Things that make you go hmmm

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Artist's conception of PSO J318.5-22
Artist’s conception of PSO J318.5-22. (Credit: MPIA/V. Ch. Quetz)

This week I read a story about Astronomers finding a new, free-floating planet (PSO J318.5-22). What I loved about this story is that the planet defies the definition of a planet, as it does not orbit a star. It’s something that shouldn’t exist, or at least something that exists outside the astronomical framework.

It’s funny how you grow-up being taught what is right and how things should work. While knowledge and understanding is good, it can also be limiting. When you just know that something should not work it is really easy to just accept that and move on. It can be a real innovation killer.

Every so often something new, different, and sometimes even seemingly inconsequential, comes around and makes a big difference. Think about Apple’s iTunes. It was created merely as a means to sell iPods.  Critics said it would never work. But, it changed the way people buy music and video content and is one of the fastest growing businesses within Apple.

Or, think about Twitter. An idea for a microblogging service to send text messages to a group of friends. Now news is reported via tweets and media of all types use hashtags to create communities and generate buzz. Something that should have been almost nothing has become so powerful and important to so many.

People that know me or have worked for me have heard this saying on many occasions:  “Don’t give me the 10 reasons why something won’t work; Instead, find the one or two ways that it might work and let’s go from there.” This simple statement sets a simple yet very important expectation.

Most people spend a lot of time and effort finding ways to prove that things will or should fail. I find that very frustrating. But, if you get the right people with the right mindset you can do some pretty amazing things. And, like Post It® notes, occasionally you create something really cool that was completely unexpected. But, you will never know if you don’t even get started.

So, actively look for examples of products or services that broke the rules. Try to understand the genesis of those ideas. And, the next time you think that something is impossible, remember PSO J318.5-22

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