The Most Irritating Blind Date Ever, And What It Has To Do With Innovation
So I went on this blind date once when I was about 22 or 23. It was at The Cheesecake Factory in Redondo Beach, California. I can’t remember who fixed us up, the guy’s name, or many other details. But what I do remember was getting in this heated debate with him about science.
Wait, let me step back. So, I love science. I have a bunch of doctors in my family and always loved nerding out on medical stuff. I was a math major in college. I have always been fascinated by physics. Not necessarily the algorithms associated with it. But the way those algorithms attach math to the experience of life. I was an engineer and led teams of engineers and saw this beautiful creative process happen during systems design time and again. To me, science and math are creative. In fact, the ultimate form of creativity, since it’s well known that literally any and all forms of creation live on a foundation of math.
So back to the date. I think he’d asked me how I got into engineering, and I probably brought up some weird science-y theory I’d concocted. And he went all black and white on me. He basically said that if something has not been proven already, it’s impossible.
First, let’s get one thing straight. I am a firm believer in science.
However, think of the great scientists who’ve proven our understanding of the natural world. Theories can’t be proven unless they are postulated. If everyone believed that “if something hadn’t been proven already, it’s impossible”, nothing would be proven. We would be in a perpetual state of scientific stasis.
Science evolves like this. Something is observed, someone tries to explain why it happens and a theory is proven (or not). Then more data comes in. Something new is observed. An outlier is identified. It doesn’t fit into the existing theory, so someone tries to explain why it happens and a new theory is proven (or not). That’s kinda how innovation works too.
Remember back when the world was flat?
Without innovative thinking, maybe it still would be.
Proving something new about the natural world is a massively creative, and often risky, ridiculed and dangerous endeavor. It’s vulnerable. You’re not just…