The Freedom To Innovate; The Freedom To Be Stupid

December 02, 2006

Last week I left a perfectly good job in order to follow my own ideas. Now I can truly take my experience and imagination to build something worthwhile (and hopefully make enough to live on). Working for myself allows my the freedom to do whatever is necessary to reach my goals without having to explain everything or gain someone's permission.

Of course, I may fall flat on my face like a drunk after the bars close. That's freedom, it goes both ways.

I've been working in this industry as a software engineer for 25 years this week, half as an employee of someone else, and half working for myself or a company I founded (Data Tailor, The SU5 Group). It's been 9 years of employment (with a couple of dot-com-inspired unemployments in there) so its that time again. Fortunately there are plenty of senior java positions available, so I can find another job fairly easily if I do fall flat. The goals I have make sense in today's marketplace, have a reasonable financial plan for (eventually) making a living, and have potential for innovation. It's a combination of experience, research (google is a fine thing!) and stupidity, all of which are required for any success in today's web market.

Stupidity seems like an odd thing to add to the mix, but I've always thought innovation comes not from being wise, but from being dumb enough to try something other people might ignore. Over the years I've heard people laugh at new things that seemed so pointless, like mice, graphical computers, ethernet, email, the web, instant messaging, OO programming, java, buying things online, etc. Where do things like these come from? Not from people playing it safe, but from being being too stupid (or if you like, open-minded) to imagine something new and different. Yes, often it is stupid and fails miserably, but without the freedom to be stupid, innovation never happens.

Yes, sometimes the pavement hurts on the way down, but it does give you a new perspective on the problem, so you get up and try again.