C and I have been re-watching Star Trek Voyager. In general, it is both better and worse than I remember. The good episodes are really good, the bad ones are comedic. In a recent episode, Seven of Nine (of course, my favorite character) told a formerly-borg teenager that he needed to meet obstacles with resiliency.
It was one of the best episodes. Or maybe I was just in a good place and the episode has some things I needed to hear. Though I’m not sure it was enough.
I coyly mentioned my fledgling product already. Well, I was working on the patent application. One step is to describe prior art (and competitive analysis is necessary for a business plan, something I’ll need to start soon-ish). Mostly that was easy and easy to explain why my gadget is better than any existing attempts at solving the problem of interest.
One solution had a kickstarter recently, where they pre-sold items. I’d looked at the idea as part of my exploratory searching to see if anyone already had my idea (partially so I could just buy the item instead of spending all this time thinking about it and working on it). Their gadget wasn’t that similar, the interface was actually kind of lame. My interface was neat. It was easy to add their inferior product to my patent application.
But somehow, weeks after seeing the page initially, I actually watched their kickstarter video. I was showing someone else how lame the interface was, kind of walking through my patent with a friend. The video did have some lovely enthusiasm. But, then, they had it.
Their product had part of my interface. They weren’t even playing it up because they must have felt about mine as I felt about theirs. Though, it was only part of my interface…
When writing a patent application, the hardest part is the one where I have to explain that the idea is non-obvious. I get to that step and think, “Of course, it was obvious, I thought of it.” I can’t tell you how many patent disclosure forms I’ve stopped at that point, just given up on.
And then to have an idea I’ve been living with and gleefully working on, to see someone else have something so close. It just isn’t helping. I went back to working on the prototype and left the patent application for a little while. But after several days of thinking about it, I just got kind of depressed about even working on the prototype.
So resiliency is the ability to rebound and adapt to adversity. I usually think of it as a property of plants and think of it as something even better than flexibility.
Resiliency is an important property of engineering. Giving up on the product at the first bug makes it impossible to finish anything.
And if I’m suitably resilient, I’ll take this similarity as a validation of my idea. I should build on my gadget until it works like I want. Then I will adapt it to be much better so that any similarity is unnoticeable in the pure awesomeness of my gadget.
I hope I’m that resilient. It is hard to have a full time contract and try to make a product. It requires a lot of passion and enthusiasm. I had it. Until I watched that kickstarter video and the wind was knocked out of my sails. I know I shouldn’t get discouraged so easily. And probably tomorrow, I won’t wake up cranky and so I’ll get a little further and will build excitement again. I hope.