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The Scatological Connection
By Peter Lloyd
Every revolutionary breakthrough invention or innovation begins with what appears to be a stupid, dangerous, or at least an impractical idea. At the same time, critical breakthrough-thinking is driven by an off-limits or forbidden desire to flaunt a taboo.
Take, for example, indoor plumbing, the invention Dave Barry
calls, "perhaps the most feared, the most deadly, the most evil force that the human race was ever foolish enough to create."
Indoor plumbing most certainly sprung from the desire to do one's business closer to home. A definite no-no in societies equally or more civilized than the naked mole rat. Eventually, though, some malcontent mustered up the courage to suggest, "Let's bring the outhouse into the house."
We could call this suggestion the "Scatological Conception." Just like a
biological conception, two critical and very different forces come together and an innovation is begotten. In this case, (1) nature's dirty necessities and (2) the unthinkable notion of doing them in the same place we eat, sleep, and wash.
The first toilet maker, Sir John Harrington
, invented a "necessary" for his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I
. Like most great groundbreakers, the inventor Harrington was all but laughed off the planet. Not until the turn of the 20th century did the idea really catch on.
Between 1900 and 1932 the US Patent office collected applications for 350 water closet designs. And not until 1967 did we recognize their contribution to civilization, when we instituted the Super Bowl.
Here's the point:
Some of the world's best ideas, before they become great inventions, bear all the marks of insanity. Often the mark of insanity presages the
greatest potential for outrageous innovation success. At the same time, you only have to visit the Darwin Awards
to realize that executing crazy ideas also can be deadly.
Peter Lloyd is co-creator with Stephen Grossman of Animal Crackers, the breakthrough problem-solving tool designed to crack your toughest problems.