Success Is 20% Perspiration and 80% Communication

Have you heard the saying, “Genius is 20% inspiration and 80% perspiration?”

There are a couple of different versions of this quote, most often attributed to Thomas Edison. I’m going to add my own twist to the mix.

This past week, Son 2 was at an engineering camp. Their capstone project was to design a water filter with enough capacity to handle the needs of an entire community. The filter had to be cheap, easy to maintain, and effective.

At the end of the week, parents were invited to watch the presentations of each of the groups (3 or 4 campers worked together on their design). Each parent or sibling that came to watch was given a score sheet to rate each group. Son 2’s group was the final one to present.

It wasn’t even close. Even though my son was in the group and I’m likely to have some bias, it was clear that the final group’s presentation was light years ahead of every other team. They had obviously studied the project specs and addressed each requirement, even offering a couple of critiques on where other projects fell short.

Four boys presenting their water filter design to an audience

That team was selected as the winners and each received a scholarship for their efforts.

On the way home, I asked Son 2 about how much time they put into their presentation.

His reply was “We spent about 30 minutes on the filter design and three days on the presentation.”

He went on to add that they did make modifications and updates to the design as they were presented with new design challenges or as they thought of potential questions that the audience might ask.

My son learned two critical lessons that will serve him well regardless if he becomes an engineer or goes into any other career.

  1. A good idea needs to be well-communicated to gain traction
  2. By focusing on your audience (or client) and their needs/questions, you improve your idea or design

I am not underselling the value of hard work. I grew up, and continue to live, on a farm. I know the value of ‘perspiration’. However, communication is often overlooked and done as an add-on. In other words, it doesn’t get done well.

We know there are a lot of “not great” ideas out there. Getting the good ones through the noise and into the minds of people that can help move them forward requires as much or more attention to communication as it does to the nuts and bolts of the idea.

After all, even the best ideas are worthless if they aren’t put to work.




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