A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind

by Jeff Hilimire on May 24, 2011

This past week I was at a board meeting for the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, Imagine IT.  Amazing museum, if you haven’t taken your kids there, consider this my official recommendation!

During the board meeting the executive director of the museum shared this quote:

A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind

~ Antoine De Saint-Exupery (French Aviator, Writer).

I can’t quite state how much I love this quote.  It speaks to the power of imagination and to me, it points directly at a key component of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Pile of rocks or potential for more?

One of the things we do at Engauge is constantly host internal lunch/learns and brainstorming sessions.  Usually these are held by our Technology Team, which continues to impress me with things like taking our Friday Beer Cart and making it a live Tweeting, checking-in, Twitpic’ing Beer Cart.  Oh and hacking Microsoft Kinect to create a drumming game.

Many times at these education sessions, the person giving the presentation will be talking about a new technology and typically the first question afterward is, “So how can I use that for marketing?”  Fair enough question, but I am always quick to point out that the purpose of the session was to expose people to new possibilities.  To expand the playbook, to add another tool to your toolbox, to <insert another bad analogy here>.   The purpose is not to spoon feed predetermined ideas or campaigns, but rather to show people a new way to think.

This quote nails the purpose of sessions like this.  The best way to create something new and amazing is to be able to look at a rock and see a cathedral.  The only way to do that is to constantly train yourself to break your current paradigms, to make yourself uncomfortable and to experiment and expose yourself to new ideas and concepts.

PS – I don’t think it was meant to be taken this way, but I also see it as an overall positive outlook on life.  Some people look at a rock and see a dull, ugly and useless thing, whereas others can look at that same rock and see amazing potential.  I’m a huge “positivity” guy, so maybe that’s why I go there with this as well.

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