Dr. Peter H. Diamandis is the Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, and co-Founder and Chairman of the Singularity University, a Silicon Valley-based institution partnered with NASA, Google, Autodesk and Nokia. Dr. Diamandis attended MIT, where he received his degrees in molecular genetics and aerospace engineering, as well as Harvard Medical School where he received his M.D.
He’s no underachiever.
I’ve known Peter for many years, both as a friend and as advising faculty at Singularity University. He is known for being incredibly resourceful, but it’s his ability to teach and catalyze resourcefulness that impresses me most.
Here is a short essay from Peter on exactly this. Enjoy…
In 1997 Apple introduced its “Think Different” advertising campaign with the now famous declaration: “Here’s to the crazy ones”:
Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes . . . the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.
If you were to just hear these words, they’d seem like bravado — marketingspeak from a company not known for marketingspeak. But Apple coupled sight to sound. Accompanying those words were images: Bob Dylan as a misfit; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a troublemaker; Thomas Edison as the one without respect for the status quo. Suddenly everything changes. Turns out this campaign is not all bluster. In fact, it seems to be a fairly accurate retelling of historical events.
The point, however obvious, is pretty fundamental: you need to be a little crazy to change the world, and you can’t really fake it.
If you don’t believe in the possibility, then you’ll never give it the 200 percent effort required. This can put experts in a tricky situation. Many have built their careers buttressing the status quo, reinforcing what they’ve already accomplished, and resisting the radical thinking that can topple their legacy — not exactly the attitude you want when trying to drive innovation forward.
Henry Ford agreed:
“None of our men are ‘experts.’ We have most unfortunately found it necessary to get rid of a man as soon as he thinks himself an expert because no one ever considers himself expert if he really knows his job . . . Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible.”
So if you’re going after grand challenges, experts may not be your best co-conspirators. Instead, if you need a group of people who thrive on risk, are overflowing with crazy ideas, and don’t have a clue that there’s a “wrong way” to do things, there’s one particular place to look.
In the early 1960s, when President Kennedy launched the Apollo program, very few of the necessary technologies existed at the time. We had to invent almost everything. And we did, with one of the main reasons being that those engineers involved didn’t know they were trying to do the impossible, because they were too young to know. The engineers who got us to the Moon were in their mid to late twenties. Fast-forward thirty years, and once again it was a group of twentysomethings driving a revolution, this time in the dot-com world. This is not a coincidence: youth (and youthful attitudes) drives innovation — always has and always will.
So if we’re serious about creating an age of abundance, then we’re going to have to learn to think differently, think young, roll the dice, and perhaps most importantly, get comfortable with failure.
Editor’s note: The above is adapted from Peter’s book Abundance, which I wholeheartedly recommend you check out. But let’s talk to you…
What other examples of “crazy” innovators can you think of?
If you’ve been in a job for a long time, how can you generate novel/crazy ideas?
Who has done the so-called “impossible” or shaken up the status quo in a way you respect?
Please share your thoughts in the comments!
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