Sarah’s Diary Episode Six

Jenny thought about her next class, she decided to share more of Ben’s story with her class because his was one of significance. Many innovators from her study had an early childhood much like Ben’s. She was hoping that Ben’s story would open the class to understanding how challenging innovators can be as they grow up.

“Today I want to share with you Ben’s story. As I’m sharing this story, I want you to begin thinking how we can encourage the Ben’s in our society who choose to follow their own path and not one that we would want them to follow.”

“First, Ben wasn’t his actual name. His birth name was Mark. I thought that maybe Ben was his middle name, but that wasn’t the case. I finally figured out he came to be called Ben in his father’s memoir. Ben would spend much of his day exploring. He had no sense of time or responsibility to his family chores. When he finally came home, his parents and older siblings would often shout at him: ‘Where have you been?’ The younger children began to believe his name was Ben. While the parents laughed at first by the confusion of the younger children, they also started calling him Ben.”

“Ben was fascinated by the natural world, and he used that fascination to spur new ideas. When his father presented the heating challenge to the children. Ben’s idea was conceived from the structure of trees. That may seem simple to us today, but distributed heating was not common in Ben’s day.”

“Ben was the poorest student in the family. His teacher complained that she couldn’t keep him on task. But he was also the fastest to grasp new ideas. I suspect that school bored him.”

Jenny then asked the class what they would generalize from Ben’s story about the early development of innovators. The responses were what she expected:

  • Innovators are curious about many things at a young age
  • Innovators are challenged to self-manage
  • Innovators don’t like structure.

Jenny was pleased that they saw these personal traits of innovators at a young age, but there was one trait they failed to identify. “Innovators often see connections where others see just distinctly different objects. You probably know that the idea for Velcro came from burrs that stuck to the pant legs of its inventor. But did you know that a lotus leaf was the inspiration for self-cleaning surfaces? When Mercedes Benz wanted to create a car with speed that used less energy, they modeled the car’s shape after a box fish, whose shape and weight made it both fast and energy efficient.”

“What I want you to do as your next assignment is to something from nature and see how you might connect it to a new idea. The idea doesn’t have to be a product. It can be an idea for an improvement in our society.”

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“Innovation is taking two things that already exist and putting them together in a new way.” – Tom Freston (Media pioneer)

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