Innovation & Perspiration

by Sam Lightstone

in Careers, Programming

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Sam Lightstone

Sam Lightstone

Distinguished Engineer at IBM
BIO: Sam Lightstone is Distinguished Engineer for relational Cloud Data repositories as well as co-founder of IBM's technology incubation initiative.He is author or several books, papers, and patents on computer science, careers, and data engineering.
Sam Lightstone

A lot of people have good ideas, but few have the fortitude to carry them through to completion. I loved what Linus Torvalds (creator of the Linux operating system) had to say about it during his interview with me—not just because I agree with him, but because something about his open source cultural perspective eschews so much of the corporate necessities the rest of us have to embrace:

“My personal pet peeve is how many people think the hard part is in the “big and hard problems” or in some fluffy but important-sounding thing like “innovation.” In fact, all the real work is in getting the details right. It’s that “1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” thing. People seem to think that inspiration is the much bigger and important part of the two, but I’ve come to believe that while it’s important to have inspiration, where people actually stumble is when they can’t execute on that inspiration. Inspiration isn’t that rare in the end, but people who have it and then actually follow through…that’s rare.”

Dreamers aren’t hard to find and ditto for people who are good hard workers. But dreamers who can execute? Pure gold in any organization. Innovation is sensationally important to the industry and can be a catalyst in your career, but only if you carry it through to a meaningful result. Someone will always tell you that it can’t be done or that there isn’t enough time or resources. You’ll always encounter unforeseen technical challenges and moments of personal doubt. People around you, all too jaded by their own histories filled with myriad Powerpoint proposals for “can’t fail” breakthroughs, will be quick to explain why your ideas will never work. Giving up becomes easy. When you carry innovation through to creation, you change it from something “fluffy” and “important-sounding” to a thing of great value.

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