“You always start with the fantasy.”
These are the words of Edwin Land, inventor of the polarizing filter and the Polaroid Land Camera. They’re from a good article over at Fast Company – Polaroid and Apple: Innovation Through Mental Invention. The article is excerpted from a new book written by Erik Calonius called Ten Steps Ahead: What Separates Successful Business Visionaries From the Rest of Us.
When “visualizing” the elements of the instant camera (in the time span of about one hour), Land stated that “you always start with a fantasy. Part of the fantasy technique is to visualize something as perfect. Then with experiments you work back from the fantasy to reality, hacking away at the components.”
40 years later, Lands agreed to meet with Steve Jobs (who idolized Land), with John Sculley sitting off to the side. When describing the Polaroid camera, Land said “I could see what it should be.” It was just as real to me as if it were sitting in front of me before I had ever built one.” Jobs responded “yeah, that’s exactly the way I saw the Macintosh.”
Later, when driving home, Jobs told Sculley, “It’s like when I walk into a room and I want to talk about a product that hasn’t been invented yet. I can see it as if it’s sitting there right in the center of the table. It’s like what I’ve got to do is materialize it and bring it to life–harvest it just like Dr. Land said.”
Sculley drove on, stunned. “Both of them had this ability to–well, not invent products, but discover products,” he wrote later. “Both of them said these products have always existed, it’s just that no one had ever seen them before. We were the ones who discovered them.”
I like the idea of starting with the future perfect picture of something, then working backwards and deconstructing it to make it a reality. Now I’m trying to think of health-focused products and services that might have been brought to life this way. Any ideas?