- Am I creating enough down time to innovate? The spikes in Priestly's innovative genius and influence occurred during the seasons of his life where he had the most free time. I know there are limits to this in our modern reality. Most of us can't just work 1-2 hours per day like he did and devote the rest of our time to innovation, invention, and new ideas. But there are smaller ways that we can create space and time to innovate. I need to be diligent about creating more.
- Do I have people around me that will help to give my ideas wings? Priestly was a part of the 18th Century British coffeehouse culture which proved a gathering place for very smart and like-minded thinkers from a variety of disciplines who gathered regularly to share and build upon each others ideas. Priestly was incredibly unselfish with his ideas and far less concerned about getting credit than getting at the truth of the next big innovation.
- What are the fatal flaws in the existing models? Priestly consistently looked for inconsistencies in the current ways of thinking, be it chemistry, or thermodynamics, or theology, or politics. And then let his curiosity run wild as he explored other methods, theories, or explanations for what was happening. These alternative explanations ultimately led to paradigm shifts in all of these areas.
Friday, February 27, 2009
3 Questions Innovators Should be Asking
I've mentioned here and elsewhere that I'm just finishing a book that has been very good called The Invention of Air. It's a little outside the genre of books I normally read but has been a fascinating one. It's a narrative centered around the life and innovations of a pastor in England in the 1700's named Joseph Priestly - a kind of lost figure among the founding fathers of America. He was highly influential in the lives of Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson. He was also a key figure in other fields -he played a critical role in the discovery of pure oxygen, the discovery of ecosystems science and the process of photosynthesis, he was the founder of the Unitarian Church, and as I said earlier, played a critical role in the politics of the American Revolution. Not bad for a life's work. I must say plainly that I believe that theologically he is a heretic in the first variety. Nonetheless I've learned a lot from the example of his life and one angle has centered around the process of innovation. Inspired by the life of Joseph Priestly here are three questions I think innovators should be asking themselves:
Posted by Derek