Will Your Original Idea Work? No One Knows Now

 Image of Nassim Nicholas Taleb at IdeaFestival 2008: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

Image of Nassim Nicholas Taleb at IdeaFestival 2008: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

For every Turkey, Thanksgiving is a Black Swan - Nassim Nicholas Taleb

What can the past teach us? When it comes to innovation, less than you might think.

Writing on his excellent blog, Farnam Street, Shane Parrish uses observations by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in Taleb's book "Anti-fragile" to make a point about the shortcomings of planning.

Our documented history can blind us. All we know is what we have been able to record.

We think because we have sophisticated data collecting techniques that we can capture all the data necessary to make decisions.

Discussing the use of worse-case scenarios by banking institutions to harden themselves against future crises, Taleb, Parrish writes, helpfully points out that those "worst cases" were simply the worst crisis at the time.

The relationship to innovation and creativity should be obvious. Your entrepreneurial idea for a product or service, your scientific hypothesis, your creative interpretation of current events as an interactive artist may be well and truly nuts.

But as with all true originals, no one can tell you that now. The future is fundamentally unknowable.

Taleb, incidentally, spoke at IdeaFestival 2008, just as world markets were crashing. The timing was coincidental.

Stay curious.

Wayne