Are You a Crank or a Visionary?

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So I was reading through a book of Mark Twain quotes last night (did the guy ever say anything that wasn’t pure gold?), and I came upon one that was particularly relevant to my last post:

“The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.”

Bill Gates was an idiot whose idea of “a computer on every desk” was patently absurd. Those wacky Wright kids, Orville and Wilbur, with their crazy “flying machine” idea—what were they thinking? And who can forget Johannes Gutenberg? “Movable type? Wow Johannes—what have you been smoking?” Cranks, all of them. Until they succeeded. Then they were visionaries. Pretty thin line, huh?

Remember the Beatles, with their silly haircuts, funny accents, and strange chords? The same Beatles who were called a “passing fad” that “couldn’t last”? Wonder what ever happened to them….

Yes, some ideas are pretty stupid. Some are brilliant. The problem is, it’s deceptively difficult to tell which are which. The Pet Rock was considered stupid; the Segway, brilliant. But the Pet Rock has become something of a legend, while the only time you see a Segway (that personal scooter thing that was supposed to revolutionize the world) is when some guy at the county fair is selling rides for a buck apiece. The point is that the moment of its creation is a terrible time to judge whether or not an idea has legs. But people will judge, and when it’s your idea it feels like they’re judging you as well.

Don’t let them get away with it. Bill Gates didn’t. The Wright brothers didn’t. Gutenberg and the Beatles didn’t. And I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be in the company of those guys than in the company of the nameless critics who called them cranks.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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