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Mater artium necessitas

Mater artium necessitas

Necessity is the mother of invention

English Proverb

Made for Invention

When was the last time you hung around children? Little ones remind you of something we, as adults, often forget: We’re made for invention.

My life is made brighter each day by the creativity of our 4-year old, Jackson.

Like every pre-schooler his life is 1/3 reality and 2/3 imagination.

Here’s an example of that from our family vacation in Yosemite:

While I am stuck in reality, staring awestruck at Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome, and the Merced River, my 4 year old son has found a stick to defend his beach from the evil ducks attacking his position.

His adventure of imagination beats my awestruck wonder on a technicality, right?

I have a tendency to snap Jackson back from his pretend world with my mundane reality: “Jackson, why are you shooting ducks?” But when I physically get down on his level to enter his world, playing with Legos or building a sand castle, something truly amazing happens: My creative brain comes alive.

We were made for McLandia [or whatever you call your land of make believe] and, like Peter Banning in Hook adult life sometimes leaves us wrestling, wondering which life is worth living, reality or make believe?

Moira Banning: [after throwing Peter’s cell phone out the window] I’m sorry about your deal.

Peter Banning: You hated the deal.

Moira Banning: I hated the deal, but I’m sorry you feel so badly about it. Your children love you, they want to play with you. How long do you think that lasts? Soon Jack may not even want you to come to his games. We have a few special years with our children, when they’re the ones that want us around. After that you’re going to be running after them for a bit of attention. It’s so fast Peter. It’s a few years, and it’s over. And you are not being careful. And you are missing it.

Adults make the mistake that to become successful, to be an adult, we need to give up on Neverland. But, in reality, it’s only when we are in touch with Neverland that we find success.

More Than Play

This is about more than child’s play. This is about invention. All of us are capable of invention. But, as the old proverb implies, when we live in a world without necessity, we forget what we’re capable of invention.

One of the reasons companies like Google fail again and again with things like Wave and Plus is that there is zero necessity. Google will be just fine without Plus. And all of those people who worked on it? No biggie… they’ll find other places within the organization or jobs somewhere else. Google only wanted to take on Facebook to try to capture some of their marketshare and maybe see an increase in their stock price. I’m sure people within the organization thought it was necessary. But there’s a big difference between hitting a sales goal and survival.

This is why you so rarely see success come out of a think tank or R&D department within a big company… there’s no necessity for invention. 

This is also why you see existing companies buying inventions… they know they can’t invent a new success… for them it’s better to grow by acquisition than to try (and fail) to grow by invention.

Here’s my formula for creative success: 

Creative success = Hunger + Boredom + Desperation

  • Most teams aren’t hungry. If this fails they might not meet a goal or might not get a bonus, but their family is going to eat next week.
  • Most adults aren’t bored. You can’t schedule a meeting for invention. You need space. You need time. You need to get past the first couple of naps and tired of reading to get to a place where you are in touch with McLandia.
  • Most adults aren’t desperate. Whether the need is great or like in Hook, the stakes are huge as Peter needs to get his children back… if you aren’t desperate you’ll never invent something great. Yes, you can fake desperation a bit, but it’s only when people are truly desperate that you often see the best in them.

Opportunity Abounds

This is what’s beautiful about life. Each of us has an ability for creative success.

The more you are hungry, the more you are bored, and the more you are desperate you are… that’s all an advantage over the established thing out there.

While the playing field is not equal when it comes to resources you actually have an advantage over everyone else if you simply want it bad enough.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

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