Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Over the years I’ve bought into the idea that innovation is the most important thing a company can have. That’s why you need to know why manhole covers are round to get a job at Microsoft. I for one had to build a catapult out of common office supplies at Electronic Arts. We are told as programmers and designers that if we don’t have a constant flow of ideas rushing through our heads, we might as well be serving fries for a living.
Luckily, I’m overstocked with ideas. Every time I get a brainstorm, I’d corner my wife to tell her all about how I’m going to CHANGE THE INDUSTRY with this idea I came up with 5 seconds ago. Recently after suffering through another one of my Doc Brown-like neural spazzes, Sara reminded me of all the projects I haven’t been able to get through because of all these ideas I’ve been having. There was the screencast series, the local theatre ticketing system, and scores of novels and plays that just never got finished. She said they were great ideas, but I needed to follow through some of them first.
When she was going through PDP (BC’s teacher training program) one of her advisors told her that not all of her lessons needed to be completely original. Teachers work every night to plan their next day. Most will strive to find the most creative way to teach the material, but sometimes you have to take a lesson out of an activity book or adapt a worksheet from the internet, otherwise you’ll burn out. The important thing is that the lesson is there for the kids that morning, not that you’ve reinvented the wheel.
Nowhere is this advice more important than in the tech industry. We are so concerned with creating the next big thing that we forget that execution is important too. We call the leaders of our industry “innovators”, but we’re really praising them for a proper recital of yesterdays ideas.