Have You Been Using Your Brain Lately?

By Daniel Scocco

Surprising as it sounds, I think that the answer for the question in the title is “no” for most of us (myself included). I’ll explain what I mean by that.

You probably agree that being able to identify where the Internet and technology in general are moving is one of the most profitable skills one can have, right?

For example, the people who first saw the potential of the World Wide Web are all millionaires today (some are billionaires). If you were lazy you just needed to register a handful of domain names (e.g., pizza.com, beer.com, business.com) and sell them for a fortune some years down the road. If you had a more entrepreneurial spirit you could start an online business, perhaps to sell books, perhaps to sell computers.

At this point you might be saying “Sure, back in the day it was easy, but these days such opportunities are all gone.”

Well, this affirmation sounds quite similar to the one made by Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the U.S. Patents Office, in 1899 (mark the year). He said: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.“. Needless to say he became quite famous after that….

In other words, as long as the world is changing there will always be new opportunities, new markets, new business models. And the Internet is only accelerating the rate at which change is happening around the world.

Want examples? Just think about Zynga. They identified that social networks would become one of the largest platforms for games, and started developing games for MySpace and Facebook before most companies. Today Zynga is worth over $10 billion.

So yeah identifying the next big thing is possible even today. The problem I see is that most people (again, myself included, else I would be building my next big company instead of writing this post…) use the wrong approach to identify changes and new opportunities.

Here’s the problem: Most people try to understand the future and see upcoming opportunities by reading the news and commentary from journalists, bloggers and what not. Guess what, if those people had the answers they wouldn’t be writing about them either, they would be building their own websites/companies. Sometimes there are gold nuggets around, but once it gets published online everyone else will also have access to it, and some people will probably move faster than you.

The solution? You need to use your own brain. Sure, information you can grab around the Internet, on newspapers and on television can help. But if you want to have an edge over other people you’ll need to do your own thinking, your own analysis, take your own conclusions and bet your time/money on them.

Sounds too abstract? Well, here’s the practical side of it: instead of browsing around the web all day long, reading news sites and blogs every 5 minutes, checking what everyone is up to on Facebook and what not, take 20 minutes per day to actually sit down and put your ideas on paper. Write about the segments you think will grow over the coming years. Research some numbers and try to understand why they are behaving as they are. Write about the technologies you think will change how people do things and so on. One day you might get an insight that no one has had yet.

I am not saying it’s easy, but it’s probably the only way to go if you want to come up with something big/profitable, so why not try it?



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11 Responses to “Have You Been Using Your Brain Lately?”

  • Basant

    “Everything that can be invented has been invented.“ like it 🙂 This article has the potential to strike life into a zombie.

  • Sydney @ Social Dynamics

    Sadly, I can attest and confirm that I haven’t been using my brain lately. Not that it’s hard, just that I don’t really know where to start, or which angle to explore, on the basis of future enterprises and successful start ups.

  • aswin

    Awesome article Daniel

  • Lionel Bachmann

    I actually thought your post was going to be about going through the routine of everyday work without using your brain, or doing things to exercise your brain. Boy was I wrong. This post is so much better, and convicting. We all forget that the best innovators start with an idea, and the finished product usually isn’t what the inventor imagined in the first place, but a far better version of it. I think we all would be better off if we try to think outside the box often, and not get discouraged about what will happen if we fail.

  • steve

    I think the supplements sector will boom in the next five or ten year because of the way people live today. Everything is fast past.

  • Sean

    Interesting post and I couldn’t agree more.

    Take note all every single idea and thought you have throughout the day. Write them down so you don’t forget.

    Doesn’t mean you have to act on EVERY idea right away, but at least you’ll have them for reference or future opportunities.

  • Treathyl FOX

    You’re right Danny! I have an extra layer I have to reckon in though: my husband and I work together. It’s not always easy to sell him on an idea. One good thing though: he’s a good thinker. Maybe I’ll take 20 minutes a day and write down his thoughts. My brain is mush. But his brain is still sharp. (Smile!)

  • Paul Odtaa

    The mistaken technology decisions fascinate me.

    I live in Teddington, west of London and we have the National Physical Laboratory here, which does scientific things such as actually controlling Greenwich Mean, holding the inch, foot and metre by which all UK measurements are compared.

    Two of their scientists actually invented packet switching, the system by which a message, eg an email or web page, is actually broken up, sent across the net and reformed to give a completed email or webpage.

    On the site is this massive circular room about 80 foot high with a glass ceiling with lots of vents. This was the site of Britain’s second computer, the other one was at the University of Manchester, built in the closing stages of the war.

    Those days computers used valves, generating massive amounts of heat, had a memory of maybe 1K, were programmed in binary, needed a team of technicians to keep it running and broke down at least once an hour.

    The government’s then Ministry of Technology asked a very senior civil servant to set up a committee and write a report on the future of computers. It concluded

    ‘A computer is very useful for making certain mathematical calculations. However, this committee does not see the purpose of two computers and a decision should be made to which computer to terminate as government spending on two machines is unnecessary.’

    Also other famous mistakes

    Rank Xerox – set up a research team to look at persona computers. They came with the original ideas of a mouse as a pointing device, icons and much more.

    A senior executive then cancelled the project as it was ‘irrelevant to Rank’s core business – photocopiers’. Most of the team then moved on to Apple and the birth of the first Mac was born.

    and then there was the person from IBM who allowed Bill Gates to retain the rights to market MS-DOS, called PC-DOS, on IBM machines.

    Actually Bill Gates really illustrates true entrepreneur skills and he has nerves of steel.

    He sold PC-DOS to IBM even though he did not actually own the software. He had to buy it from the developer.

    He then retained the rights to the operating system.

    He then allowed IBM to develop the market and then starting selling his slightly modified operating system to IBM’s rivals.

    I wonder what happened to him?

  • Umesh

    That’s right. We always think when something is already done. Wish I had thought about social network idea before Mark. Probably that’s why Mr. Duell had that kind of feeling.

  • ES

    Nice article Daniel. I guess one thing that stops people from using their brains is the risks/ efforts involved in the venture. What if, one puts in a lot of efforts in an idea they believe only to find that they are making little or no money from it after a long time?

  • Shlomo

    Daniel:
    When I saw the title I wanted to immediately write a snappy reply.

    Now I’ve read the article and I’ll say this: what you have written is very challenging. I think I’ll try harder to use my brain.

    Shlomo

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