Turn What You Know Upside Down: Innovation Tip

A Building with a Ship for a Roof?  (Manti Temple in Manti, Utah)
A Building with a Ship for a Roof? (Manti Temple in Manti, Utah)

Today I heard a story about Norwegian carpenters who literally turned what they knew upside down to solve a difficult problem through innovation. This occurred in the nineteenth century in the wild Western frontier, where a team of Norwegian carpenters were helping to build a large and complex structure in Manti, Utah. These men were in charge of building the roof. They had built plenty of ships in Norway, but never a roof, and puzzled over what to do. Rather than become discouraged, they decided to draw upon what they knew of shipmaking to build a strong, robust structure like the hull of a ship – and then turn it upside down to make a roof.

In innovation, there are often complex problems to be solved and barriers to be overcome that seem beyond your experience and capabilities. Sometimes, the solution is to draw upon what you already know, but turn it upside down, applying it in a totally new way. The inventions and innovations that change the world often come from the intersections between disciplines, where solid knowledge in one area is applied creatively in a new area. So innovators, take what you know and be ready to turn it upside down or inside out.

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