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Innovations @ Harvard, Boston & Beyond

The Great(er) Brain Series – 3.7.2017: Closet Innovators. How do we identify them?

We all know they exist.  They hide, work, and play in secrecy.  And their innovations are outstanding.  These are our Closet Innovators.


We all know people who come up with extremely ingenious ways to do certain things.  Yet, a lot of what they do is hidden and kept to themselves or within their small circle.   These people do not advertise their creative modifications on Facebook or tweet it’s existence on Twitter.  There are no photos on Instagram or videos on SnapChat.  They may or may not have advanced degrees or a pedigree in education.  Yet, we hear about these extraordinary advancements and their creator’s intellectual prowess through whispers in the wind.  Yes, these are those super smart people (regardless of actual IQ) known as the “Closet Innovators.”

Many years ago, I met I used to hang out with this fellow who epitomizes the classic definition of a Closet Innovator.  He was a lawyer who graduated from a prestigious law school, never practiced law and instead went into programming.  He supposedly built a significant empire as a domaineer as well as a web traffic guru.   He never flaunted his wealth, nor told many of his holdings.  I knew about it because I did very extensive search of his url holdings online through unconventional methods of discovery.  The more I found out about his domains, the more I became  impressed on how he obtained them.  Upon intermittent interrogations, I would later find out bits and pieces of how he built his web holdings and like a puzzle, figured out the bigger picture.  He is an individual who I would classify as a true Closet Innovator.  He did things that many could not figure out, but kept to himself so that others would not imitate.

I bring up this topic because sometimes the smartest agents for change are right around you.  It may be your neighbor who has instituted a new efficient way of trimming the hedges with precision and accuracy.  Or your younger sibling who invented a life changing means to complete cleaning laundry from start to finish in 5 minutes.  I know many of us seek the big game changer to create and unleash onto the marketplace.  But sometimes the simplest innovation is the winner.  We simply need to look around.

Let’s find some Closet Innovators…


  1. Colin Newcomer

    You see these people a lot in digital marketing. The best innovators are the ones who are silent. They don’t share what they find – they just innovate quietly and reap the rewards.

    You won’t find them posting on blogs, but you can find their work in the wild if you look with a critical eye. That is, try to figure out why a certain site is doing so well.

    • hmsdude

      I appreciate that thought. As with any field, it takes a keen and trained eye to see these.

  2. Steven Snow

    Everyone means every human being in this world is the best Innovator. How to find is difficult, look the interior designers who design home space, don’t you think they are innovators! Look the digital marketers no doubt improve business! Look the movies, directors brain people love the story, music…
    It means it depends on us whether to select the innovator or not but every one in this world is the best innovator – what about the scientists?

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  4. Forward Pathway

    I really like your articles.

  5. Delmer @Backpainchairslab

    Innovations create a major impact in life of everyone. A market full of innovative products and give us option to choose the right thing for us. This is all due to technology. Thanks, Tech Era.

  6. Jude Bray

    In my view every human is good innovator but sometime they show and sometimes hide.

  7. Anshu kumar

    I appreciate that thought. As with any field, it takes a keen and trained eye to see these.