"How do you innovate? First, try to get in trouble. I mean serious, but not terminal, trouble. I hold - it is beyond speculation, rather a conviction - that innovation and sophistication spark from initial situations of necessity, in ways that go far beyond the satisfaction of such necessity (from the unintended side effects of, say, an initial invention or attempt at invention). Naturally there are classical thoughts on the subject, with a Latin saying that sophistication is born out of hunger (artificia docuit fames). The idea pervades classical literature: in Ovid, difficulty is what wakes up the genius (ingenium mala saepe movent), which translates in Brooklyn English into "When life gives you a lemon ..."

The excess energy released from overreaction to setbacks is what innovates!

This message from the ancients is vastly deeper than it seems. It contradicts modern methods and ideas of innovation and progress on many levels, as we tend to think that innovation comes from bureaucratic funding, through planning, or by putting people through a Harvard Business School class by one Highly Decorated Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (who never innovated anything) or hiring a consultant (who never innovated anything). This is a fallacy - note for now the disproportionate contribution of uneducated technicians and entrepreneurs to various technological leaps, from the Industrial Revolution to the emergence of Silicon Valley, and you will see what I mean.

Yet in spite of the visibility of the counterevidence, and the wisdom you can pick up free of charge from the ancients (or grandmothers), moderns try today to create inventions from situations of comfort, safety, and predictablity instead of accepting the notion that "necessity really is the mother of invention."

Many, like the great Roman statesman Cato the Censor, looked at comfort, almost any form of comfort, as a road to waste. He did not like it when we had it too easy, as he worried about the weakening of the will. And the softening he feared was not just at the personal level: an entire society can fall ill. Consider that as I am writing these lines, we are living in a debt crisis. The world as a whole has never been richer, and it has never been more heavily in debt, living off borrowed money. The record shows that, for society, the richer we become, the harder it gets to live within our means.

Abundance is harder for us to handle than scarcity."


Antifragile - Nassim Nicholas Taleb