The Power of a Thought

I am amazed by the power of ideas. We sometimes forget that many revolutionary innovations are based on very simple ideas. We often go about our business lives assuming that our business ideas need to fit into a box of what has already been done. Why not think about what has never been done before? Why not think about how to change the world for the better with a simple idea? 

The entire industrial revolution was triggered by the very simple idea that if one person does the same task repeatedly, he or she would get better at it and would hence be able to do it more quickly. This at its core is what economists refer to as specialization and division of labor. As a result of the application of this very simple idea, one-man shops where one individual would create a product from scratch to completion, were replaced by massive factories where each person would do a simple part of the process. As a result, products were produced more cheaply and more consistently.

Another very simple idea is the use of refined petroleum to power engines. We have gotten so used to the idea that oil is a source of energy that we forget that at its core, its only use is that it is highly flammable. It would be difficult to exaggerate the impact that the use of this substance has had on the world. This one property has created massive amounts of wealth, triggered wars, and significantly improved the mobility of humans. Yet at its core, it is only useful because it expands when it is lit and hence is able to move a piston.

The internet was also based on a very simple idea. The internet is perhaps the most significant economic development of the past 20 or 30 years and yet, as I understand it, it is based at its most basic level on something very simple. Someone somewhere realized that if they connected two computers with a wire, then a person on any one of the two devices would have access to the information on both devices. This was then applied on a massive scale to the point where we now, effectively, have access to the information on a massive number of computers and servers around the world. 

The internet replaced the printing press as the key engine for the mass distribution of information. The printing press itself was also a very simple concept. Rather than duplicating things by rewriting them all the time, someone figured that they could create a stamp with that information. While the stamp would take longer to create than writing one document, once it was created, it could be re-stamped in a fraction of the time that it would take to write the same document. 

Blockchain is another simple idea. It sounds abstract, but at its most basic level, it is simply a very small modification on the way that computer programming is currently done. At its most basic level, it is just about connecting blocks of data to one another in a way that makes them interconnected and, crucially, almost impossible to edit or erase. This, when extrapolated over millions of applications, will likely change the way that business is conducted in the years to come. 

I write this because most people assume that changing the world is something that should be reserved for people with PhDs wearing lab coats at a university. While this is true in many cases, it is true in my view because the people in those settings are wholly dedicated to that goal, and not because they are any more gifted than you or I. So, when you start your day and look at the world, realize that you too could actively participate in its progress. When you think of your next business idea, challenge yourself to think about how you could change the world.

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