Create > Consume

Disclaimer: I’m terrible at citations. I blame this on two key aspects of my 21st century lifestyle. First, I’m terribly lazy. Second, in a world where Google exists, why must we continue to cite? Google allows me to vaguely describe where I could have possibly seen or read something, and after typing that description into their magical search tool, I typically have exactly what I’m looking for within milliseconds. On that note, we will know artificial intelligence has truly crossed the tipping point of acceptance when I can ask Alexa a question only my wife would be able to answer, such as, “Who sings that song from the movie with the guy from ‘Top Gun’ who plays a bartender and it goes something like ‘Aruba, Jamaica, ooo I wanna take ya…’?” To which Alexa would respond, “You’re thinking of “Kokomo” performed by The Beach Boys and featured in the movie “Cocktail” staring Tom Cruise who also starred in Top Gun.” To which I’d ask, “Alexa, what did I ever do without you?” and she’d respond “You cited your sources.”

That being said, I recently read somewhere that one should aspire to “create more than you consume” and for some funny reason, this mantra has stuck with me for the past few days.

Perhaps the reason is my (current) line of work. My profession can best be described as “2 parts learner, 1 part maker, garnished with a twist of marketing.” A colleague recently described our group (which is formally the innovation team within a Fortune 500 company) as “the safe place, where they put people like us, so we don’t break anything too important.”

Innovators are a weird breed, that oddly resemble the persona of my 4-year-old son. We tend to go through life starved for information, and then proudly relay that information to the very next person we come into contact with, whether they care to know about it or not. Watch how well the following two, completely separate scenarios play out in parallel.

In Scene 1, Ben, my four-year-old asks me what we need from the grocery store. In Scene 2, I google “How does a mesh network work?”

Scene 1:

Ben: Daddy, what do we need from the store?

Me: Milk, Bread, Apples, Yogurt, and Cheetos.

(enter Mommy)

Ben: MOMMY! MOMMY! Guess what we need from the store! Milk, Bread, Apples, Yogurt AND Cheetos! We need all of those things! Isn’t it awesome? Can you believe we need ALL of those things? That sure is a lot! That’s FIVE whole things!

Scene 2:

(after hearing about it in a meeting and having no idea what it is, I google “how does a mesh network work?” google then provides a rabbit hole of knowledge that consumes the next 2 hours of my day after which, I call my wife…)

Me: Babe! OMG! Have you ever heard of a mesh network?

Mommy: No.

Me: Well, it’s this thing that let’s people communicate, via cell phone where there is no Wifi or cellular service currently available. It basically allows messages to hop from phone to phone, via BLE, creating this virtual bridge… this human communication channel… which allows for communication in crowded places where you’d otherwise be fighting for bandwith… and… blah blah blah… isn’t that just amazing? Can you believe you could communicate WITHOUT any service whatsoever? I mean ANYWHERE!

Mommy: Is that seriously why you called me at work?

<Curtain>

Funny, right? I’m a professional 4-year-old and it only took me 21 years of formal schooling.

But all that thirst and consumption and excitement over something, anything that is new and interesting has become exhausting. Thanks to so many screens, so many sites, so many books, so many blogs, we’re at risk of turning on too many data streams and drowning ourselves in data overload. It’s almost as if we need those old-school, spring-loaded faucets they used to have in public restrooms to ensure you didn’t accidentally walk out and leave the water running. Most days, I feel like the water is always running in my life. And I really should go turn at least some of it off.

For the exceptionally curious mind, our thirst for knowledge could easily be compared to a super power. (at least, I like to think so) And like Peter Parker’s uncle warned him in Spider-Man “with great power, comes great responsibility.”

It is our responsibility to DO something with all of that content we consume. The information age is awesome, yes, but what good is information if we keep it to ourselves? All we are doing is hoarding thoughts in our heads, which in turn will only make us ask more questions like “who sang the song in that movie with the guy…”

This is where the information age meets the shared economy. Thankfully, mankind has been sharing knowledge since the days of drawing pictures on cave walls, but today we have much more knowledge with a much bigger audience. (…and many of us aren’t good drawers… and many of us don’t like to look at pictures… nor do we have access to the cave…or we have access to too many caves and we’re not sure which pictures we should look at… or maybe we don’t like the guy who drew the picture… or maybe we think we can draw a better one… or maybe the drawer should just get to his point already…)

As a result, it is our responsibility to create, and, perhaps we should even strive to create more than we consume.

It’s funny. When I first read this, I thought to myself, “but won’t that just increase the data flow? and risk drowning others with over-consumption?” But now I see it differently. We aren’t creating for the sake of creating. We shouldn’t push something into production to check a box, or move the needle. We should create something worthy of consumption by someone else, which might in turn, inspire that someone else to do likewise.

And that creation, that leads to inspiration, can come in all shapes and sizes. Your widget can be anything. A few months ago, I created a “hot dog smiley face” for my 2-year-old. Rather than serving his dinner the typical way — in a bun, with ketchup on top and carrots and french fries on the side– i randomly cut up the hot dog, organized them into eyes and a smile, stacked the carrots to form a nose, and fashioned a Bart Simpson-like hairstyle from the french fries. Dude friggin’ loved it, and this has lead to creating smiley-face versions of most meals from that day forward.

Since then, he will often pick up other foods and show me what else they could be (a banana can be a bridge, a pretzel stick could be a mustache, etc… did i mention he’s 2?)

Therefore, since we know not what value our creations carry, and to what audience, why not try? Put something out there. Throw some spaghetti on the wall. See what sticks.

Special thanks to Srinivas Rao for creating something that inspired me to create this.

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