Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Doing it Right : Building on Organic Ideas

I enjoy interacting with people and try and understand what they think. It is often that I find that some of the smartest of people I know of tend to work in areas that are frighteningly overcrowded (overhyped). There is nothing wrong in "hype", on the contrary hype helps promote a certain field even when it has few results in its' kitty, thus driving innovation faster and faster. Hype becomes a major issue only when people tend to solve problems that don't need to be solved. Or problems that have been solved already. Once you start peeping over your peers and start doing things based on what they are doing, that's when it becomes a problem. Usually, people tend to believe that's the only metric that they have to measure themselves. If someone tends to attain success by doing X, we think that doing X would give us the same success, thus fostering a herd mentality around X. Nothing is graver than this. This may sound something extremely rudimentary but 9 out of 10 times this is the case.

When an apple fell on Newton's head, nobody was working on gravity. Very few people were working on BASIC ALTAIR when Microsoft was set up (the ones that did were called "hobbyists" as no one took electronics seriously in the late 70s). Same goes for so many great ideas and inventions. Are these achievements completely random? If so then how come it is the same people who tend to repeat genius time and again, let it be Galileo Galilei, Newton or Elon Musk. 

So how does one decide which problems to work on? How can we come up with organic ideas to build on? How to think of what are the right questions to ask?

A good way to think of this is as think of your field N years in future and wonder wouldn't it be cool "if this existed". Go ahead and build it. When you think of building things from the future, your inclination and determination to do it increase multiple folds. Usually, great things look extremely fundamental in retrospect and hence living in the future works well enough. Take gravity for an example.

This is a summary of the article by Paul Graham (http://paulgraham.com/startupideas.html)