The Myth of New Ideas
“A reasonable person adapts to his or her environment. An unreasonable person forces his or her environment to adapt. Therefore, all progress is made by unreasonable people.”
Many have accepted this as assumed knowledge. Progress is made by the unreasonable, right? Well, not really. If you want to inspire and develop true innovation, be reasonable.
It’s All There
The unreasonable try to force change where it is unwelcomed, or, more often, stick to a belief increasingly at odds with the world’s reality. The reasonable person looks at the world and tries to connect the dots others don’t see – but the dots are there. They may seem unrelated to most but seeing what most miss is innovation’s foundation. It is connecting those dots and seeing how things can connect – not forcing something that isn’t there or ignoring what is and how it has changed.
Don’t Look for It. See
As the scientific method says, “see first…see, test and verify.” But you must see with unsparing clarity and honesty, without bias or personal prejudice. What is really there? Innovation grows only from there.
A Reasonable Man
Steve Jobs is often cited as an innovator was the epitome of an unreasonable man. He very famously said that one can only connect the dots looking backward. Don’t try to connect them in the present. It’s too messy. Clarity only comes from hindsight. In the present, we cannot see how seemingly unrelated things can connect. He was described as “an unreasonable man driving innovation and progress.” In reality, he was extremely reasonable because he refused to be biased by his personal preferences, context or knowledge. He stripped away his prejudice and was able to connect seemingly unrelated dots. An example, of course, is the iPhone – connecting a computer, phone, music player, and wireless data – creating a startling innovation by connecting what was already there.
It is the reasonable person who stops and sees. It is connecting the dots and seeing things, not trying to manipulate reality to fit your vision.
It Only Seems Unreasonable
It is only afterward that a new idea seems reasonable. To begin with, it usually seems unreasonable. It seems the height of unreason to suppose the earth was round instead of flat, or that it moved instead of the sun, or that objects required a force to stop them when in motion, instead of a force to keep them moving. But it is this vision – of what is really there – that, while seeming unreasonable, ultimately is the truly reasonable.