Last month I was thrilled to be a mentor in Australia's National Questacon Invention Convention. I was offered the opportunity to inspire the delegates with our work in augmented reality and in hololens. I was also offered the opportunity to be the guest speaker at their celebration showcase and graduation on Friday 19 February 2018. This is what I said to the fantastic group of 14-18 year olds......
Congratulations inventors! You have started your journey on creating the future! It feels like the end tonight but I can assure you - it is only just the beginning.
It’s been so exciting to follow your journey on social media during the week, after our chance to have a chat earlier in the week about resilience and developing the impossible. I’m feeling much more confident of the future with people like you at the helm!
Of course, we’ve learned during the week that nothing is impossible, but it can be challenging. Inventing new futures is all about being pushed out of your comfort zone. Paul Arden, Creative Director of Saachi and Saachi once famously said “You need to aim beyond what you are capable of. You must develop a complete disregard for where your abilities end. Try to do things that you're incapable of... If you think you're incapable of running a company, make that your aim... Make your vision of where you want to be a reality. Nothing is impossible”.
Nothing is impossible and I think you’ve shown that this week. Like Samuel who shared with me earlier that he didn't have an idea by the end of the first day and ended up making a complex robot to carry out soil tests.
Like all big dreams for disruptive inventions, you started your Invention Convention perhaps a little nervous, but excited. Perhaps questioning your ability - but knowing what you wanted to achieve. You wanted to solve a challenge we face today or you saw an opportunity to make future earth a better place. The mentors around you believe you can do it, and with you taking the lead - showing up to get making, which takes guts, nothing is impossible.
Of course, not all great inventions involve smooth sailing from idea to reality. You’ve seen that this week too. During the short time you’ve had available you had the chance to think about what you were making for Future Earth. Anyone can make something, but at the heart of good design is purpose.
You weren’t setting out to make the next toothpick popper Nicklous showed you at the start of this week!
Finding the purpose of your invention is critical to its success. You had to research, hypothesise, problem solve and design your invention. You had to horizon scan what the futurists are saying - what their best prediction for future earth might be. Will your design fit in? Will it completely disrupt future predictions? Will it still be relevant to people? Our communities? Our planet? Tonight I’ve seen some great prototypes for social purpose.
You had to think about potential perverse outcomes of your invention - just because we can invent something, it doesn’t mean we always should. In those moments, you were challenged by ethics - your moral compass, your values and the values of your community. You may have asked yourselves this week “how could this result in a bad outcome?”. If your invention didn’t grate with your ethics then you pressed on.
Then came the part all inventors love and hate at the same time. The making. This is the exciting part of the journey, and the completely frustrating and sometimes heartbreaking part! It’s the most creative part of the invention process figuring out ‘how would it work’, ‘what if I just tweaked this…’ then you got to try.
Your design probably didn’t work the first time, or the second time. And it might not have worked the 100th time, but in that one moment, when your invention worked for the very first time - I bet you felt complete and utter joy - and maybe surprise. If you had that experience this week hold on to those moments with this invention and your future inventions. That one moment of ‘it works’ will support you through all the times your future prototypes don’t work. That one moment, when your invention works for the first time, will push you beyond what you think you are capable of into your next breakthrough.
Lastly this week you refine your design. This was probably challenging and rewarding at the same time. Testing it with others to see if it works for them. Seeking advice and input from mentors and being bold enough to accept feedback for redesign.
Sometimes as inventors we are so proud of, sometimes so in love with our inventions that we can’t accept feedback from others. I urge you not to fall in love with your invention. Fall in love with the feedback people will give you to make your invention better. This is what I was talking to you about at the beginning of the week. It comes down to resilience. You need to put on your feedback filter and listen carefully.
People might tell you you’re crazy - you don’t need to necessarily listen to that kind of feedback - most of the time you can filter that one out. But if people tell you they are struggling to use your invention, or it’s not intuitive to them - and they are your target market. Please. Listen. Then put your thinking cap back on and ask - is it my invention that is the problem? Or is it the way I’m communicating with others about my invention? This question could be the answer to unlocking financial and other support for your invention.
Inventing isn’t about having all the right answers - it’s about asking all the right questions. And when I say that, I mean ALL questions - there are no wrong questions to ask when you are inventing. You will need to pre-empt or understand what questions your target markets and users will ask you, and have solid answers for them.
And the most frequent question you will be asked on your invention journey after tonight?