Knowledge Versus Execution - DaVinci Didn't Get It
Written by Brad Pransky, Editor
Leonardo DaVinci was supposed to have said, "Genius is in the conception, not the execution". In all deference to Mr. DaVinci, I beg to differ. Recently I was sitting with some notable colleagues at a press event at CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas. We were discussing the fact that the paperless office never quite happened and I noted we have just replaced the reams of duplicated paper documents with multiple copies of files and iterations of same on our hard drives. Everyone made that sound of painful acknowledgement somewhere between a half-hearted laugh and a groan.
Mention was made of some of the available desktop search tools that have hit the market recently such as Google desktop and my personal favorite, Copernic Desktop search. For those of you who are not familiar with the genre, these are search engines that install on your desktop. They make a first pass to index your entire drive (which may take an hour or so, we recommend installing at lunch or before you finish for the day) and then maintain an up to date index in the background. The result is that you can locate any and all instances of any word or phrase in an instant, be it a file, contact, image, video or email etc.
Copernic leaves a little search box available on your task bar, and when activated, immediately opens up a window with every instance of the search result. A click of an icon allows you to request just files, contacts, email or a host of other choices including all of the web. And it's lightning fast. If you'd like to try it, it is available as a free download at http://www.copernic.com/en/products/desktop-search/download.html.
But, back to our subject. At one point the discussion turned to the fact that the technology industry in general is somewhat lethargic and for lack of a better description, 'treading water'. Naturally, we all wanted each other's impressions of what the next 'big thing' was going to be. Cheryl Currid, a respected analyst and journalist in our industry made the point we are constantly accumulating immense amounts of data we are hard pressed to digest or assimilate. Further, some useful tool to mastering and implementing its potential might be the key to the next dominant trend in computing. It was at this point that I interjected DaVinci didn't quite get it.
Commonly, a genius is defined as a person of extraordinary intellectual power. However, if one looks a bit further, Webster's Dictionary offers a second, slightly different variant for its definition, and this is where my point begins. The definition states: "extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity". The key here is the phrase 'creative activity', and this is where DaVinci and I differ.
Now, before you start asking if I felt that DaVinci was not creative, understand I have not only admired his work since I was young enough to know who he was, but feel that he was one of the most brilliant men of all time. So then, what's my beef? Simply this, contrary to his stated definition, DaVinci did execute on his brilliance. His drawings, designs, sculptures and paintings were centuries ahead of his time. His definition however, is the dreamers' credo for failure.
We have all had moments of inspiration that have caught our imagination, excited us, and then, for some inexplicable reason, have dissolved into the inertia of stagnation and apathy. This article is not meant to be a self improvement course so I'm not going to delve into the multitude of reasons this might happen. I will, however, point out that, quite conversely, we all know people who have succeeded wildly in life who we would otherwise, have thought of as quite dull and frankly quite middling in their intelligence and abilities. The difference is, they were not only inspired, they took action. Most importantly, they followed through. It's like the difference between potential and kinetic energy (we all remember our high school physics, right?).
So, where is all this going and how does it relate to technology? While improved tools to tame the information beast will be helpful and necessary, even crucial, they will be of little value without the ability to put that knowledge to use. The next 'killer app' will not be the data-mining tool that explores, discovers and reports instances of data, but relates that information to the core task at hand or to related business issues. It will be the application that helps enable the user to take action and convert the 'conception' to 'execution'. Develop this, and that data on our hard drives will no longer be just so much paper piled on our desks.