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Innovations @ Harvard, Boston & Beyond

Category: General and Random

The Great(er) Brain – 3.10.2017:  Mistakes & Innovations

In the last few days, one of my closest friends, who’s a full-time trader (aka TM), had a huge investment mistake.  

He invested heavily in an oil holding with a large amount of leverage and it tanked with the oil market when the reports came out about U.S. inventory levels.  He immediately was issued a margin call by his broker and had to either liquidate or wire in funds.  I believe he did a combination of both but in the end liquidated his position and took a $300,000.00 loss.  For most people, this would have been a backbreaking experience.  Extremely painful it seems.


Yet he was undeterred.  He basically shrugged it off and instituted some innovative measures.  He became more determined and went ahead and hired a programmer to build some codes which would help him better identify opportunities and risks.  He also digitally created a better trade plan for improved risk management to help prevent this same occurrence in the future.

What I find important about this example is that, often, the impetus for change or innovation stems from an adverse event and then finding the will to improve and build upon it.  It is rarer that an individual simple creates and innovates without an inciting incident.  Those people are considered wise. It seems that most innovators are those who have been through, what many would call, “a lot” (I’m being polite).  That’s how certain ideas, such as ….  Yet,  how do we train our minds to be creative on a regular basis without having a major inciting cause?  

I say this because major incidents can really hurt. They change us.  It’s human nature to be content and complacent when things are comfortable.  But when there is a major event, like with the loss my trader friend had, we are forced to get off our bottoms and change.

Although I feel bad for my buddy, I’d rather listen to the wisdom of others who have gone through the trauma and preemptively create something that solves a problem prior to personally experiencing the pain associated with it.

Would love to hear your thoughts…

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…