History repeats itself. History can also teach you how ideas beget ideas, how inventions build on top of other inventions. Connections by James Burke is a must read for all inventors, entrepreneurs and investors. This book shows how inventions are linked -- indirect inventions or ideas create trigger points for developing a completely unrelated idea. This is why I spend some time studying topics that unrelated to entrepreneurship, investing or inventing—these topics often create trigger points to new ideas that relate back to entrepreneurship.
One of the favorite things I learned (out my hundreds of favorites) was the importance of the invention of the compass to the evolution of commerce in the 1200’s. “The economics of the compass can hardly be exaggerated,” is such a beautiful statement by Burke. From my perspective, it is analogous to Google serving as the compass for the Internet. Look at the phenomenal growth of Google as a result and the derivative products, services and companies Google has created in its digital ecosystem. Another thing I learned was that it’s never too late to develop or invent another “compass-like, revolutionary product or service.”
If I told you ten years ago that someone was going to kick Microsoft’s ass, besides Apple, you would have thought I was insane.
Capitalism works and the compass as a disruptive invention supports this fact. “With the aid of the compass, ships could sail under the cloudy skies by day and night. The number of voyages doubled, and crews were kept in regular employment. This in turn encouraged investors, and the number of voyages increased.”
But what I appreciate the most is that the compass had farther-reaching consequences. “So it was the fall of Constantinople, by cutting trade with the East, triggered the great trans-oceanic voyages that were lead to the discovery of the America by ships that could use their lateen sails to tack their way through contrary winds to the Azores; there they picked up the steady winds in the Caribbean, do the same thing in reverse coming home, relying on the needle in all weathers to tell them where to go.”
Substitute the compass with the Google search engine and now try to figure out how to use the Google compass to your advantage or invent a better compass (search) engine. You think I’m crazy. There are entrepreneurs quietly and not so quietly working on making a better compass for the Internet. Google has the upper hand right now but I’m sure they’re not resting on their laurels.
Connections is a must-read book for inventors and entrepreneurs. It’s fun to read as well.
entrepreneurdex rating: 10 out of 10.
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