Knowledge: the double-edged sword

Sep 23 2015

Much like every other week in the Lab, this one was filled with ups and downs. We delved into problems, researched solutions, contacted companies and tried to find a unique idea that could help others solve a problem. Our problem at the moment, however, is that it seems knowledge is a double-edged sword.

Teammates Morgan Trachtman and Lauren Merlini brainstorm target markets for their original idea.

Teammates Morgan Trachtman and Lauren Merlini brainstorm target markets for their original idea. Photo taken by Jonathan Ponciano.

At the beginning of the week, we were well underway in researching an idea that involved facilitating the sale of waste or wasted inventory from companies that didn’t need or want it to companies that did. Initial conversations with small business owners pointed us in this direction after our initial idea of a waste footprint charged with informing companies about strategic money-saving waste reduction solutions.

Lauren Merlini, Morgan Trachtman, and I were now reaching out to environmental experts and business leaders, both small, local owners and corporate managers. The more we heard back, the more we learned about the technicalities of our idea, and we narrowed our scope to contacting inventory liquidators and companies with excess inventory. Our idea was naturally shifting to where desirability led; however, the learning process took us by surprise when more and more businesses started pointing us in the direction of similar products or companies that already existed. Further researching these existing products and speaking to businesses about their waste inefficiency problems brought up challenges that questioned the desirability and feasibility of our idea. What we were learning by speaking with these experts was leading us to an endless cycle of questions that remained unanswered each time we regrouped. And ultimately, how can we expect others to be thrilled by an idea that’s already chipping away at the passion that ignited it?

And just like that, we were back to square one, again. Halfway through the week, we decided that the idea we were pursuing had such a complicated desirability and feasibility that it was better to start fresh. The idea of starting over at this point was daunting, more so than it’s ever been.

The struggle of finding an idea we can truly stick with has been challenging, but above all, it’s been rewarding. I remember Lauren, my team member, saying she was okay with jumping ideas if it meant we weren’t pursuing the wrong one for too long. Moving forward, it’s become extremely evident that progress isn’t dictated by the development of a single idea. I’ve mentioned that our group felt it was best to start fresh. But realistically, it’s impossible to start fresh when you’ve learned so much from a variety of sources with many conflicting interests. As a team, we ask each other challenging and important questions, and we similarly challenge each other to address problems with our idea before they become embellished with excitement.

Up until this point, we’ve talked with a variety of diverse markets, including parents, teachers, local businesses owners, academics, corporate managers and government workers. This list will only grow, but so will our understanding of all the complex components of desirability. As we move forward to the next step, I urge myself to not think of idea generation as starting over. Rather, it’s an important progression that comes naturally with learning. Knowledge, in being a double-edged sword, substantiates our decision-making process and lets us know that we are making progress. We may not end up choosing an idea that deals specifically with environmental waste or anything else we’ve researched, but we may also end up deciding to address these issues again with an even better idea. Regardless of what we decide, we’ll undoubtedly end up with an idea that’s well informed and, most importantly, worth it.


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