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What's the Potential of an Idea?

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What if you could imagine just how far your idea could go? What if you could see its full potential?

I was interested to read in the press the other day that the Chinese have just created the world's newest and faster super computer. It can perform 2750,000,000,000,000 calculations a second. That's 2750 trillion! It's called Tianhe-1, which means 'Milky Way'.

So I began pondering the evolution of the computer.

I began by boring my kids with how I once owned a Microbee computer and when I first left school sold Vic 16's, which had 16k of memory (that's not a misprint by the way it is 16 kilobytes not megabytes) and Commodore 64's (which held a massive 64k of memory). At the time of course, these were the newest and faster personal computers.

I worked out that my MacBook Pro has a hard-drive, which would hold the equivalent of somewhere around 5 million Commodore 64's! No, that's not a misprint either, (320gig divided by 16kb).

The world's first supercomputer was built in 1949 and called ENIAC and it is said to have been able to make 5000 calculations in just seconds.

What's interesting is that I don't think the team who designed ENIAC 61 years ago had any understanding of where their creative endeavors would lead. How could they? And if you project yourself another 61 years who knows just how advanced supercomputers will become.

As new technologies develop they open the door to newer ones. As new ideas are conceived they open the door to others. To achieve such an amazing thing as Tianhe-1 (Milky Way), it has taken over six decades (not for that project itself of course) of incremental improvement, of learning from what's gone before, massive quantum leaps of faith, who knows how many failures and dead ends, a heap of perseverance, masses of new ideas, experiments, and exploration? The designers of it are certainly extraordinary people who are extraordinarily clever and innovative. But let's not forget those who were extraordinary before them.

So what's my point? Well there are two.

Firstly we need to understand that where we begin with an idea is not where we finish. More importantly, we need to understand that sometimes our ideas have the potential to become more than we can ever possibly imagine.

I think we need to start a movement called 'Milky Way Thinking' in honor of the Supercomputer. Not its evolution but it's potential. So next time you have an idea ask yourself, what's the 'Milky Way' version of that. In other words, how big can you imagine it's potential to really be? How big can your vision ultimately be? That's important because it helps open up possibilities and stretches your creative mind to see greater potential and achieve greater results.

But here's my second point - and it's the kicker.

If you had been one of the designers of ENIAC back in 1949 and your boss asked what the potential was and you had answered 'oh I don't know, potentially, given a bit of time, about 2700 trillion calculations per second' there's a very good chance you would have been ridiculed or sacked. And if I had said to a customer back when I first left school that one day I would have a computer that could hold the equivalent of 5 million Commodore 64's I would most likely have been ridiculed and sacked as well.

Yes it's important to think 'Milky Way' but it's more important to encourage it and nurture it in others. So don't kill the galaxy! Next time someone in your team comes up with a totally out there idea or concept, don't ridicule them, congratulate them, because there's potential and opportunity in there somewhere. And when someone has an idea, don't play safe and just accept it as it is, help them see it's full potential by asking 'what's your Milky Way version of that? How big and audacious can you get it?'

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