Willful Blindness

RSA is always a time of endless meetings and endless discoveries of new products. Walking around the floor this year is incredibly frustrating and enlightening (which I’ll expound on in another post). But with a role entirely dedicated to evaluating products, I keep having conversations that start something like this:

My new {software/hardware/application/appliance/token} is so cool and revolutionary. It does something you’ve never seen any other product do!

That person then goes on to describe a feature that is in every product that already exists in the space, most of which are doing whatever the person has described ten times better and more effectively.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the heart to break it to them that their product is, well… lacking. But it always makes me wonder: did this person Google whether the feature existed when they had the blinding flash of inspiration that lead them to develop this (not at all) novel breakthrough?

What interests me most is the idea that they did – if they didn’t bother to do their research, it’s just ignorance. But if they did, and still believe it’s novel, that suggests a willful (though potentially unconscious) blindness to the lack of novelty in their ideas. It’s as though (to use an over-used and somewhat disturbing colloquialism) they have drank the Kool-Aid of their own invention to the point that they’re absolutely unable to see that their product is particularly interesting.

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