Where the new things come from

It’s worth asking in a world full of copying, where do the new things come from?

They’re extremely rare for a start. We know that most new things will fail. Is this due to their inherent newness, or that they’re not really new, or that they’re not useful?

It feels like most so-called new things fail because they’re not really new. It’s yet-another wallet on kickstarter or instagram clone in San Francisco. Second, it’s because they’re not useful. It’s a social network just for squirrels, or a three-wheeled bicycle (or, tricycle, of course).

Only last do things fail because they’re new. That would be pets.com or webvan. New and just before their time. They’re all coming back in new disguises today.

Therefore when you do something new, it’s likely you should try to really be new and not just a copy of something else or useless.

Which is not to say copying or useless is the same as profitless. Clearly doing another fountain pen on kickstarter is profitable and the pet rock was genius in its uselessness. So, of course, many counter-examples exist.

In England, my default experience observing anyone trying something new was that they were ridiculed and dragged down. In the US, my experience is, on average, the opposite. It certainly feels like the majority of the new things come from the United States, and are then just copied in other places. Everything from the Boeing 737 (Airbus A320) to open.gov (open.gov.uk).

This isn’t universally true, of course. The jet engine would be a counter example. But, that and the Dyson vacuum cleaner are held up as if they represent the pinnacle of British achievement, over and above English or the Westminster system of Government (copied all over the world). Whereas in America similar innovations happen all the time and are just part of the natural background noise of the place.

A random example, the conference I ran, is thought of positively by the attendees (mostly American) whereas all the negative people, the vocal negative people, are on the other side of the planet in England. It’s hard to conceive of running a follow-up in the UK and receiving hate mail from people in the United States about it.

Interestingly, it doesn’t feel like British ex-pats living in the US suffer from this disease. Therefore, if correct, the best people to try new things are the very same people leaving Britain, making it (Britain) an even worse environment to try new things.

Without new things, we remain in the state we are today, with the same problems. Therefore it’s critical we have new things. So it should be shocking that there are so few new things and we readily drag down those who try to build them.

What can you do to try and right this, wherever you are? Try to find a positive way to react to new things and ideas. New things are scary and we don’t like change. We’re quick to find the negatives when presented with anything new. Try to find the positives instead, whether discussing a new idea at a pub or reading a controversial (e.g. new) book.

2 Responses to Where the new things come from

  1. Daniel Seemiller October 4, 2013 at 1:00 am #

    Your comments about new things and Brits vs Americans are intriguing. Some people embrace change while other are afraid. I’ve noticed acceptance in relation to age. I’ve observed that tyung and young minded people embrace change. While older people generally don’t like change.
    I have rather odd looking recumbent bicycle (P-38 Lightning). It’s like sitting in a comfortable lawn chair with the pedals in front of you. As I pass children and teens, they say “wow, cool”. Many adults say they wouldn’t be caught dead on it or ask if it’s for handicapped. They cannot accept something different. A few see it as something different, ask, give it a try and go faster than before. Few know that recumbent bikes raced conventional bikes nearly 100 years ago. When 2nd and 3rd level riders beat out top sponsored races, the better, faster bike design was banned from racing. Still today, all the bicycle land speed records are set by recumbents.
    So to get back to Steve’s story about Brits vs Americans, I’m curious to know if British children accept change more than their adult counterparts.


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