to do.

The Antilibrary & The Value of What You Don't Know

In his umberto-eco bestseller The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes about Umberto Eco’s library.

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a larger personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others–a very small minority–who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allow you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.[1]

Think Differently: Electrical Outlets

My friend John La Grou johnlagrou of Millennia Media and SafePlug is an inventor and an entrepreneur, to name just two of the bullets on his resumé. As readers here will know, I’m big on thinking differently — not an easy trick, but one which gives you the fresh perspective to break out of assumed molds. It’s a skill that is necessary both to inventors and to entrepreneurs. At the most recent TED conference, John gave a very brief TED Talk on one of the inventions he’s worked on, a new kind of “smart” power outlet that reduces the risk of fire considerably more than GFI plugs and standard circuit breakers could hope to do. It’s an idea he and some friends arrived at by thinking differently.