Innovative Genius: The Underlying Theme of Quirky

Albert Einstein

Steve Jobs

Marie Curie

Thomas Edison

These people amaze us with their ability to come up with world-changing products and ideas throughout their lives. As business owners, we might even envy the ability of these individuals to create.

In trying to understand how thee creative geniuses were able to create like they do, many authors and researchers have considered various factors including:

Quirky: The Remarkable Story of the Traits, Foibles, and Genius of Breakthrough Innovators Who Changed the World“, by researcher Melissa A Schilling, takes a different viewpoint. This book looks at the personality behind the genius. In doing so, Schilling’s book helps us understand how these all-too human geniuses achieved their greatness despite setbacks we might not have even considered.

Creativity Unlocked: The Curse & Blessings of Genius

Albert Einstein

Inventors, both in the past (like Thomas Edison) and present (Elon Musk), are often praised for their ability to stay extremely focused on conquering seemingly unsolvable problems. We write books about them, create documentaries and movies about them, and follow their every move on social media and the news.Our society praises (and even tries to duplicate) their ability to innovate. (Think about how many people aspire to be “the next Steve Jobs”)

Yet Melissa Schilling’s book points to the other side of being innovative, social exclusion. With rare exceptions (like Benjamin Franklin), our society doesn’t praise nonconformists like we are led to believe. People whose personalities don’t match the status quo or rule-breakers who like to challenge the authority are often excluded, punished, or ridiculed. Businesses will ignore new ideas from creative-minded employees because they want to risk their reputation or money on something that might not work.

Yet, society isn’t to blame in every situation. In some cases, creative geniuses like Albert Einstein and Marie Curie preferred exclusion. They wanted to be left alone. Even though their achievements gained worldwide fame, they preferred as small as a social group as possible. This inclination to be left alone damaged personal relationships as well.

The book “Quirky” points to another side effect of social exclusion, loss of a social network. Inventors like Steve Jobs and Nikola Tesla, need a wide variety of resources (people, money, equipment, etc.) to turn their dreams into reality. This variety of resources exist as a perk for being in a social network, which makes it harder for creative geniuses who don’t fit the mold of their society to turn their ideas into reality.

Special Focus on Edison & Franklin: The Prototypes of Business-Minded Entrepreneurs

Thomas Edison

Yet, if we ask ourselves, why did people like Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla do what they do, we are left with one answer: They loved it. Despite all of the ups and downs in their social life, creative geniuses and inventors love what they do.

Creative and inventive entrepreneurs also might make some money at their passion. Case in point: Thomas Edison.

For any entrepreneur who also loves inventing, Thomas Alva Edison is the prototype for turning invention driven entrepreneurs. Edison literally had thousands of patents for inventions. He also had a will with an estimated net worth of $12 million dollars, although his financial management skills are up for debate.

Benjamin Franklin, the incredibly multi-talented inventor, diplomat, and statesman, is another example. Franklin grew up in a family of 17 children and ended up with an estimated net worth over $10 billion.Like Edison, he dabbled in various businesses at the same time he was pursuing a variety of talents. Also, like Edison, Franklin actively marketed himself and connected with others to grow his business.

What Can We (aka The 99% of Us Who Aren’t Creative Genius) Learn From “Quirky”?

You might be interested in learning about Benjamin Franklin’s or Steve Job’s life, but you might also be wondering what practical use reading about them in “Quirky” would have for you and your business.

  1. Give yourself (and your team) some solitude. Be sure that you have a “quiet space” somewhere in your business where your team can go when they need to concentrate and focus.
  2. Create a collaborative environment. Be sure to support an environment where open dialogue and feedback are encouraged.
  3. Connect your business with a bigger cause. It’s easy to get so bogged down with day-to-day activities that you lose connection to the inspiration behind your business. Take some time to reflect on the purpose behind your business. Find moments to celebrate and reconnect with that purpose.
  4. Change your approach to failure.  Google is famous for this with its “moonshot projects”, which are projects that represent HUGE problems that Google makes an attempt to solve, regardless of its resources. While the current view of Google’s moonshot programs is cloudy, the thinking is in the right direction. Most businesses are afraid to to take risks, even calculated ones. If your business is to survive the digital revolution, it will need to change that approach.
  5. Get inspiration and data from other disciplines. One of the biggest assets to being seen as an outsider is the openness and ability to see from a different point of view. If you’re looking for creative inspiration, whether it’s for a new blog post or product, don’t always stick to business sources and best practices. Look for inspiration everywhere.

Need Some More  Small Biz Innovation Inspiration? Check Out What These Businesses Are Doing

Speaking of innovation and small businesses, here are  businesses that are utilizing creativity and innovation to create new ways of doing business:

  • Silly Dog Vanilla, a vanilla manufacturing company that sidesteps the distributors and pays families directly for organic vanilla at a fair trade price
  • Embrace Global, a non-profit who invented a more effective product for premature babies who need extra warmth, the $25 Embrace Warmer
  • LunchSpread, a business that provides free samples of food to local offices to help restaurants spark interest in their food
  • Bed Rest Concierge, a personal concierge services for soon-to-be mothers
  • Eliza J, a business that would create a clean and quality portable bathroom for your event
  • The Game Crafter, a business that will create your own version of board game

Short Summary of “Quirky”: Embrace Your Individual & Business “Quirky” to Find Your Contribution to the World

While the content of “Quirky” is about creative geniuses and innovators, the overall theme of the book is about all of us. All of us have, from the billion-dollar business innovator to the person who cleans the billion dollar innovator’s office, have a unique personality and way of thinking. We need to embrace that diversity. We need to leverage that diversity for our businesses to survive into an unpredictable future.

By studying the lives of people who have literally changed our world, we can get a glimpse of what it takes to change the world.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t take a million-dollar idea to be an innovator. It only takes the confidence and courage to pursue that million-dollar idea, as Einstein, Jobs, Curie, Franklin, Edison, and more did.

If you’re looking for that kind of inspiration, “Quirky” is the book you need to read.