Lacking original idea

A few days ago, one of my close friend made a statement that took me by surprise. He said that the world was lacking original idea. I rebutted his statement by saying that everyday there are so many startup producing different products so how could there be a lack of original idea?

Later on that day, I went to do some research on the statement and found out that he might be right. A high percentage of startups were replicating other companies’ product. The key difference between a successful ones and those that are not lies in the execution. To name a few, the recent top app “Draw Something” and the classical search giant “Google” did not originated from them. True, many would argue that they include additional features that makes them original. However, for simplicity, I categorized them to be the same based only on the core product.

This finding intrigues me even more. I remembered watching a video about Ken Robinson telling how schools kill creativity and ponder if this was the main reason why the world might have a lack in original idea. In the video, Ken argues that the education system has educated us out of our creativity cell.

For instance, a child who has not attended school would say that 1+1 = 3 . I could tell from those who are reading this post would say that it is WRONG. How could 1+1 = 3? Personally, I would have done the same. However, why would 1+1 not equal to 3? To the mind of the child, he shows the creativity we educated ones lacked of. We often are too conscious of our mistakes that we deliberately make an effort to follow the path we were taught was correct. Furthermore, the education system engraved us with many of their “RIGHT” knowledge.

Personally, I am starting to understand the statement that my friend made. While it is not an extremely bad trend for the community, it shows why there are a lack of original idea compared to a decade ago where educated people were hard to come by.

8 thoughts on “Lacking original idea

  1. My two cents :

    I once heard someone say that creativity was simply combining two things. Very little in the world is truly original, but that doesn’t make it any less innovative. After all, through copying you can learn a lot and Them ply your own style – there is a reason why artists and musicians study and try to imitate the greats, while adding their own spin on things.

    Maybe it’s not less original ideas, but much more “derivative” ideas – this affecting the perception that there is a lot of unoriginality (if there is such a word). Starting up a company has suddenly become pretty accessible, and because of that people are flooding the market, making it difficult to discern the “truly original” ideas – there may be more, but we just don’t notice them under the sea of startups.

  2. It is often mentioned in marketing literature that business ideas which are too innovative and too early for their time tend to die out. However much creativity we may infuse into our business models, we need to take Customer receptivity into consideration. If the product is too out of sync with the way a potential customer functions, the idea may gain enough traction. This logic resonates with the concept of market standards; about why Ultra Wide Band (UWB) failed due to lack of market adoption.

    Instead of taking 2 steps too many away from market norms, taking 1 step away may be more than enough to help you formulate your next successful business.

  3. Hi Sebastian,

    I think that replicate and improve existing system/product is a critical part of innovation. It would be almost impossible to create new idea without knowing and improving existing establish concept. In our class, Professor gave us example from evolution of search engine product that had already established in early 90’s but it just transform into very sustainable business during Google area. There are many other similar examples from many other industries. I believe that education is a critical element to help people to understand the latest update of technology and industry structure that could trigger innovation. There are several successful entrepreneurs who didn’t take formal education system. However, most of them already know the latest update of technology and industry structure without learn it from formal education. If you could become an expertise in any field by yourself, I think formal education is not really important.

  4. Thanks for sharing Sebas!

    In my opinion, I believe we can learn the basics of interested areas, discovery new interests and find those who share the same passion out of the financial gains or losses in school. So it can not be blamed as the culprit who killed the creativity. Steve Jobs learnt “the best calligraphy instruction in the country” from his college altough not from his chosen major.

    Also, personally I believe people’ habit of immitation leads to innovation sometimes. For example, as a child we always learn how to walk from our parents, but then we may not walk exactly as them. So as long as there are some uniqueness captured by the customers, we don’t have to change the world in one attempt, we can do it slowly.

  5. Thanks for all the comments. Personally, I think that education has restricted our imaginary. I remember once when I was a child, I wanted to have a time machine car like those in the movie. However, as you grew older, education from school teaches you that it is not possible for this kind of machine to exist. This example might be too exaggerating but the gist of it is that education taught us to be realistic. Instead of making big dreams, we tend to set our goal to something that you know could be achieved.

    My 2 cent worth of thoughts ^^

  6. I think this is what incremental innovation is. There will be some first mover invent technology. However, it needs an industry effort from wide range of company to make the technology mature and stable.

  7. I like your post. However, before that let’s take a look at some of the best companies in the world. Apple’s mouse idea were from xerox. Microsoft’s OS ideas were from IBM and Apple. Google’s search engine idea were from Alta Vista. Facebook’s social networking idea were from two guys who were not from facebook. Lastly, Zynga’s game ideas were from other companies who can’t fight with them.

    So, being not original doesn’t mean anything. We just have to make it better and better rather than staying the original point forever.

    Some quotes for you:

    “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” ~Steve Jobs, founder of Apple

    “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” —Albert Einstein

    “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light, and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery; celebrate it if you feel like it.” ~ Jim Jarmusch

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