Beyond the literal mousetrap, history is full of metaphorical mousetraps that were initially rejected. Kodak’s research laboratory invented the first digital camera in 1975, but didn’t pursue it. Kodak didn’t believe that people would be willing to give up the quality produced by film pictures, so they paid no attention as Sony developed a different prototype and stole the future of digital photography out from underneath it. Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, once said, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” H. M. Warner, founder of movie giant Warner Brothers, disregarded the idea of talking pictures, saying, “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” Charles Duell, former head of the U.S. Patent Office, claimed in 1899, “everything that can be invented has been invented.” Ironically, that was the same year that the patent for the spring-loaded mousetrap was issued. These are entertaining anecdotes, but they illustrate much more than the fact that intelligent people can be hilariously wrong when judging new ideas. They suggest that perhaps even the smartest among us have a hard time recognizing truly creative ideas. There’s even psychological research supporting the idea that we as humans are biased against new ideas.
This call to action implies that we need to teach people how to grow new ideas together instead of killing them. When we refuse to make new ideas the enemy, we have a chance to do interesting things.