Sunday, September 13, 2009

For Everything A Time and a Season

No, this entry is not about football although it is clearly the season.

I have been reflecting about how timing of ideas is so important to their acceptance.  There are many examples of this proposition in history and a few in my own life.  One new historical example I recently learned was that the Chinese traveled the seas in a much bigger flotilla in the 15th century than those in Europe.  One of their explorers, Zheng He,  predated Christopher Columbus and had significantly larger and more ships than the ones who stumbled upon the New World.   However, the rulers of China put the kibosh on exploratory seafaring after expeditions all throughout southeast Asia and eventually closed down China to the outside, leaving it to catch up later with the West who went through extensive agricultural and industrial development in the 16th-19th centuries.

I also look back on two ideas I had in my 20s that others had as well  with far greater recognition.  I wrote my senior thesis in college based on the idea that  women would more likely to be motivated by social relationships rather than traditional achievement arenas.  I did not find support for that idea but I did my study using Smith and Amherst students who are probably not representative.  Carol Gilligan, of course, put forth a similar thesis and found support for it in A Different Voice, published in 1982.   Although Gilligan examined moral reasoning rather than achievement some of the research used tools similar to achievement motivation research.  

The other idea I had is quite a bit less lofty but would have been lucrative if only I had been the one to capitalize on it.  I found a note I made at least 25 years ago, maybe 30, to put together a picture book of cats with captions of their saying funny things.  Of course we now have LOLcats and "I can has" which yielded its creator reportedly at least $2 million when it was acquired in 2007 by investors and yielded a book deal with three books out there already.  Ugh.  If only my timing had been better.

No comments: