NOTE: My statements are not necessarily my opinions. I often post point-counterpoint essays in which I strongly take one side of an issue and later counter that with antithetical views. This intellectual exercise helps me see the merit in opposing opinions and augments my creativity.

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.”
Steve Jobs

“I found that there were these incredibly great people at doing certain things, and that you couldn't replace one of these people with 50 average people. They could just do things that no number of average people could do.”
Steve Jobs

“Established companies simply cannot afford to lose talented people who know how to generate new ideas.”
— Accenture Group Chief Executive Sander van 't Noordende in It's Time to Reward Corporate Innovators: Your Employees

“Most of the venture capital industry is frankly autistic. They are trying to be the smartest guy in the room. The only reason to be a venture capitalist is that you think you can find the smartest guy in the room – the man or the woman who has a deep vision and insight into how markets are going to develop. And stand shoulder to shoulder with him or her.”
— Julie Meyer in The Money Will Find You

“[Product sales] promotions may win quarters, [but] innovation wins decades.”
Bob McDonald, Procter & Gamble chairman, president, and CEO

My strategy to leave China in the dust

We CAN compete with China, and we can beat them!
Many people are now glum, thinking that China is bound to surpass us. Wrong! We can leave them in the dust. Here's how.

If you're losing the game, trying harder isn't always the solution; sometimes the answer is to play another game. We can't compete with China in terms of price—or can we?

Yes. Here's how: Chinese leaders know that our one ace up our sleeves is American ingenuity that spawned outside-the-box ideas that transformed the world, with us leading the way. We can't compete on price unless our products offer features and performance that cannot be matched.

Would you pay more for a “car” that drove itself, never crashed, required almost zero maintenance, consumed very little energy, was almost as green as grass, could get you from one place to another faster than a jet, and would last a lifetime? Yes, but you could have such a vehicle for a fraction of what automobiles now cost.

That may seem to be a pipe dream, but it is not; it is a good example of what can be accomplished with outside-the-box thinking. (Intrigued by how to achieve this? I'll present it in a subsequent article. Subscribe to this blog to be sure you don't miss it.)

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
— Albert Einstein

“Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible.”
— M. C. Escher

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
— Albert Einstein

Book: Big Bang Disruption: Strategy in the Age of Devastating Innovation

Article: Business: Creativity and innovation need to talk more
Excerpt: “[Professor Zhou said] the vast majority of companies operating today are "not doing a good job in translating creative ideas so they have an impact on the firm's performance. Management needs to pay attention to capture employee creativity and implement the creative ideas." Zhou said companies focus too specifically on current goals and don't take the risks creativity requires. … "We need to better train managers to see an idea and run with it … Managers need to capture promising ideas and then translate them into products, processes and improved customer service."”

Article above based on:
(1) Core Knowledge Employee Creativity and Firm Performance: The Moderating Role of Riskiness Orientation, Firm Size, and Realized Absorptive Capacity
(2) Innovation and Creativity in Organizations: A State-of-the-Science Review, Prospective Commentary, and Guiding Framework

Most major advances did not incrementally tweak existing ways of doing things but instead radically transformed them, which often slashed its cost. In my youth, I loaded lead type into my father's huge, complicated, and expensive printer. Printing is now much better, faster, and less expensive not because of improvements to that type of printer but by a quantum-leap change in how printing is done. In the 1980s, I made a printer the size of a dime that cost less than a dime—and hence less than a single piece of lead type. It could print at ultra-high speed, making laser printers seem as speedy as chiseling words into stone.

Car buffs care about cars; the rest of us care about transportation: getting from Point A to Point B in the shortest possible time with the least cost.

History has repeatedly shown that people are not wedded to products. If there is a better way to fulfill one of their wants or needs, consumers will flock to the improvement. Bought a slide rule or sent a telegram lately?

By ushering in a major advance, competing on price is easy. Would you pay for a robotic chef that saved you money, time, and improved your health? Yes, and you will after I complete that project. When a product's net usage cost is less than zero, buying it is a no-brainer.

bright ideas pay off
I refuse to participate in this recession. You?

Perhaps the robotic chef isn't a good example because it is a sure-fire dream come true for consumers and its manufacturer. The CEO of an investment firm contacted me out of the blue, wondering if I—as a doctor and inventor—had any new medical inventions her group might be interested in funding. Yes, I explained, but I also have something even more valuable: the robotic chef. Even without knowing its details (which I won't prematurely disclose), she offered to send me a check for millions of dollars in return for a small percentage of its future profits.

Now how often does that happen? Once in a blue moon. For a better example of how I and other inventors strike out even when we have good ideas, read my articles on the pigheaded CEO who is fettering our economy, why big shots are often close-minded, and how the Big Three have big heads, not big ideas.

“The path to truly new, never-been-done-before things always has failure along the way. It's supposed to be hard.”
— Regina Dugan, head of special projects at Google-owned Motorola Mobility, in The CNN 10: Thinkers, says corporations approach innovation in a way that's decades out of date

Few companies are receptive to new ideas. The unwillingness to consider ideas from outsiders is so common that it has a name: the Not Invented Here syndrome. Some corporations fear patent infringement lawsuits from inventors alleging their ideas were stolen, while other firms mistakenly assume their engineers can do all the inventing they need.

That's what the pigheaded CEO assumed, too, even though he doesn't have any of the 17 inventions I have pertaining to snowblowers, so year after year his products have no standout features. More importantly, he is still stuck in the Stone Ages of Snow Removal. Car buffs abound, but I don't know of anyone who has a thing for snowblowers; we just want to remove snow from driveways and sidewalks as rapidly as possible with the least hassle, noise, pollution, maintenance, and expense.

Thomas Edison said, “There's a way to do it better — find it.”

I found hundreds of better ways to robotically prepare food; collectively, they form the robotic chef. I also found a better way to remove snow. It is considerably less expensive than a snowblower but much faster, quieter, less polluting, and could last a lifetime (unlike snowblowers) with little maintenance.

What good idea?

So what's not to like about it? Well, from the standpoint of the pigheaded CEO, he didn't think of it, nor did any of his inside-the-box engineers. He wouldn't accept the ideas I offered to give to him because it would threaten his ego, which clings to his tenuous sense of superiority by putting on blinders. By refusing to look at other ideas, it is easier to think that he has the best ones.

As I mentioned in another article, we do not live in a meritocracy: a social system in which the smartest people with the best ideas have the most power. The United States is dominated by an old boys' club (OBC) in which Ivy League grads and other well-connected people help their buddies with third-rate ideas and products instead of the best ones.

A case in point: Ron Johnson, once a hotshot senior vice president of Apple who left it to head J.C. Penney, leading to massive losses that prompted an analyst to say, “What they need is … essentially adult supervision” and “his strongest supporter” to remark “that Penney's execution "has been something very close to a disaster."

Leonard Mlodinow, author of The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, wrote a fascinating and provocative article entitled The Meritocracy Paradox for Forbes magazine that discussed how hotshot CEOs are often just the beneficiaries of luck, not everlasting talent. In another article, I explained how one of my well-connected Facebook friends (she gets one-on-one time with Donald Trump) suggested a meeting-of-great-minds summit to brainstorm ideas on how to kick-start our economy. That's a wonderful idea, but she proposed limiting it to CEOs—tacitly suggesting they have all the great ideas. Hardly.

“You have to be run by ideas, not hierarchy. The best ideas have to win.”
Steve Jobs

“Making money from money should be replaced with making money from making.”
James Dyson

“My own success has been in observing objects in daily use which, it was always assumed, could not be improved.”
James Dyson

“Another big motivation for inventors has been frustration: frustration about things that have been around for years, doing an okay job, but not doing anything like as good a job as they could. The breakthrough was realizing that things don't have to be the way they are.”
James Dyson

“Growth doesn't just happen, and it's not necessarily driven by demand. Growth comes from innovation and from entrepreneurs who create demand. Just look at the iPhone. Apple's Steve Jobs didn't create it because there was an insatiable demand for this world-changing device. People didn't even know what an iPhone was until Apple put it on the market, and now they can't buy enough of them — and Apple has a nearly $500 billion market capitalization.”
— Jim Clifton, Gallup CEO, in Wanted: America’s Entrepreneurial Freaks of Nature

“That's the thing – again and again – Goliath doesn't have the clock-speed, rests on his laurels, doesn't anticipate change much less embrace change, and that gives the David the opportunity.”
— Julie Meyer in The New Formula to Create a Billion Dollar Firm is being written by Tesla, Nest, Harry's and Matternet

OK, boss, let's talk about my qualifications

You might think that the desire of businessmen to maximize their profits would compel them to always favor the best ideas and the best job candidates, but people are influenced by emotion, not just logic. Hence it is absolutely no surprise when they reward beautiful women with lucrative jobs even when less attractive ones are clearly more qualified. Nor is it surprising when they hire friends, relatives, or people they met in college, especially the Ivy League universities that teach one lesson exceedingly well: how to use nepotism to keep power in the hands of the upper class, putting stumbling blocks in the path of others, to keep them in their place.

You might not realize the prevalence of classism. Years ago, I worked the night shift in a sleepy Urgent Care center. My boss shocked me one day by telling me that I shouldn't eat lunch with what he termed “the help.” In his mind, “the help” were the people with whom I worked, and he evidently felt that doctors should not associate with them. In my mind, those people were my friends and I enjoyed their company, so why on Earth wouldn't I want to eat with them?

In addition to being a snob, he may also have been a racist, since my friends were a Filipino nurse, a black medical assistant, and a Filipino lab technician.

Pigheaded big shots are deathly afraid of people like me with a cornucopia of bright ideas, because if people knew about what those ideas could do for them, they would stop paying attention to the no-nothings who are bereft of imagination.

The ruling class maintains its grip on power by perpetuating the myth that the Ivy League and other elite are smarter and have better ideas than us. Poppycock. The indoctrination centers also known as Ivy League universities excel in creating drones filled with hot air and ego but robotic inside-the-box thinking. Almost all major advances were made by outsiders who don't think like others think—which is Cardinal Sin #1 in their PC rule book that inculcates this message: if you don't think in lockstep with others, there is something wrong with you.

“So-called “peer-review” is an oxymoron: if an idea is actually new, then the existence of peers is obviously impossible, which is why almost all of the truly valuable ideas and inventions have come from people who were totally outside the scientific community, people like Edison, Tesla, the Wright Brothers and a long list of others.”
— Arthur Jones

“Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it.”
— Robert A. Heinlein

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
— George Bernard Shaw

“The most damaging phrase in the language is, "We've always done it this way."”
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

Like women who keep their boyfriends from meeting prettier friends, fearing they will flock to the hotter babes, our elite fear that if a critical mass of people paid attention to people like me with good outside-the-box ideas for stimulating our economy and solving our national problems, they would prefer to receive a check in the mail instead of paying through the nose for taxes.

Another pipe dream? No. Alaska residents pay no sales or state income taxes, yet the state is so rich it sends a check each year to every resident and funds projects that cost millions of dollars to benefit a handful of people. That bounty stems from oil revenue, but there are even better ways to create wealth.

There's a better way to do just about everything, but change threatens the status quo. Improving things is better for almost everyone but often a nightmare for those at the top, who may fall from their perch on top of the tree if things are shaken up. Rocking the boat may cause them to fall overboard and, unable to swim, drown.

If you look at many of the idiotic things done by business and political leaders, it is not surprising that they use underhanded methods and blatant favoritism to keep others from ascending the ladder of success. Their often not-so-bright ideas are insufficient to keep them ahead, so the OBC network gives a helping hand to the many airheads within it.

Now how can we successfully compete with China? How can we leave them in the dust? I could tell you the answer in one sentence, but you wouldn't believe me unless you know me, so I'll need to preface my explanation with proof of how I transformed myself from dunce to doctor and did things that should have been impossible for someone like me, who was once labeled a “slow” student. As you're reading this, keep asking yourself, “Wow, if Dr. Pezzi the erstwhile idiot could do all that, imagine what I could do! Even more!

More examples of outside-the-box thinking

think outside the box

After my propane company hiked its prices by 44% in one year, I modified my clothes dryer so I piped in free energy instead of propane, and I modified my home without insulation (or other inside-the-box measures such as new windows) so it needed about 75% less energy to heat in the winter. Cost? About $75.

I was frustrated by how I was ignored by the national media even when I knew how to solve a mystery that puzzled them. I was also frustrated when my sheds got more attention from around the world than in the U.S., so I implemented an outside-the-box way to receive attention. I have zero interest in being in the limelight or receiving awards (I didn't even bother to attend my medical school graduation ceremony), but I love to help others, and I can't maximally help them without exposing them to my ideas. No matter who you are or what you do, you would give your right arm for at least one of them. What I learned about health in medical school was a drop in the bucket compared with what I learned afterward.

I belatedly realized that the best way to revere the medical school professors I held in such high esteem was not to blindly accept what they said as set-in-stone fact, but to question it. In doing that, I was receptive when I stumbled across a way to do something many men dream about, and I also had my eyes wide open when I discovered a new class of nontoxic antifungal compounds; most antifungal drugs are fairly toxic. I'm also working on a device that might help stroke patients recover more fully. It works in animals, so it will likely (but not certainly) work for humans, too. That's what research is for. :-)

I had so many pimples when I was younger that I sought a way to instantly camouflage them (without makeup, of course) so I could go on a date and completely conceal the huge zit on my nose that would otherwise make me look like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Knowing that people are reluctant to use condoms because they decimate sexual pleasure, I developed two simple ways for people with various sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV) to have sex while greatly minimizing the risk of disease transmission. I also developed a low-cost gel that reduces the risk of most STD transmission while intensifying sexual pleasure so people want to use it.

I thought of a tire that can instantly morph into a track (or vice-versa), an easy way to lose weight, how to quickly treat styes without surgery or antibiotics, a new method of fractional multiplication, a novel and inexpensive way to deter burglars, how to thread holes from the inside out, how to make current flow through a circuit when there is no loop to return the current to the source (supposedly impossible, but it's not), a TV/radio volume control that automatically compensates for ambient sound, a keyless mailbox lock that keeps out thieves but not postal workers, a histographic accelerometer, and a novel way to make light penetrate heavy fog or snow so drivers can see well without the drawbacks of typical night vision systems.

I developed a new tomography system to give doctors information about the function of the body, not just its structure, and a new CAD-CAM system that will dramatically lower the cost and complexity of designing and manufacturing parts so that even kids could design and make parts without assistance.

In the 1980s and early 1990s I made a portable prescription printer, an invasive/noninvasive ferrous/nonferrous metal foreign body detector (think “shrapnel sniffer”), a noninvasive cardiac output monitor (a device that measures the amount of blood pumped by the heart per minute), an echophonocardiograph with integral electronic stethoscope, pocket phonocardiographs, multiple electronic stethoscopes, a “trauma scope” that allowed paramedics to hear in a noisy ambulance, an EKG circuit that costs less than an order of fries at McDonald's, an intubation detector that differentiated tracheal from esophageal intubation, a new type of finger splint, automatic cards for stool Hemoccult testing, and a robotic lawn mower that outperformed the best ones available today.

I thought of how we could legally circumvent TSA screenings, how to make paying taxes so much more rewarding that some might even choose to pay more, and how to make the welfare system much more of a win-win for recipients and taxpayers. I also thought of how to instantly cure racism. I wrote about that years ago, and I'll soon release a book (or online equivalent) that discusses this topic in more depth. I don't sweep this topic under the rug, as the PC police do with their silly games about what words are acceptable, because that PC game is just a Band-Aid that hides racism without eradicating it. Believe me, we need to eradicate it. I once believed that racism was almost vanquished, but when a paramedic told me about how some of his colleagues intentionally killed black patients (by purposely using the wrong drugs or overdoses of the correct ones), I knew the battle was far from won.

I thought of how people could spend their lives doing what they want to do instead of working like slaves. I developed a free way to send a message to someone via the Internet without knowing the recipient's e-mail address (& another way to achieve the same result), multiple free ways to make Internet dating free (here's another example), how to give people new ways to meet offline (you guessed it, also free), how to give people the freedom to leave their contact info anywhere without worrying about spammers (free), and how they could securely send messages from any computer—even public ones (free again).

example

I thought of how computer programmers can visually balance braces { }, parentheses ( ), brackets [ ], and tags <> in their code—even if it is highly nested. The best solution by the $15 billion Adobe company (producer of Dreamweaver, the most popular web page authoring software) is to manually balance one set at a time; my process is complete, fully automatic, and free.

I created a free site so people can drag and drop to form and rearrange keyword (and other) lists, another to create a dating profile essay and headline without writing (free), and another to add a subscription feature to any online or offline content (free). I also developed the world's simplest mailing list manager. While it is free, it has features unmatched by even the most powerful commercial versions, which can drive you bonkers with their nightmarish complexity and bugs.

I developed a new way to rapidly generate even multi-page, highly complex reports that are grammatically correct, yet take a small fraction of the time required to produce them using the Stone Age (but still common!) “modify the template” method. (This is currently on a restricted access site for use by a friend, but I'll later open it to everyone.)

After I complete the robotic chef (progress on it was slowed but not stopped because of a bulldozer accident that broke my neck), I will make an invention that gives people an easy way to solve what is arguably the greatest threat to health. Then I'll develop a device I call the Holy Grail of Happiness. Much of what we do in life is a deliberate attempt by our brains to maximize our happiness, fun, pleasure, or enjoyment. The brains of most people are like misers when it comes to doling out pleasure, so people often cheat by using drugs, alcohol, or engaging in risky activities like sexual affairs or speeding. There's a much better way to achieve happiness, and I found it.

My best invention isn't the robotic chef or the Holy Grail of Happiness; my best invention is a method for making the world's most powerful computer—the human brain—even more amazing.

My slow beginning—and why it is relevant to our national success

Through my sophomore year in high school, my great ambition was to drop out and hopefully get a job working in one of the Big Three auto assembly plants. People cautioned me that dropping out was the path to failure, but I was tired of struggling in school. I heard the teachers' words, many of which sounded like Greek to me. I received Ds in some classes that I should have flunked. My sixth-grade teacher said I was “slow,” and I still agreed with him. Frankly, I was embarrassed by my pathetic school performance and dull intellect. My sole source of pride was that I could beat four people at the same time, including the captain of the football team, in an arm wrestling contest. When the father of a friend asked me about my career plans, I felt like crawling under a rock. Plans? Droppin' out, pumpin' iron, and punchin' a time clock in a factory, or just keep mowin' lawns and doin' odd jobs.

During the summer vacation preceding my 11th grade, I serendipitously discovered how to substantially increase brainpower. When I returned to school, I was no longer a dumbbell. I could go toe-to-toe with the smartest kids in school, and I effortlessly aced everything, soaking up knowledge as if I were a dry sponge. Instead of settling for a future in an auto plant, I read medical books and planned to become a doctor. I aced the rest of high school and college, and scored so well on the MCAT exam that I was accepted into medical school after just three years of college—something my med school did for only one applicant per year.

bright students
All of my medical school classmates were very bright, and some were brilliant, with Ph.D.s in science.

Thanks to my foreshortened time in college, I worried how I'd do in medical school units like biochemistry and pharmacology since I'd never had them and I was competing with classmates with Ph.D.s in those subjects, but I beat every one, every time and ended up graduating in the top 1% of my class. The director of my residency program once commented that I was the smartest resident they ever had, and one of my former bosses told me that I was the smartest doctor he ever met. Aren't these implausible accolades for someone who once was a class dunce?

So what does all this have to do with reinvigorating our economy? By following my plan for intellectual metamorphosis, virtually everyone could be much smarter and more creative, and many of you could leave me in the dust because you'd start from a higher baseline.

I went from one end of the bell curve to the other in terms of IQ and creativity. I went from having a teacher making fun of me (in front of the class, nonetheless!) because I was so “slow” to doctors praising me because I was so smart. Therefore, as I've told readers for years on my ER sites (ER-doctor.com and ERbook.net), it is indeed possible to permanently boost brainpower. Neuroscientists once thought that IQ was relatively fixed, but I knew they were wrong, based on my experience and how I helped other struggling students replicate my dunce-to-doctor transformation. In the past few years, researchers found ways to achieve long-lasting increments in intelligence, but their results are a light-year behind what my methods can do.

Now imagine if even 10% of Americans followed my recipe for enhancing IQ and creativity. Think of the robotic chef and the other inventions and ideas listed above, add in my hundreds of other ones I didn't mention, and multiply that by 30 million. We would ignite a technological revolution that would put our economy into hyperdrive. We could live like kings and easily repay our crushing national (and state and local) debt and unfunded liabilities. We would leave not just China in the dust, but Bill Gates, too, as average Americans surpassed his wealth.

For as long as men have walked the Earth, there's always been dirt, water, and energy that could turn those raw materials into useful stuff. The value of raw materials is dwarfed by the value of ideas that transform them. Technological advancement proceeded at a snail's pace until the Industrial Revolution kindled progress. There is no reason why Columbus couldn't have traveled in a jet if the ones who lived a few hundred years before him did what people have done in the comparable time preceding the present. Ideas are the catalyst that fuel progress. Better ideas, and getting them sooner, is all we need to have 25th century technology in the 21st century.

We live in a world that often values style and OBC connections over substance, and we're paying a heavy price for that. However, the primary reason why we're on the verge of an economic collapse has much less to do with our politicians than our failure to think of and implement big ideas at the pace we once did. In the 19th and 20th centuries, inventors produced countless ideas that radically transformed life. Other than surf the Internet, what can you now do that you couldn't do a few decades ago? Record TV on a disk instead of a tape? Listen to music on an iPod instead of a cassette player? Pull food out of a refrigerator clad in stainless steel instead of one painted two-tone olive (remember that?) or stark white? Big deal! That didn't change your life!

Most of what passes for an invention these days is a trivial change on an existing product. These Mickey-Mouse tweaks are cluttering the Patent Office but not improving our lives. We need major advances that give us the ability to do things not now possible; things that surpass our wildest dreams.

We can't keep doing what we've been doing. Our national economic problems are far worse than most people imagine. The Virginia legislature is considering how to respond “if the dollar loses its status as the world reserve currency, which appears increasingly likely.” If that happens, “the U.S. economy will suffer devastating consequences caused by the resulting hyperinflation.

Remember the German Weimar Republic? Its rampant hyperinflation made life miserable, and Hitler exploited that misery to make sane people do insane things. For the chance to figuratively escape from a noose, they were willing to put others in one. When people are sufficiently desperate, they will do shocking things, as the Donner Party proved.

Are the good times over?
Are the good times over?

When Plan A isn't working, it's time for Plan B. Donald Trump said the U.S. may enter an economic death spiral, and to sidestep it, he and other rich people may leave the country. In a radio interview on Bob Brinker's Moneytalk, Thomas Mackell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, discussed the possibility of intergenerational warfare in the United States. It is alarming to hear such a dire forecast from a mainstream person, but it, unfortunately, conforms with predictions from other experts. In 1998, I predicted the same thing in True Emergency Room Stories. When everyone else thought we were headed for a stock market of 20,000 and beyond, I knew we were headed for economic disaster. Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee and the man who Obama initially selected to be Secretary of Commerce, said that “we're basically on the path to a banana-republic-type of financial situation in this country” within 10 years.

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Nicholas Carr's best-selling book The Shallows, based on his Is Google Making Us Stupid? essay in The Atlantic magazine, suggests that use of the Internet is “altering the way we think to make us less capable of digesting large and complex amounts of information, such as books and magazine articles.” And likely blog postings such as this one!

DIY
A freezing home woke me up in the middle of a night when the outside temperature was way below zero (Fahrenheit). My furnace wouldn't turn on. From the day of the week, I knew I couldn't get a repairman in time, so I disassembled the furnace, diagnosed the problem, corrected it, and reassembled it — without a service manual, online help, or a shot of whiskey.

I'd never worked on a furnace before, other than to change a filter, so dissecting this one was initially unnerving, but every adult and most teenagers should be able to do what I did—but how many can? Our culture teaches us to be more dependent than independent, but dependence comes with a big price.


Article: Young People Don’t Know How to Fix Anything, Scientist Claims

The dwindling number of big ideas and big breakthroughs is the proverbial canary in the coal mine in terms of giving us advance warning of how our brainpower ain't what it used to be, to put it colloquially. The intellectual decrement is not immediately apparent because much of human intelligence resides in our culture and systems, not in us individually. Schools have made us increasingly dependent on our society for survival, and made us less able to think for ourselves, invent, and improvise. Two hundred years ago a man could walk into the wilderness with nothing but an axe and comfortably live the rest of his life, but most people today couldn't figure out how to transform the rabbits zipping by into a tasty meal.

Teachers and professors administer tests that often require little more than the ability to parrot information. The most challenging test I took on my way to becoming a licensed doctor wasn't the MCAT or a medical board exam but a genetics final exam written by a professor with a stratospheric IQ who crafted each question so it could be correctly answered only by knowing almost everything in the class, integrating it, and logically using that information to extrapolate from it. I've never seen anything else like it. Most test questions can be answered by a well-trained monkey. Monkey see, monkey do.

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
Albert Einstein

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Robert A. Heinlein
… and fix a furnace! :-)

The dictionary definition of genius provides a big clue why we have less of it than before:

genius (noun): a person with exceptional mental ability, especially of a highly creative and original kind.

For all the lip service given to individuality and creativity, Americans increasingly value conformity.

The sine qua non of genius is exceptional creativity: that is, thinking outside the box: intellectually going where no man or woman has gone before. However, if you think outside the box, you are by definition not thinking as others do. As I discussed in Ridiculing good new ideas, independent and highly original thought is often ridiculed by jealous lemmings and experts who cling to what they know, even when it is dead wrong.

For example, I once studied the evolution of the acceptance of the germ theory of disease. To do that, I didn't take the lazy approach and just read what others have said about this topic. Instead, I read the actual medical journals and newspapers from that era. When I did that, I found that some of the foremost medical scientists in the late 1800s thought it was preposterous to think that microscopic organisms could cause disease. Those preeminent authorities often ridiculed the germ theory of disease, which is now one of the most basic tenets of medicine. However, until the late 19th century, claiming that germs cause disease was a great way to get experts to laugh.

Some of the best minds in medicine have flubbed the understanding of the etiology (the study of the causes or origins of disease) of other diseases in recent times, too. For example, it wasn't long ago that it would have been laughable to think that peptic ulcers could be caused by bacteria, but we now know that a bug called Helicobacter pylori is responsible for most ulcers, according to the National Institutes of Health. We are also witnessing a profound rethinking of what causes something as basic as clogged arteries. It's not just a matter of fat and cholesterol.

In 1905, Orville and Wilbur Wright tried to interest the United States War Department in their new invention, a practical airplane, but they were repeatedly turned down. The War Department initially thought that they were crackpots, and later deemed the airplane to be of no military significance.

Great advances are often met with resistance and mocked by people who think that someone must be a nut for not thinking like others. Thus our most esteemed generals and politicians believe that we must combat terrorism and fight wars with guns and bombs, not realizing there are outside-the-box ways to achieve better results much quicker, with enormously less expense and no American casualties. Even when it is clear that our wars are bankrupting us, the government still wants to do things the old way, and voters are usually thrilled to vote for inside-the-box politicians who look for inside-the-box solutions, not realizing there are better ways.

Most people think of the brain as a repository of information, but it is also like a computer that can program itself, like computer code writing even better code, and that improved code writing code that's better still, giving the computer the ability to do things it could not do before.

Imagine a clunky old 80286 microprocessor transforming itself into the latest and greatest Intel® multi-core processor, or imagine Microsoft releasing its typically flawed software, like Windows Vista, and Vista correcting its many errors on its own, becoming ever less flawed and more powerful, morphing into Windows 7 and beyond.

That's the process I used to go from dunce to doctor, but the process I stumbled upon and so greatly benefited from is one that is now as rare as a dodo bird. While I subsequently discovered thousands of ways to further enhance brainpower, the core dunce-to-doctor techniques are just a handful of things anyone can do—but, thanks to the Internet and other intellectual distractions, most brains languish instead of improve because we don't get all the links in the chain that are necessary to maximally benefit; even smart people who think usually don't get the most essential piece of the puzzle. Without that big piece, they won't see the big picture on how to radically catalyze IQ and creativity. Thus it may not be a coincidence that the Internet was our last great invention.

Close-mindedness has always been prevalent but it appears to be worse than ever. You believe what the supposedly sophisticated elite believe, or you're a yahoo just itching to be an outcast. When the elite who can't think insist we think like them, we don't think outside the box, so we don't create and invent and prosper.

“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher (1844 - 1900)

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.”
General George Patton

Eric Hoffer (who was an “intellectual giant” according to Thomas Sowell and one of my professors, who raved about his intellect) said, “In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

Even the dimmest among us know we are living in times of change, yet even the brightest usually don't realize they are beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. We need to get in overdrive stat, as we say in medicine when we need something now, but even many of the brightest folks don't have the intellectual horsepower to get us up to speed in time. We need a boost by using the tips that enabled me to go from dunce to doctor. The robotic chef and my other inventions listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine 30 million times that (with 10% of the population participating), or even 30,000 times that (with just 0.01% of the population participating): unimaginable wealth and the power to do things that now seem like a pipe dream.

“We have enough youth. How about a fountain of SMART?”

I discovered that fountain. Care to drink from it? I used it to go from dunce to doctor, so you could use it to go from who you are to Einstein or beyond. Don't think you could? My sixth-grade teacher—the one who called me “slow”—would have said it was utterly impossible for me to do what I did, so don't underestimate your potential.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
Mark Twain

An advertising slogan created for Apple Computer in 1997 brilliantly explained how “the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently” who are “crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Watch the best 1-minute video ever produced and think about what I said. Encourage your friends to read this, and their friends. Together, we will change the world, solve our problems, and turn the dark days ahead into ones brighter than we can imagine.

You hold the world in your hands.
You hold the world in your hands.
You can keep doing what you were doing,
or you can spread the word about how
we can leave China in the dust.

Want to improve your brain? Contact me.

“When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don't put in the time or energy to get there.”
Steve Jobs

“I get frustrated when companies talk and talk and talk about innovation, while simultaneously making it nearly impossible for their employees to tinker around. Tinkering is what drives innovation, not talking.”
— Bruce Kasanoff in Why Tinkering Around is the Key to Success

“The best thing that can happen to you as a boss is hiring a person who is smarter, more creative, or in some way more talented than you are. It's like winning the lottery. Suddenly you've got a team member whose talent will very likely improve everyone's performance and reputation. Including yours.”
— Jack Welch in Are You the Smartest Person in the Room? Let's Hope Not.

“The most misguided attempt at false collectivization is the current attempt to see the group as a creative vehicle. … People very rarely think in groups; they talk together, they exchange information, they adjudicate, they make compromises. But they do not think; they do not create.”
— William Whyte in The Organization Man

“So what can … companies do for their survival? First, they must understand the threat and realize that they may not have as much time as they think. They need to invest in ‘moonshots’ such as Google does, ambitious and risky projects that are in new domains and acquire promising start-ups that can take them into new growth markets. They must encourage and enable their employees to take risks and become like entrepreneurs.”
— Vivek Wadhwa in Large Companies Need to Disrupt Themselves or be Disrupted

“But the alternative [to not innovating] is to die. … yes, it's hard—but that's better than having your company go the way of Kodak or BlackBerry or, you know, pick your favorite company in the last few years that's gone from a $100 billion market cap to $5 billion. And ask yourself, ‘Was playing it safe actually that safe?’”
— Eric Ries in Disruptive Entrepreneurs: McKinsey Video Interview

Related topics

How social rejection can fuel motivation and maximize your achievement

Why geniuses are often so fond of sex

Notes:

  1. Brainstorming Methods for Your Business
  2. Why You Should Stop Brainstorming
  3. The danger in missing the innovation moment
  4. Peter Thiel: Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
  5. All Talk, No Innovation: Peter Thiel on America's Failings
  6. Why Strangers Don't Get Good Jobs
    Comment: While it's human nature to favor those you know, consider this: if you want the best ideas, you almost always need to go outside your circle because you don't know 99.9999+% of people in the world. Therefore, the chance is 99.9999+% that outsiders will have the best ideas.
  7. Why Dabbling Can Make You a Better Entrepreneur
  8. 5 Ways to Give Your Brain a Break Right Now
    Excerpt: “Human brains are not meant to focus on the same task for hours at a time, yet most Americans work at least 8 to 9 hours per day on the same thing. The eight hour workday became the norm after the Ford Motor Company found that number resulted in maximum productivity at its factories. But there is a major problem with this: the idea of an eight-hour day with a short lunch break is based on the most effective formula for physical labor, not mental work and certainly not creative mental work.”
  9. Your Company's Future Depends on High Performers — Here's How to Keep Them
  10. Top Ten Reasons Why Large Companies Fail To Keep Their Best Talent
  11. Excerpt from Playing It Safe Is Riskier than You Think: “… the opportunity for executives and entrepreneurs is to recognize the power of rocking the boat—searching for big ideas and small wrinkles, inside and outside the organization, that help you make waves and change course. In an era of economic dislocation and technological disruption, you can’t do great things if you’re content with doing things a little differently than how you've done them in the past. The costs of complacency have never been greater.”
  12. “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
    Michelangelo
  13. Is The Maverick At Your Company A Genius Or A Jerk?
  14. How Dressing Dumpy is a Status Symbol
    Comment: People put too much emphasis on appearance and behavior. In the work world, and ultimately in the world at large, what really counts is the work people do and especially what they accomplish that others cannot. Yet Americans glorify attractive and charismatic people, often elevating them into positions of power that evince how ill-equipped they are to optimally solve problems to make the world a better place. Blind meritocracies would give us more of what we want, now.
  15. How Criticism Creates Innovative Teams
    Excerpt: “When everyone in a group always agrees, it can indicate that the group doesn't have very many ideas.”
    Comment: That reminds me of what General Patton said: “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.”
  16. Free Employees to Experiment with Big Ideas
  17. How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses
  18. “Creativity is not a team sport”: Interview Vincent Walsh, Prof Neuroscience UCL
    Excerpt: “If you want to stimulate an idea, you need to give your brain time to go “off-line”.”
  19. What was the worst business decision ever made?
  20. Let your customers design your next product
  21. Dell IdeaStorm
  22. My Starbucks Idea
  23. When You're Innovating, Resist Looking for Solutions
    Excerpt: “… it can often be more productive to avoid “solutions” thinking when a problem arises. It's better to stay in what we call the “problem space” for as long as possible.”
  24. Nice Managers Embrace Conflict, Too
  25. Chinese Can Innovate--But China Can't
    Comment: China's patent system and government are corrupt.
  26. Coffee vs. beer: Which drink makes you more creative?
  27. Go wander: how meandering in the outdoors can enhance creativity
  28. Tinker your way to success
  29. Inspiring invention in primary school
  30. Devote time to un-schooling
  31. Since 1976, the United States issued 6473 toothbrush-related patents, but a 1975 toothbrush could clean your teeth just as well. The USA is flooded with little ideas but starving for big ones. American corporations are so bereft of ingenuity they resort to pathetic tactics to stay in business, such as shrinking the width of toilet paper rolls.
  32. Corporate Culture Is Most Important Factor In Driving Innovation
  33. How Corruption Is Strangling U.S. Innovation
  34. Innovation, Patenting Fuels Economy
  35. Innovation REALLY Matters - Lessons Learned from Detroit
  36. Entrepreneurs Really Do Matter as Study Shows 60% Sales Drop After Founders Die
  37. It’s Not ‘Mess.’ It’s Creativity.
    Excerpt: “[People in a messy room] came up with almost five times the number of highly creative responses as did their tidy-room counterparts.”
    Comment: Consider the complete milieu, including the mind. I often have dozens of ideas floating around my mind, if not concurrently, then at least close enough in time to connect in some surprisingly beneficial ways. Sometimes that manifests in ways, such as midsentence tangents, that make me seem scatterbrained. One of my relatives often called me a scatterbrained idiot. Scatterbrained, perhaps, but not an idiot. Unequivocal proof to the contrary to follow. A few of my lesser inventions will soon trickle out, followed by a tsunami of others that will do much more to help more people in more ways — including some that now seem impossible. Thank you, mental clutter.
  38. 20 Phrases That Kill Innovation
    Excerpt from a commenter: “Your competitors are the ones you don't know and the ones that will surprise you the most, challenge your product and take over your clients and market.”
  39. 4 Types of Innovation (and how to approach them)
    Excerpt: “Thomas Kuhn called this 'revolutionary science' because it involves a paradigm shift. In this case, the problem is well defined, but the path to the solution is unclear, usually because those involved in the domain have hit a wall. … Often, a particular field has trouble moving forward because they need a new approach. That’s why breakthroughs often come from newcomers. … The problem is, of course, waiting for a maverick genius to come along isn't an efficient solution.”
  40. How To Unlock Creativity
    Excerpt: “No matter how smart you are, most of your ideas will be crap. There’s nothing wrong with that. Einstein himself struggled and was often (especially in his later career) proved wrong. … Einstein was gutsy. Not just because he wasn't afraid to voice unconventional ideas, but because he had the grit to endure years of privation in order to see them through.”
  41. P&G's New Innovation Model
    Excerpt: “It was clear to us that our invent-it-ourselves model was not capable of sustaining high levels of top-line growth. … For every P&G researcher there were 200 scientists or engineers elsewhere in the world who were just as good … But tapping into the creative thinking of inventors and others on the outside would require massive operational changes. We needed to move the company's attitude from resistance to innovations "not invented here" to enthusiasm for those "proudly found elsewhere." … CEOs understand the importance of innovation to growth, yet how many have overhauled their basic approach to innovation?”
    Comment: Most CEOs cling to hidebound innovation strategies.
  42. How Procter & Gamble Keeps Its Innovation Edge
    Excerpt: “Q: Do you hire for innovation capacity? A: We see a definite difference between innovators and managers and we recruit people with greater innovation potential, particularly with skills in the areas of cognition, openness and analogy skills. Analogy, for example, is the ability to connect across seemingly disparate things. It’s critical to great innovators.”
  43. How Innovative Leaders Maintain Their Edge
    Excerpt: Amazon's Jeff Bezos “surrounds himself with people … who are inventive. He asks all job candidates: "‘Tell me about something that you have invented.’ Their invention could be on a small scale—say, a new product feature or a process that improves the customer experience, or even a new way to load the dishwasher. But I want to know that they will try new things." ”
  44. The World's Masters of Innovation
  45. How to Build an Innovative Culture
  46. Why Your Team Needs Rookies
  47. Book: Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results
  48. 5 Ways to Bring Creativity Back to Your Culture
  49. Eight Essential Questions for Every Corporate Innovator
  50. Meritocracies: Traditional Leadership Hierarchies Are Dead, Or Should Be
  51. Engaging Online Crowds in the Classroom Could Be Important Tool for Teaching Innovation
  52. What is Disruptive Innovation?
  53. The Difference Between Revolution and Disruption
  54. The Potential and Peril of Radical Innovation
  55. Postcards from the Edge
  56. Disruptive Marketing
  57. America's Wrong-Headed Jobs and Innovation Policies - why we don't create enough Amazon.com's
    Excerpt: “… most spending by business is on sustaining innovations—improvements which defend and extend an existing business—rather than on breakthroughs which create new markets.”
  58. Book by Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen: The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business (“Focusing on "disruptive technology" … Christensen shows why most companies miss "the next great wave."”)
  59. The Business Model Innovation Factory: How to Stay Relevant When The World is Changing
  60. Capitalism is so broken it can’t be fixed: Commentary: Saving capitalism will not save America
  61. Book by Adam Hartung: Create Marketplace Disruption: How to Stay Ahead of the Competition
  62. Market Shifts and Lifecycles - Playboy, Oprah and Skype
  63. Adopt Market Shifts - Television, Telephone, Apple's new products
  64. The Fading Glory of the Television and Telephone
  65. Winners shift, Losers don't - Buy Amazon Sell Sears and Walmart
  66. A new measure of intelligence: Big-picture thinking trumps narrow-minded expertise
    Excerpt: [True geniuses have] “the ability to see the bigger picture by assimilating information from a large number of seemingly unrelated sources. … Memorization is not intelligence … There are many genius-level pattern assimilators in our world. They are rarely recognized for their talents, however. If anything, those who "get" the big picture are often derided or criticized for doing so. Connecting too many dots, it seems, is dangerous for your reputation.”
  67. Interesting books:
  68. Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard wrote that entrepreneurs live “in a future of wonderful possibilities. That's where all visionary entrepreneurs live. They drag society forward with a combination of facts, scientific possibility and hope.”
  69. Finding pi: Enterprises must dump their legacy ideas and search for radical innovation
    Excerpt: “Radical innovation is required to make a quantum leap forward.”
  70. Gender diversity promotes radical innovation, study finds
  71. Survey Reveals Potential Innovation Gap in the U.S.
  72. The Lemelson-MIT Awards for Invention and Innovation
  73. Scientists Learn How to Turn Innovations into Jobs
  74. According to a report based on a book titled Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, almost half of students learned little after two years in college, and over one-third learned little after four years. Compared with students a few decades ago, current students spend 50% less time studying. However, thanks to grade inflation and the fact that students now compete with peers who are slacking off, grade-point averages are higher than they were decades ago when students faced stiffer competition, studied more, and learned more.
  75. Ants' Behavior Leads to Research Method for Optimizing Product Development Time, Costs
  76. An Innovation Roadmap
  77. Book: The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
  78. Book: Quick and Nimble: Lessons from Leading CEOs on How to Create a Culture of Innovation
  79. GE CEO Jeff Immelt: Here's The Case For Making Things In America Again
    Comment: Yes! :-)
  80. The Case for Making Small U.S. Manufacturers a Priority
  81. No More "Big." It’s Time to Act Like a Startup
  82. In a Big Data World, Don't Forget Experimentation
  83. Why Tim Cook And Greg Gretsch Are Wrong About Innovation Teams
  84. The Innovator Who Knew Too Much
  85. How to foul-up your team’s creativity (and, how to not)
  86. How One VC Completely Blew A Meeting With A Startup Founder, And How Another Nailed It
  87. A Startup Entrepreneur Wrote A Brutal Open Letter To 'Dumb' VCs
  88. Dear Dumb VC
  89. Ben Ling Turns His 'Hobby' Of Finding Billion Dollar Companies Into A Full Time Job At Khosla
  90. How Vital is Curiosity Within the Workforce?
  91. How to Build a Culture of Innovation
  92. Forbes: Unleash Your Employees Super Powers
  93. 50 Dead Products and How to Stay Off This List
The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Comments (3)

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Comment #109 by Ann Robb-Fuller • Website: annrobb-fuller.art.officelive.com
January 26 2011 10:29:43 AM

Terrific Article!

This is a very good article, Kevin, with a much better presentation.

Thanks for taking the time to keep us all informed. I shall definitely share it. Very inspiring!

Comment #107 by Becki Weaver
January 24 2011 03:41:57 PM

Thanks for your blog - ready for the IQ jumpstart!

Can't wait to get started. I agree with you on almost every point. Especially about the waste of human lives with war.

I made good enough grades to go to medical school but didn't want to be a drug dispenser. I'm into holistic health. Can't wait to get more of your information.

Comment #106 by Jean DeAngelis
January 23 2011 11:42:44 PM

THE FOUNTAIN OF SMART

Kevin: I'm ready to drink from that fountain. You are one incredible man. It's so obvious you want to share with everyone, if we're willing to listen. You're right, Google & I believe 99% of Facebook is nonsense. I recently said I considered eliminating my so-called friends who chatter away about nonsense. I found you, and I believe you have so much to improve my life, so I'm paying close attention from this moment forward.
Thank you and Bless you for all that you do.
Jean DeAngelis

REPLY FROM DR. PEZZI: Jean, thank you so much for your kind words!

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