Today we’re featuring our favorite quotes from Nathan Myhrvold’s talk at the Science|Business Horizon2020 conference in Brussels during his recent trip to Europe. Nathan emphasized the importance of risk taking for innovation, as well as the critical need for continued government investment in basic science.

“Fact is, a lot ideas will fail. And that’s actually okay. For disruptive innovation – the single biggest factor for success is that you have to be willing to take risks. Everyone in business takes risks, sure. But to really take wild risks, and risk failure, you have to be okay with failure. Now, it turns out that everyone is okay with taking big risks if you succeed. But that’s not really being risky. You have to actually be okay with the bad scenario.”

“Ideas don’t obey laws of diminishing returns. There’s nothing to say that the next idea that you or someone else has won’t be incredible. So you have to approach innovation the way [Cristiano] Ronaldo approaches goals. Yeah, you’re going to lose a lot of the time! But that’s okay if every now and again you score – and you score really big.”

“Now there is one thing that’s a strong prerequisite to innovation – strong government funding of R&D. Government investment in basic science and engineering is essential for science today. For example, the investments that DARPA made in computing in the 60s and 70s are what created the computer world we have today.”

“Every great idea needs a passionate advocate who’s going to champion that idea. Because, guess what – at first, they’re not great ideas. They seem crazy! And all of the established techniques are so much further ahead. So you need that crazy advocate who says ‘I’m going to push this.’”

To see more from Nathan’s trip to Europe, check out the picture and anecdotes from on our Facebook page. To hear more from Nathan on risk taking and failure, check out our favorite quotes from his commencement speech last year. For additional details on his perspective on the importance of government funding on research and development, check out his recent Scientific American op-ed


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