Hot air or great idea?

What seems like “hot air,” an idea with no substance, to one person may seem like a great idea to another person that simply needs more time to be developed or to catch on with enough other people.

“Invention requires a long’term willingness to be misunderstood.” – Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, an internet based mail order company, has said that “Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood.” The mail order company started by offering a large variety of books available to be ordered and shipped to individual purchasers, and it has since expanded into offering products in many categories of retail sales. Over the years other book stores have lost business while Amazon has expanded.

When I was young, my father, who is a mechanical engineer rather than a computer scientist, built his first computer in the early 1970’s as a hobby, from bits of wire and metal and other “stuff.” I was young. He used a sturdy brief case as the framework to contain the smaller components but the case could still be closed and looked just like a small suit case. It was cool but didn’t seem that impressive at the time, other kids were playing colorful games on their TV screens with the earliest gaming systems. He had one text based find-your-way-through-a-maze game on it that was fun to play and a paddle based game similar to “Pong.” At the time he predicted that one day people would be able to order their groceries on their own computer and have it all delivered to their home instead of their having to go to the store –> skeptical silence and the thought, “Sure dad, one day.” He had a lot of ideas, were they all hot air?

Well the day has already arrived for many people  and laptop computers look a lot like small suitcases that you can close and carry around with you.

Sometimes ideas just take forty years.

Something else from my childhood helped me to better appreciate my father’s eccentricities. The biographyCheaper by the Dozen” was written by two children,  Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, who grew up with ten other siblings and their efficiency expert parents. Both the children’s father and mother became well known as job efficiency experts in the early era of industrialization when factories made a transition to assembly line type work. Their father and mother became consultants and speakers on the topic of job efficiency and the use of time and motion studies for improving speed and effectiveness of workers.

My father also filmed home movies and studied the efficiency of motion and how to do a job in the simplest way.

Small improvements in tools or how a job was performed could significantly improve a worker’s speed and reduce the physical demands on their body. A less tired worker can work longer and more easily sustain a steady pace with fewer errors.

Frank Gilbreth, Sr. the father of the two children who wrote Cheaper by the Dozen, is suggested to be the original speaker who coined the concept underlying the quote: “Choose a Lazy Person To Do a Hard Job Because That Person Will Find an Easy Way To Do It.” The quote has also been attributed to Bill Gates and Clarence Bleicher, and Walter Chrysler.  The article on makes the point that many different industry experts would have heard Frank Gilbreth, Sr. speaking on the topic but that his words were less compact, less of a repeatable soundbite than the variation by Clarence Bleicher that is more similar to the words quoted here which is the version attributed to Bill Gates and Walter Chrysler.

As my own level of chronic pain and chronic fatigue have increased and decreased over the years I can better understand how a “lazy” person might simply “need” to find a more efficient, stream-lined way to do things because their body simply might not be able to work at a faster or more strenuous pace.

As a guide for parenting I would not recommend the book Cheaper by the Dozen, eccentric is a kind word, but as a fascinating account of the genius of two people, Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth, who helped shape the assembly lines of our modern world, I would recommend that you make haste to your nearest used book store or Amazon or other favorite website page and buy a copy. As a parenting guide it could also be helpful for providing creative ideas to modify for modern times. The children include their parent’s courtship in the book and describe how the family coped with twelve children in an efficient and orderly way. Unusual vacations and hobbies are also described in a delightful way that make the 1920’s and 30’s seem like the family road-trip that we just took yesterday in the new Model T.

And if you don’t have time for a book or trip to Amazon then here’s an article with tips for improving the learning environment of your place of business or other organization: Here’s Why You’re Failing to Create a Learning Culture, (2017/06/30).

The tips for promoting a learning culture at a business suggest:

  • trusting staff to guide their own learning;
  • giving staff autonomy to contribute ideas;
  • make learning resources easily accessible to staff;
  • make learning part of the every day work style rather than making it seem like an activity that only occurs at occasional seminars;
  • reward learning by recognizing staff achievements or contributions or by other ways that show learning and creative ideas are encouraged and shared with the team rather than thought of as a waste of time or a nuisance.

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Hot air, who would have ever believed we really could use it to fly? And yet people figured out how to make it work anyway.

Pong was a simple looking game introduced in 1972/1975. It had black and white images, with one moving white ball and a pair of  moving white straight lines that were used as the paddles in ping-pong style game. A player had to slide the paddle in place in time for the ball to collide with it and be volleyed back to the other side rather than disappearing into the edge of the screen. The arrow keys on the computer were the controls. Wikipedia.

Gaming and shopping has changed. Now your groceries may be able to be delivered by a drone, that is powered by a remote control system, that may have been developed in some part from the many hours of gaming time that eventually developed from the intial up and down arrow keys on the keyboard.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

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