Do Original Ideas Exist In Business?
Updated: Nov 15
If “that which has been is now and that which is to be has already been” [Ecc. 3:15] means there’s no “original” idea in business in these modern times, the question begs, are the right men and women simply inspired at the right time, to play a part in different stages of a further unfolding of one main objective? And if so, what does it all mean? Is the term ‘piggybacking’ discrediting the contributions of our forerunners? Are our lives pre-planned? And where does regurgitation end and differentiation begin?
We’ve long past the need for bonfires for light, thanks to Thomas Edison’s improvement on a fifty-year-old idea of electric lighting. But the origin of that thought began with Benjamin Franklin’s obsession to harness the power of lightning in a bottle. Thomas Edison’s ability to catch his entire objective and develop it into a practical version people could use, raised the standard of living for the entire world. But who stirred Benjamin Franklin’s thoughts to even fathom such a possibility? It’s by virtue of all this, I prefer the notion of innovators in any industry (unless you’re in an industry that’s completely untapped) as builders in the perfecting stage of one idea or another, rather than a ‘piggybacker’. Some just have more responsibilities than others in actually getting the idea across the finish line.
The Path Has Already Been Made, Enjoy The Ride!
Perhaps, if Benjamin Franklin would have lived long enough he might have invented the light bulb, but that path belonged to another. As I’m sure Thomas Edison would have liked to unlock the mystery of alternating current instead of Nicola Tesla. I know I can certainly list a number of reasons why owning my own business wouldn’t be my number one choice, but that’s the path I was given. It’s like stages in the life of a fruit-bearing tree, each part of the tree, from the roots to its leaves have a role to play in preparation for the tree to bear fruit. But the leaves aren’t wishing they were fruits nor the branches that they were the trunk. In fact, the thought of such a thing sounds stupid, yet, there are those secretly wishing they had better opportunities or who believes opportunities don’t present themselves?
Learning to channel my thoughts in this direction has unlocked things in me I never knew were there, like writing. Sitting behind a desk all these years certainly sharpened my design abilities, but also made me dull in other extended areas of design that I was conscious of and is now a thing of the past because of owning my own business. So, is it that opportunities don’t present themselves or is having the wrong concept of what we’re looking for, obscuring our understanding of the present tense, leaving us to conclude that the opportunities we seek are just never there? I’ll leave you to decide. But, I believe this concept of fruit bearing trees can also be applied to original ideas in business. Someone catches inspiration and a revolutionary idea is birthed. As time passes, inspired men and women make their contributions toward the advancement of the work in preparation for the person who’s meant to put it all together and present it to the world. Which brings me to the topic of…
Regurgitating vs Differentiation
Even though Thomas Edison improved on the notion of the light bulb, repeating it alone wouldn’t make it new. And although I’m sure many advancements have been made since Thomas Edison’s contribution, the achievement of electrical lighting still remains his. That means those following needed to find a way or ways to refresh what was already done. Which explains why today, electric light bulbs come in many different shapes, sizes, wattages, and even colors.
A more modern example is my client The Red Bushing Man, they took an original idea and made it completely new by rebuilding it specifically for our local use. All their so-called competitors work with the same material but because it isn't fashioned for local use, it doesn't hold up under the pressure it was created for. A fact that's not lost on the founders or their clients.
That pretty much sums up regurgitation vs differentiation. One is the repetition of someone’s work, which the evidence suggested has very little value, while the other is a distinctive advancement of what’s already been accomplished. In an effort to concretize this a bit more, let’s revisit the story of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Nicola Tesla and all those in between.
You’ll notice they all shared an understanding of a specific area in science. But, history highlights Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and Nicola Tesla as pioneers of the electric utility industry because their contributions were a junction for a specific change (i.e the fruit on the tree). It certainly doesn’t diminish what men like Isacc Newton, Emil Lenz or Michael Faraday accomplished, but it does speak volumes about the importance of having a differentiative edge to the work you do.
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I am the Founder and Visual Brand Strategist at The BrandTUB Branding For Small Service Businesses. Sign up to receive these weekly articles in your inbox if you’re not quite ready to work with me yet. And please share my article if you liked it.