Ben Franklin's Guide to Innovation

The essential lesson of Jeff DeGraff's Masterclass on Big Think Edge is that when it comes to innovation, it’s never fully realized.  

Imagine Ben Franklin, fat and self-satisfied. 


That image his hard to conjure because Franklin, one of America's great innovators, was physically fit up until his seventies, and he was never satisfied.

"He became a printer and then he became an entrepreneur and then he created a library and then he created a university," recounts innovation expert Jeff DeGraff. "Then he created the original self-help group.  Then he became a diplomat.  Before he was a diplomat he became a great scientist and invented everything from the Franklin stove to the lightening rod to bifocals, which he didn’t patent because he thought everybody should be able to use them," DeGraff says.

So what if, in his path from inventor to diplomat, to great American patriot, DeGraff asks us to consider, Franklin thought he had finally found himself? "He would have never become that amazing polymath, that Renaissance person that we all want to be," DeGraff says. "So I think it’s an absolute gift that we never really get there because that’s what pulls us forward."

The essential lesson here, is that when it comes to innovation, it’s never fully realized. This lesson is derived from DeGraff's Masterclass on Big Think Edge, the only forum on YouTube designed to help you get the skills you need to be successful in a rapidly changing world.  

Let's say you developed a miracle drug. There’s always another miracle drug.  Let's say you developed a great restaurant, there’s always a second restaurant.  Let's say you developed a software solution to keep everybody safe. There’s always another software solution because there’s always someone else pushing back with an alternative so that you have to keep going. "So we never really fully arrive," DeGraff says. "But isn’t that the best thing in life?"

To put it another way, DeGraff has us conjure the image of climbing a mountain. You’re going in a circle up this mountain.  That’s how innovation really works.  In fact, one of the classic mistakes people make, DeGraff says, is that "they think they know everything at the beginning. You don’t know anything at the beginning."

That is why, as you circle the mountain, you build a version 1.0, then 2.0.  You build the thick and thin versions of products - the simpler one and then the more complicated one later. You do this because you know you’re going to learn some things along the way.  "So in innovation, DeGraff says, "there’s a lot of twisting, there’s a lot of turning, there’s a lot of doubling back, there’s a lot of paying attention to what we know now.  What did we learn from our experiences and our experiments?"

And that is why DeGraff's hero is Benjamin Franklin, "the penniless runaway, the diplomat, politician, patriot, on and on it goes."

For expert video content to inspire, engage and motivate your employees, visit Big Think Edge

Watch the video below and sign up for your free trial to Big Think Edge today. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Russia sends humanoid robot to space, fails to dock with ISS

The Russian-built FEDOR was launched on a mission to help ISS astronauts.

Photos by TASS\TASS via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Russia launched a spacecraft carrying FEDOR, a humanoid robot.
  • Its mission is to help astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
  • Such androids can eventually help with dangerous missions likes spacewalks.
Keep reading Show less

Human extinction! Don't panic; think about it like a philosopher.

Most people think human extinction would be bad. These people aren't philosophers.

Shutterstock
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new opinion piece in The New York Times argues that humanity is so horrible to other forms of life that our extinction wouldn't be all that bad, morally speaking.
  • The author, Dr. Todd May, is a philosopher who is known for advising the writers of The Good Place.
  • The idea of human extinction is a big one, with lots of disagreement on its moral value.
Keep reading Show less

this incredibly rich machinery – with Antonio Damasio

Picking up where we left off a year ago, a conversation about the homeostatic imperative as it plays out in everything from bacteria to pharmaceutical companies—and how the marvelous apparatus of the human mind also gets us into all kinds of trouble.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "Prior to nervous systems: no mind, no consciousness, no intention in the full sense of the term. After nervous systems, gradually we ascend to this possibility of having to this possibility of having minds, having consciousness, and having reasoning that allows us to arrive at some of these very interesting decisions."
  • "We are fragile culturally and socially…but life is fragile to begin with. All that it takes is a little bit of bad luck in the management of those supports, and you're cooked…you can actually be cooked—with global warming!"



Keep reading Show less