05: Innovation is Hard Work

It offends contemporary sensibilities to say so, but what Thomas Edison famously said of genius – that it is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration – remains largely true of innovation.

Given that mankind’s imaginings are so often, nowadays, confined to lurid scenes of future chaos, the power and utility of scientific, technological and other kinds of inspiration should never be underestimated. But nor does innovation grow on trees. Serendipity is important in science, but as Louis Pasteur said, ‘In the field of observation, chance favours only the prepared mind’. [1] To establish the structure of a molecule can come to someone in a dream, but to dream that special dream one must spend years thinking about and experimenting with chemistry – and to do something useful with that molecule, still more years.