Yogi Berra once said “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
(the graphic is huge – click to see it full size)
I was fascinated when I saw it, but I wasn’t quite sure what the lesson was. And then, the very next post in my RSS feed had the lesson! Martin Weigel posted this quote from Arthur C. Clarke:
Keep in mind that Clarke is using the old-school definition of fantastic: based on fantasy, not real or conceived or seemingly conceived by unrestrained fancy.
When I saw that quote, I realised that this is another version of the problem that I discussed last week – the fact that to invent the future, we need to amplify weak signals.
All of the people with the foolish-sounding quotes in the first graphic were facing new ideas and looking for proof that they will work. The problem is that when an idea is genuinely new, the proof isn’t there yet.
So it’s easy to make dismissive statements. Mocking these ideas is a pretty safe play, since most new ideas won’t actually go anywhere. That makes it easy to say that they were based on fancy – an illusion of an overactive imagination.
As Clarke points out, it is only those illusions of overactive imaginations that ever move us forward.
We live in a time of abundant ideas, and the ones that are obviously good right now have almost certainly already been tried. The only ones that are left are the ones that seem nuts.
“Prove it” kills innovation.
“That idea is fantastic” fuels innovation.
Of course, not every fantastic idea will work, but they’re the only ideas that will help us to invent the future. We need to find those weak signals, and amplify them. If we want to innovate, our job is to invent the future.