Once the Feat Has Been Done, Anyone Knows How To Do It

Standing Egg
Is it really obvious after you accomplish a feat how to do it? The standing egg from morberg’s Flickr photostream.

The story about Columbus addressing his mockers and scorners long ago is part of an innovator’s dilemma. People value knowledge in a funny way. They discount the risk, insight and brilliance of someone who goes first. Here’s how Columbus handled the jealous remarks of his critics of a voyage he returned from in the 16th century.

Columbus did not respond to these words but asked for a whole egg to be brought to him. He placed it on the table and said: “My lords, I will lay a wager with any of you that you are unable to make this egg stand on its end like I will do without any kind of help or aid.” They all tried without success and when the egg returned to Columbus, he tapped it gently on the table breaking it slightly and, with this, the egg stood on its end. All those present were confounded and understood what he meant: that once the feat has been done, anyone knows how to do it.

Godin, Seth (2012-12-31). The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? (Kindle Locations 2918-2922). Portfolio Hardcover. Kindle Edition.

There’s this two-sided coin today. People feel like they can find any knowledge they want because they can simply search online. There is so much information out there. Whether it is good or bad is irrelevant. The fact is that it is available and intoxicates us all with the illusion that it is free, available and a right.

However, applying knowledge is a whole different game. Putting something together and making it work is a feat. So, what is the innovator to do  to protect the value of something not done, attempted or risked?

Define the Deal Before Doing The Feat

Failure is a great teacher and increases value perception. The innovator can appreciate this because their private work struggles and painstaking failures help them appreciate the success they eventually achieve.

For the onlooker, patron or competitor, allow them to fail. This helps them understand and appreciate the feat you overcome. It allows the true cost to come forth and define the value of the solution.

During this time, the parameters of the deal should be done, not after. Otherwise, it is like Columbus’ critics. People like to feel they could have done it themselves. When the pain is high and well-defined, then your innovation can have value.

It’s a lot like a bottle of water. If you are well hydrated and water is accessible, you treat the beverage with commonality. However, if you have been hiking all day in the middle of nowhere, the value of that water is far higher. The scarcity and your change in need make the value higher in your mind.

If you don’t define the deal before you deliver it, then you are risking the value perception. It is not uncommon to find people believing they could do what you did. They know because they see the path now. They forget the real value.

I think it’s an important point in a world where intangibles are becoming increasingly important. We are in a connected world where we can get access to the same information as anyone else. The hard part for many people is that last leg for their specific solution. Making something work specifically is still a feat.

Yes, the feat looks obvious once it has been done. That perception won’t change. Your appreciation of this principle and handling it according the laws of human nature will keep you from being taken advantage of or minimized when trying to provide value.

How can you apply this to your world?

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