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Monday, 27 June 2016

Collaboration - or Why Shouldn't Non-Techies Pursue Tech?

The Bauhaus design school that Walter Gropius founded was influential on the development of modern architecture and design. As a fun trivia, in Malay, "Bau Haus" means "burnt smell".

Gropius as Example

The German architect Walter Gropius is popularly known as the founder of the Bauhaus design academy. Born in 1883, he was the son of an architect, and, following in his father's footsteps, embarked on a career in architecture, which was briefly interrupted by a stint in the army during the First World War. 

The thing about Walter, or Gropius (depending on how you prefer to call him), was that he was not good at drawing. Normally, that would have been devastating for any aspiring architect. But both his father (Walter Adolph Gropius) and his grand-uncle (Martin Gropius) had been architects, so he must have felt obliged to be an architect. 

But he found a way by collaborating with others. He depended on others to draw for him throughout his life. While studying architecture, he obtained the services of an assistant to help him complete his work. This does not mean that Gropius was lousy as an architect. On the contrary, his works show that he was a visionary. It was only in the drawing department that he lacked the necessary skill, which he made up for through collaboration with others.

The late Steve Jobs collaborated with Steve Wozniak to create the iconic Apple II, which formed the impetus for the formation of Apple Computers.

Steve Jobs as Example

The late Steve Jobs was hailed as a visionary. He was a founder of Apple Computers alongside the tech prodigy, Steve Wozniak. The collaboration between the two Steves produced the Apple II, which was a huge commercial success and launched Apple as a serious contender in the computer industry. But it would be a mistake to assume that their first collaboration began at the Apple II. Steve Wozniak's Apple I was a precursor to their collaboration, which began with the two Steves raising funds. Steve Jobs sold his VW Microbus and Steve Wozniak sold his HP-65 calculator.

(Source: Wikipedia's entry on Apple I and Apple II)

The Lesson

In innovation, a lack of technical skill should not be a hindrance. What is needed is the vision to see the possibilities. Of course, this is not to say that no skill is required: Some skill is required to understand the underlying technology concerned. It has been said that sometimes, outsiders are able to see the possibilities much more clearly. This may be true in the case of technologies which have very little innovation. An outsider can look at it with "fresh eyes" and ask, why aren't things done in a certain way?

Remember, innovation begins when people ask, "Why not?" Never be afraid to pursue the possibility that technology can evolve in a new way.

For the non-techie, your collaboration with the technologists can happen in several ways.

First, you can vocalize your vision for the technology, which perhaps, none of the technopreneurs have done. It might be a novel conceptualization, and you may attract collaborators.

Second, you can help seek out funding for the vision that you have, by seeking partner organizations or interested sponsors. Some of them may have vested interests, but perhaps that isn't a huge concern as long as they allow you to retain the fruits of your labour. Venture capitalists only want to see returns.

Third, you can seek out those fluent in the technology, who don't seem to be getting the funding they need for research and development. If you bring the money, you can sell the idea to them. Academics need to do research anyway, and their thesis needs to propose a new hypothesis or two. So sell your idea to them, and see if they think that it's worth their time.

Fourth, just get to know the techies, and see what happens. Share with them your vision and what you want to do. But be prepared to contribute whatever you can to make things happen. Steve Jobs had to sell that VW Microbus in order to help push the Apple I forward. It was a risk which paid off.

Good luck.
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