Innovation’s Not The “Ah-Hah!”

After reading through his “Confessions of a Public Speaker” (as a beginning speaker, I learned some good things from this one – I’d suggest it if you do any kind of speaking) I was anxious to check out some of Scott Berkun’s other books. The topics of some of the others didn’t really appeal to me, but the one that’s caught my attention recently is his “Myths of Innovation” book. I’m maybe a third of the way through it right now, and there’s one thing that keeps resonating in my mind as I go through it. In a previous chapter, he makes the point that innovation, despite what the history books and popular culture would have us assume – it’s less of an “Ah-hah!” and more of a “Finally!”.

See, most of the common stories of innovators out there leave out something that’s very important – the reference frame of their lives. They don’t provide a larger picture of who someone is (like Einstein or Newton) and how all of their work, everything they’ve done in their career led up to the discoveries that they’re known for.

I think this is important to remember as software developers, too. All of us start projects and never finish them, it’s just a fact of life in the world of a coder. We find something that we either think is the “Next Big Idea” or something that we’ll find amazingly useful and latch onto it, giving it our all for a week, maybe a month. Nine times out of ten, though, that project falls by the wayside. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s some folks out there that do a great job with anything they touch, but for the average developer, it’s all about hacking away at the latest “shiny”.

Sometimes it’s about the technology (“everyone’s learning Backbone.js, why shouldn’t I?”) and other times there’s a bit of pride that kicks in (“I could do this so much better if…”) but there’s always one thing to remember. It doesn’t matter if the project you’re working on goes anywhere. Remember this. Just like some of the great innovators of the past, it takes a lot of dedication and work to get to be the “Ah-hah Guy” that wows the world with something new and amazing. Don’t forget that the code of the Next Great App isn’t just going to fly from your fingertips.

Work hard at your craft and it will pay off. Maybe not in fame and glory, maybe in making real, useful contributions to the culture and technology around you. Don’t stop trying to innovate, don’t focus on the failures and, above all, keep learning and keep doing.

Category: Community, Development, Opinion, PHP 4 comments »

4 Responses to “Innovation’s Not The “Ah-Hah!””

  1. Scott Berkun

    Thanks for mentioning my work.

    Related to programming languages, its important to know that every breakthrough in history depended on the previous breakthroughs of the past. No one invents alone. Check out this great chart on the history of programming languages:

    The history of PHP and Perl are in the bottom right.

  2. enygma

    Hey Scott, thanks for the comment :) That’s a really cool infographic….interesting to see how the different languages fit together and influence each other.

  3. Odegard

    In natural sciences, many think of these moments as “Eureka!”-moments, but very often it’s “WTF!?”-moments.

  4. Sibz Solutions

    We often do a kind of task where we feel we are one to do it right way and first one to do it, but later at times, we often get stuck at a point which could be really difficult to solve. This is how it is! :)

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