Our global knowledge grows in slow, incremental steps. Darwin and Einstein mostly reinterpreted existing ideas. However, practical implementations sometimes take the world by storm. You might think that the experts are responsible for changing the world. Unfortunately, experts are not good at thinking outside the box. Indeed, their livelihood depends on them keeping the box closed. They are known as experts precisely because they focus on the existing knowledge and systems.
Thus, radical implementations come from the black sheep, the misfits, the outliers.
- The librarians did not invent the Web. A physicist turned IT consultant did. In fact, the librarians resisted the Web initially, and it took nearly a decade or so before some of them allowed the Web in their libraries. To this day, librarians are still catching up. Moreover, the web was popularized by a start-up, Netscape, whereas large companies (with deep pockets) such as Microsoft ignored it.
- Amazon.com was not invented by a bookstore company. In fact, the first Web sites created by bookstores were nothing more than a reproduction of their paper ads online. It took a radically different player, one which did not have anything invested in the old book publishing model to invent Amazon.com.
- While we know little about Gutenberg, he was not a scribe who grew a better way to copy books. Try as they may, the scribes could not invent the printing press.
- Journalists did not come up with blogs. In fact, many of them resisted blogs for a very long time. Now? Now their newspapers are closing down and they are struggling for new solutions.
- The next Google is not going to come from a University professor.
- There is a difference between a crank and a misfit. Unfortunately, most experts won’t be able to tell them apart.
Further reading: Is scientific publishing about to be disrupted? by Michael Nielsen