Time = vanity? About reputation and protocol as opportunity cost of innovation

Is vanity = time?

The hypothesis is that “vanity”, as in “the act of standing in front of the mirror and brushing yourself until you like yourself”, is basically nothing else than a time investment you are willing to make in order to define what other people see about you.

Same as waiting for the “right moment” to ask your boss for a raise: You invest time until leaving your own comfort zone appears reasonable enough.

Or like in politics: The results are already known, still you discuss until the narrative fits the mutual understanding.

Or dating: When is the right moment to make a move on the person you like?

Vanity is the investment of time you are willing to make in order to define what other people see about you.

Vanity is always about the time investment done, to define the outer picture of oneself while negotiating it with the environment. This is something extremely powerful (and human), but eventually lies in the adherence to protocol of “fitting in” one of the biggest problems for innovation:

Looking at Germany the problem becomes apparent: It´s a country in which it is for many people more important what the neighbor thinks about the new car or the colleague at work about the new luxury handbag. People don´t speak about money, because this would make material differences (depict as hierarchy and power?) even more visible for all sides. People are trained to avoid being different.

And in innovation and science it is the same: People don´t want to appear here as “less smart”: This is why many have people there have a problem with others knowing better, or thinking differently and new.

They are striving to the median of novel thinking. And Angela Merkel is probably one of the best cases to demonstrate a traumata of “believing not to have good ideas”. By making having no opinion the guideline for avoiding new thoughts, everyone feels on the safe side.

This makes Germany effective+focused in the known and now, but slow on exploring the edges of watch could be next.

If time is vanity, vanity are the opportunity costs of innovation.

As European living in Germany, and I can tell the sad thing is that startups across Europe are not that different than innovation in Germany: We don´t want to know how many gazillion of work hours are being spend on events that drive nothing but the self-marketing of the people around.

Why is that? Probably, because Social Media (Facebook, Twitter) is what made the concept of Internet Startups popular. Most VCs (of the few that are there) are from corporates, and most mentors (gatekeepers) are former unsuccessful startup founders who found a niche that kept them long enough in the networks, until they are being invited to share the same things they heard a dozens of times. A theater show with many amateur actors great in networking, but with absolutely nobody ever invented something.

Germany (and Europe) are missing the first 50 people of all the Facebooks, Skypes, MySpaces, etc. -internet pioneers- who fuel the ecosystem bottom-up. Instead, usually, their names are Marc or Oliver and they keep-on opening companies themselves (and making stealing of ideas even their business model).

How many internet inventors from the past 20 years could we name otherwise? There is not really one.

No offense to everybody enjoying the use of Social Media and Startups to twist their realities of self narration. Indeed mastering media is a great empowerment opportunity for everybody. But still, I am convinced we waste so much of energy with a circus. And what do we do with all those people who are actually in research labs? They know that, about — and they have little intend in playing this “game show”, in which they should be the ones asking the questions.

How will we hear more about their inventions? By asking them to become better in writing? By becoming good on stage?

Maybe by less vanity. By admitting incompleteness and the perfection of unfinished things. By embracing the hack. Less order, more anarchy. By leaving formalization.

And Social Media and the hundreds of competitions for Startups are not good role models for that. They ask everybody to pretend: To claim knowing things better, to sell concepts, to convince, to be optimistic. But this is not how innovation work.

Science knows this and has therefore to work differently: It wants to question, but it knows it can´t answer the status quo.

For this it is imperative not to pretend knowing the future — indeed it is the most indigenous thing to do in permanently failing (and refusing) to perfectly explain the present.

If we could perfectly explain the now, we would stop thinking about the future.

Vanity are the opportunity cost of innovation.

Less vanity is more innovation.

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