Monday, November 9, 2009

Drawing on Brilliance

If you’re looking for a very cool holiday gift for your boss or management team, one that will remind him or her--after all the spreadsheets and algorithms are put away--that there still really is an underlying beauty to business, check out Drawing on Brilliance.

Co-authors Randy Rabin and Jackie Bassett rescued original patent lithographs discarded by the US Patent Office--lithographs from folks like the Wright Brothers, Hedy Lamar (yes, the actress of MGM fame who also happened to co-invent frequency-hopping technology), Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Willis Carrier and hundreds of others never before seen.

I recently tracked down Jackie, who doubles as author and CEO of Sealed Speed, to get the scoop on the book.

How did this all come about?

My patent researcher told me how the US PTO had gone digital and threw thousands of original Teslas, Carriers, and Westinghouses in the trash. Then he told me he had rescued many of them.  As I looked through them, he shared some little known facts behind each invention.  I felt so inspired and so privileged to be able to see these drawings for myself, read the actual handwritten notes and study the patterns of success and failure behind each.  Few outside of the patent office had ever seen them.

They really are a total experience to hold, to view and to learn from. In my eyes, Randy was a hero for rescuing them but this is the age of open collaboration.  I told him we needed to share these with the rest of the world.  We needed to do a lot more research on the processes of innovation and to put together a book that would inspire everyone and anyone to do what each of these brave entrepreneurs had done – change the world in remarkable ways.

Was there any story or drawing that particularly struck you?

The Wright Brothers' was the most inspiring to me. They launched an entire industry and created millions of jobs. Ultimately they raised the standard of living for everyone around the world.

The more we researched what the Wright Brothers went through, from concept to commercial success, the more questions we had.  Exactly how did two uneducated bicycle shop repairmen from Ohio solve a problem that no one else could for centuries, from Da Vinci to Galileo?  Could the process they used be repeatable and used to solve other unsolvable problems? What are the real secrets to innovation success? Can we use these insights to raise the global standard of living with all of the problems in today’s economy?

Are you using this material to drive ideas in your own consulting?

Yes.  I work with CEOs who are looking to accelerate the growth of their companies. It seems in a world that is changing at the speed of the Internet many companies just get lost in the rapids of competing priorities.  Managing the volume and rate of change today is analogous to white water rafting.  You need an experienced guide. You’ll never have all of the data you think you need so you have to make some tough decisions. Then you have to rapidly capture the results and be ready to change again.

Remember, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Long before Twitter we had Gottlieb Daimler who showed us that we don’t compete on technology, we compete on business models and we leverage technology to deliver those business models.  We had W.H. Carrier who showed us how a well disciplined process of problem-solving can make the world a better place – we have a goal that has never changed.


So, have I solved your office holiday gift problem?  No more books about mice or cheese.  No more 7 habits or 10 rules or 5 platitudes.  Something special, and something you'll return to time and again for inspiration.