In a recent post I made the point that it is the quality of the idea that creates the scale of the new venture. The obvious question is where do great ideas come from. I know it's not just a function of intelligence or insight. It's also not just a matter of hard work. A quote from R.W. Hamming provides the critical feature of great ideas.
Hamming, a world class scientist in his own right, became interested in why some scientists make breakthroughs and others just languish. (A previous post on Hamming is here.) Hamming said:
“Once you get your courage up and believe that you can do important problems, then you can.”
Most of us do not make great contributions in our fields because we fear the public ridicule from failing on large problems. Why can we not invent a green, electrical trans-continental airplane ? Answer: fear...only fear of failing.
For the last year I have worked with a man who tackles large problems and does it on the world stage. I now realize that it is the courage to think about big problems that separates him from the rest of us. He thinks at a different level because he has the courage (and confidence) to do so.
Another quote from Hamming provides the caveat the entrepreneur must consider: "If you are to do important work then you must work on the right problem at the right time and in the right way." Picasso would not have been successful with his style in 14th century Amsterdam. Google would probably not have succeeded in 1995 when people were struggling with browsers. It's about intellectual courage but is equally important market timing.
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