A Better Mousetrap: What drives us?

Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.

-Thomas A Edison

before-after-photoThe recently announced Facebook newsfeed update is simple, functional, and elegant. But it caused me ask myself a question that I’ve asked with every new Facebook update: Why?
The quick, easy answers are either “Why not?” or “To make it better. Duh!” But these responses beg an even bigger question to be asked — a question that spans the entire history of mankind:

What is the driving force behind human innovation?

Imagine for a moment that all change and innovation were to just STOP.  Forever.  No new technology, no new products. All you have is what you have today.  Could you go on living? Absolutely. Would you be content to live in a world that is exactly the way it is right now?

Do we NEED a better Facebook timeline?
Do we NEED a more fuel efficient car?
Do we NEED a lighter running shoe?

Do we need to build a better mousetrap?


The answer is “yes”. We are designed to innovate and improve ourselves and our world. There is a driving force not present in any other animal on our planet that gives us an insatiable thirst for knowledge, discovery, and invention. We are never satisfied by what we already have and know. It probably goes back to the fact that we are the only species (that we know of) that questions the meaning of our existence. Deep-down we all know that we are here for a purpose. We derive our purpose from our values, what’s important to us. It’s our values that manifest themselves into our actions and our actions then fulfill our purpose.

If saving the environment is important to you, you will likely choose a career or find volunteer opportunities or donate to organizations that facilitate saving the environment.

Start with any of your values: family, health, God, friends, food, exploring, art, money, whatever. Inevitably, you will be able trace these values into how they are displayed or manifested in your actions. Take a closer look at your actions and, when you do, therein you will find a universal truth: you are always trying to improve a condition.

You may be happy or sad today, but even if you picked the happiest day of your life and had to live it over and over again a la the movie Groundhog Day, you would absolutely lose it. Learning to be satisfied with only what you have is considered by many to be a virtue. When it comes to materialism, that might even make sense. However, if you are belong to the Homo sapiens sapiens subspecies and you are breathing air, this will never be the case. It is hardwired into who we are that, collectively and individually, we are only truly happy when we are able to innovate and make things better for ourselves and others.

Now, go and build a better mousetrap!

P.S. More than 4,400 patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for new versions, and thousands more unsuccessful applicants, make mousetraps the “most frequently invented device in U.S. history”.

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