Idea Machine

Lately, I’ve started realize that I’m actually more creative than I had thought. For those unfamiliar with my background, I went through some intensive training in art when I was in Korea and everybody thought I would end up doing something artsy. Interestingly enough, I ended up quitting art during my first semester studying Graphic Design because of the feeling of inadequacy and “lack of creativity.” Growing up, I was always given a subject to draw or paint. I was rarely given a chance to create something on my own, and when I did, I was often made fun of. But when I started learning art in the States, I realized that my thought process wouldn’t allow me to think outside the box obviously due to the particular way I was trained.

For the longest time, I considered creativity as something only pertaining to the field of art (again, a side effect of Korean style training, resulting in narrow-mindedness). It wasn’t only a few years ago that I realized that it is like intelligence that which can influence every aspect of life. You can be creative in your business tactics, writing, painting, and even driving (as in finding directions). It’s an amazing thing. There is even a way to measure one’s creativity just like how intelligence is measured. As I have written before, there are ways to even improve creativity. In today’s competitive business environment, I believe in the end, the winners will be the innovative ones rather than the big.

With that said, I wanted to share a little story of mine. I came across an interesting article the other day regarding the use of a tablet or iPad as a learning device in Universities. Some schools are distributing iPads filled with instructional materials at the start of school year to test out its effectiveness compared to the traditional textbooks. I’m not here to either agree or disagree with the idea but let me just tell you that I had a “rotten smile (aka 썩소)” on my face when I was reading this. And here is the reason why:

When I was in college, the school held an annual Entrepreneurship Competition in which the selected top teams received up to $75,000 in seed money to start the business based on the concept submitted. I don’t know what it was but when I lived in New York, I ALWAYS had these fresh, crazy ideas, usually related to business. I would be on my way to work in the morning on the A Train and ideas would pop up left and right. It got so bad at one point that I splurged on a Palm Pilot that cost me an arm and a leg just so that I could start keeping a record of all the ideas. I was an idea machine! :P So you can imagine how excited I was the minute I found out about the Competition. It was like an opportunity of a lifetime. I remember going home that night (I worked during the day and went to school at night) and staying up late to finish up the business proposal outline. With a help from a classmate, I was able to put together a team consisting of an MBA student majoring in Finance to handle the Financials and another who was a Computer expert for the technical side of the plan.  I was jumping for joy when the plan was completed because I seriously thought that it was just pure brilliance. “Book Worm” was the name of the company.

As a student in a city where public transportation was one’s best friend, I always dreaded having to carry textbooks, especially on rainy or snowy days. They were excessively heavy, and just hard to carry around in general. Especially for someone like me whose commute was almost two hours (I worked in NJ and went to school in NY), I couldn’t help but wonder if there would be a way to alleviate the pain. I eventually ended up either carrying copies of the chapters being discused that day or ripping out the appropriate pages from the actual text book to lighten the load, which led me to investigate the ways to integrate all the learning materials into one so that I wouldn’t have to deal with such madness. The increasing price of the books was another factor that I wanted to tackle, considering most students’ being on a tight budget.

The school had just adopted an internet lecturing system that which allowed students to watch lectures online if we ever needed to go back or had missed it. They also had a program where they lent a limited number of laptop computers to those in need, making me wonder if there would be a way to put textbooks into an electronic format to be stored in them, allowing students to simply purchase the laptop instead of having to purchase and carry multiple textbooks and workbooks. I also thought it would be great to have access to data and information at finger tips on the topics being studied and lectured at the moment, as well as interactive graphs and charts for an on-the-spot application. All we needed was a laptop computer and an internet connection to replace ten hardcover textbooks that were each five inches thick.

My company, Book Worm, was to improve students’ lives by integrating all these elements. The challenge was how this would all be put together considering the legal, technological, and political ramifications that would have to be figured out before the idea was implemented, which is probably the reason why the idea was not bought by the judges. Nevertheless, I was proud of the idea, and the fact that I pulled it off. I enjoyed every minute of our brain storming sessions and business proposal writing. Between now and then, there have been some amazing technological advances, and today, we have iPad, which basically is able to do EVERYTHING that was laid out in my original business proposal. I can’t help but wonder how different things would have been if I had been able to secure an investor ten years ago. Does anyone have a similar experience? Your idea from years ago that never came to fruition is now being materialized by someone else? And they are now making billions with it?!

Read about iPad in Universities

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© 2010 – 2014, Tomi. All rights reserved.

  2 comments for “Idea Machine

  1. PT
    August 19, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    in response to your first two paragraphs, have you seen the TED lectures by Sir Ken Robinson?

    School Kills Creativity:

    Bring on the Learning Revolution:

    Check him out. He brings up very good points about our education system, plus he’s hilarious! British humor FTW!

  2. Tomi
    August 19, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    I’ll be sure to check them out. Thx! Sounds very intriguing.

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