“Unuselessness” and the Entrepreneur


THE REINVENTION OF NORMAL from Liam Saint-Pierre on Vimeo.

The problem with innovation is that people too often believe they understand the question being asked, and are deceived.

Christopher Jobson recently posted the video here to his phenomenally successful visual culture website Colossal. Watching inventor-artist Dominic Wilcox, one is reminded not only of the long history of absurdest comedy – Monty Python of course comes to mind – but also of the Japanese practice of ‘chindōgu,’ or of purposely making a product hard or embarrassing to use.

Chindōgu are sometimes described as ‘unuseless’ – that is, they cannot be regarded as ‘useless’ in an absolute sense, since they do actually solve a problem; however, in practical terms, they cannot positively be called ‘useful’.

Whether by charming us or challenging our ideas of utility, Dominic Wilcox’s nonsense inventions and “unuselessness” of chindōgu work because they target the most formidable barrier to discovery – our assumptions about how things are. The use of absurdity and humor allows the human mind to bypass a fixedness of thought to reach a clearer understanding of the problems at hand.

As an innovator or entrepreneur, to identify a need in the marketplace that no one yet knows exists may have some very real value for you.

The “reverse bungee,” by the way, is a delightfully unexpected way of thinking about bungee jumping. Watch the video!

Because the Kentucky Innovation Network believes in the power of new ideas and innovation to economic growth, it is the presenting sponsor for the IdeaFestival, which happens next week in Louisville!  A tiny handful of festival or day passes remain. If you make it to the festival, please stop by and introduce yourself to us in the lobby of the Kentucky Center for the Arts. We hope to see you there.

Editor’s note: The post was adapted from an earlier IdeaFestival blog post.