I am a lateral thinker. Drives most people crazy. You see relationships where none appear to exist. Fo’ad and I were talking about this the other day. Most researchers appear to be linear thinkers. They are on a single minded mission. Some research appear to have an intrinsic value and we look forward to positive results. Other research appears more esoteric, and seem to have little value.
Little value, that is, until someone else comes along and sees something in the research that warrants a further look. The research is taken to another level, until someone, somewhere, brings the research to a useful end.
There are more of these examples that we know about. PostIt notes are, supposedly the result of researching the solution to one problem and coming up with the notes that we all know and love today. A number of items we take for granted in the computer industry were invented and shelved. The inventors found little value in the objects. The mouse, Ethernet connectivity that the web runs on, the Graphical User Interface (GUI) used in all major operating systems, were invented at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) owned and operated by Xerox. The brilliant scientists and thinkers employed at PARC kept inventing, but no one commercialized their products.
It tool someone like Steve Jobs who borrowed their inventions, most notably the mouse and GUI to create the MAC. A bit of, are you using this? Do you mind if I take it? No please, go right ahead. It tool IBM to capitalize on the computer by taking it one step further. They commissioned their engineers to come up with a personal computer using off the shelf components. No new inventions. As expensive as they original PCs were, this kept the price down.
I was the Marketing manager at a hardware and software distributor called Ingram Micro. We are going back many years here, pre Web. We had a meeting with Seiko, a company that is much larger than meets the eye. After all was said and done, one of the engineers showed us a touch screen that would run on a MAC. You might take touch screens as a given, specially with the popularity of the iPhone. You have also all seen them used in restaurants and others locations. Touch screens were a rarity in those days. Their performance was spotty and people were just beginning to let their imaginations wander to see what they could do with these. We all looked at the yellow screen and thought it was cool and wonderful. It worked quite well. None of us could imagine what it could be used for. Nor could the engineers at Seiko. We have not heard of the product since.
You are all familiar, by now, with Bluetooth, the technology that allows you to connect your smart phone to the ear piece. Bluetooth was originally created to offer a secure wireless connection between two devices in close proximity to one another, no more than 7ft, about 2m. The technology now boasts a range of over 300ft, 100m. The rules for technologies such as Bluetooth are set by a consortium. These rules are updated on a regular basis. The Bluetooth consortium was revising their rules to upgrade the technology. They were approached by a manufacturer of chemicals who suggested that one of the proposals who get in the way of a device being used by the chemical company.
This came as a surprise to all in the room. What would a manufacturer of chemicals have to do with Bluetooth? This was a technology developed for computers. It turns out that the chemical company had developed these very small balls that contained a thermometer and a Bluetooth transmitter. They would drop these in the vats of chemicals and could tell what the core temperature of the vats were. Essential information when creating these mixes. Linear thinkers meet lateral thinkers.
I would theorize that linear thinkers are mostly doers, while lateral thinkers are, well mostly thinkers connecting disparate dots. There are always crossovers. People who have a leg in each camp.
One always starts wondering at some point how these stories will relate to what I am going through. Here goes.
I am now taking part in a clinical trial run by Dr Robert Buckman. This is being done with the blessing of Dr Hedley. I am the only colon cancer patient in the group. Everyone wants to know the names of the drugs i am taking. I showed the list to someone recently. They were surprised that none of the drugs are new. Dr Buckman has taken existing drugs and decided on an alternate use for them, changing doses and treatments. Meet Dr Buckman,the lateral thinker.
The success or failure of the idea is rarely the issue. Success of a medical clinical trial is obviously a desirable outcome. Time will tell on this one.