June 21, 2008

Posted in Small Business.

When I was in high school, I listened to my dad and his friends talk about the cars they used to work on. Two brothers had worked together to rebuild an engine and had to drop it back in on their own – one on his back holding the engine in place with his legs, the other tightening the bolts to anchor it. I cracked a joke about dropping in a new motherboard and having to anchor it to the aluminum case I had custom-ordered.

Today, working on the engine in my junker of a boat, I reflected on the similarities between my hardware tinkering and the world of the grease monkey. I might call these guys engine geeks or car hackers. These are the guys who built transistor radios or took apart the toaster. They share something in common with today’s computer geeks: fearlessness. Fearlessness is knowing that you might screw something up but that you can probably figure out how it works and how to fix it.

Tinkering is about trying something, figuring out how it works, and then trying something else to get the best results. This translates to business, too. There’s a thrill in taking risks and being fearless, and it’s the only way to innovate.

I’m heading back out to the boat now… we’ll see if my tinkering paid off.