To set himself apart from these dreamers, he created a strategy of forging what he called “artifacts or models to test his ideas
The great inventor Buckminster Fuller was constantly coming up with ideas for possible inventions and new forms of technology.
Early in his career, Fuller noticed that many people have great ideas, but are afraid to put them into action in any form. They prefer to engage in discussions or critiques, writing about their fantasies but never playing them out in the real world. To set himself apart from these dreamers, he created a strategy of forging what he called “artifacts.”
Working off his ideas, which were sometimes quite wild, he would make models of things he imagined, and if they seemed at all feasible, he would proceed to invent prototypes of them. By actually translating his ideas into tangible objects, he could gain a sense of whether they were potentially interesting or merely ridiculous.
Now his seemingly outlandish ideas were no longer speculations, but realities. He would then take his prototypes to another level, constructing artifacts for the public to see how they would respond. One artifact he made was the Dymaxion car, which he unveiled to the public in 1933. It was meant to be much more efficient, maneuverable, and aerodynamic than any vehicle in existence, featuring three wheels and an unusual teardrop shape; in addition, it could be quickly and cheaply assembled. In making this artifact public he realized several faults in its design and reformulated it.
Although it led nowhere, particularly as the auto industry put all kinds of roadblocks before him, the Dymaxion car ended up influencing future designers, and caused many to question the single-minded approach people had to the design of the automobile. Fuller would expand this artifact strategy to all of his ideas, including his most famous one—the geodesic dome. Fuller’s process of making artifacts is a great model for any kind of new invention or idea in business and commerce.
Let us say you have an idea for a new product. You can design it on your own and then launch it, but often you notice a discrepancy between your own level of excitement for your product and the somewhat indifferent response of the public. You have not engaged in dialogue with reality, which is the essence of the Current. Instead, it is better to produce a prototype—a form of speculation—and see how people respond to it. Based on the assessments you gain, you can redo the work and launch it again, cycling through this process several times until you perfect it. The responses of the public will make you think more deeply about what you are producing. Such feedback will help make visible what is generally invisible to your eyes—the objective reality of your work and its flaws, as reflected through the eyes of many people. Alternating between ideas and artifacts will help you to create something compelling and effective.
Mastery by Robert Greene
“We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.
— Charles T. Munger”
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