Problem or Opportunity

Learning from the book I read last month.

 · 4 min read

Book: What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 
Author: Tina Seelig

Tina Seelig is an executive director for entrepreneurship center at Stanford University. This book is an amazing write-up for students, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs who made unsteady transition to adulthood. Writer has very nicely explained concepts of innovation, lateral thinking and dealing with failure with tons of success stories in this book.

Innovation:

My first understanding about Innovation was that, its a kind of experimental worked which is only practiced in laboratory. Well, innovation is possible in every aspect of live. Not just professionally, but politically, socially, culturally. Just about everywhere.

Identifying a scope for Inventions primarily starts with identifying a problem. The assignment is given to Stanford student setup a business, with just $5 provided as seed funding. Each group is given three days time to work on it and present the outcome to class in three minute’s presentation. The most successful groups where the ones who identified the existing problems well and introduced business around it.

The best case study to understand the innovation at work is introduction of Balloon Angioplasty. Before invention of this therapy, by-pass surgery was the only option to clear the blockages of arteries. The invention of balloon angioplasty, which faced lots of resistance in its early days, has bypassed the most critical stage of by-pass surgery, which is opening the chest of the patient. It has done a great justice with the life of patients. This therapy cured patient without any need of surgery and opened the blockages of arteries and veins just like by-pass surgery did. This was only when doctors were briefed on the idea of innovation at work!

It becomes difficult for one to think innovatively when stuck in routine. The way around to think innovatively is lateral thinking. Consider a problem and be open for the most weird and not immediate and non-obvious solution. Sometimes what looks weird to others can be toned down and turned into a great innovative idea by others. Writer explains this with wonderful saying. All the cool stuff happens when you do things that are not the automatic next step.

Problem Blindness:

This is when your perspective at the thing doesn't help you identify the problems. This is when you cannot think about an innovative way to make the existing thing better. We at ERPNext are victim to this very problem. While development and support team has seen product evolved with time, it’s just not possible for us to identify the obvious usability issues in it and improve. It because we understand the current features so well and don’t encounter usability issue first hand. It’s only when customer provides feedback that your current workflow is not intuitive.

To address this problem, we should look at the existing product or process from customer’s perspective. If your expertise doesn't allow you to look at it from that perspective, hear your users attentively.

Dealing with Failure:

Being able to deal with failure effectively, that’s what author describes as a secret sauce of Silicon Valley. Steve Jobs states that it was his failure of being removed from Apple. But he capitalized on it by starting companies like Pixar and NeXT. And on return of Steve in Apple, he brought the technologies with him. And it was these technologies, and not the Steve, which gave Apple a new direction.

Failure is a natural part of the learning process. If you aren't failing sometimes, then you aren't taking enough risk. In business, trying and failing, then again trying and failure and repeating the same till you succeed should be an attitude to excel, at every aspect of your business.

Be Lucky:

Luck is not something which is served to us on platters. Even if we see spiritually, almighty has gives us capability to take first step. What we need to see is that, as a professional, are we taking that first step or no. Below is the case study (outside the book) on characteristics of lucky people.

An expert conducted survey to learn the characteristics of successful and lucky people. In the reception area where all attendees were waiting to be surveyed, he had a note posted on clip board. It said that, if you see this note, you will right away get $500. At the end of survey, analysis suggested that most of the people who were successful and progressive in life had seen that notice. The one’s struggling didn't observe it.

The author here suggests us to be active at networking, not just virtually. We never know the person next to us in train can help us reach next level. Or maybe we could do the same to him. Every time we move out, there is a million dollars opportunity waiting for us. It’s only about trying till we strike the right chord.

In a nutshell, this book directs an amateur as well as professional to see things from different perspective. Perspective which can add more value to our lives. Innovation has no standard formula we can gain expertise at. Being innovative is an attitude.

And as book title right stated, I really wish I knew these concepts when I was 20.

Umair Sayyed

Umair is the Chief Customer Officer at ERPNext. He has done more than 50 ERP implementations remotely and replies to most incoming inquiries.

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