Johnny Chung Lee figured out a way to turn a normal computer display into a close approximation of a virtual reality screen. He also knows how to create an interactive whiteboard – which typically cost more than $1,000 – for $60 in parts and a little software code.
So what does he do with this information? He shares it. His video about a computer display has been viewed more than 6 million times on YouTube. More than 700,000 people have downloaded the software for making an interactive whiteboard, and a “Lego robotics club” of 5th graders (isn’t it great that such a thing exists?) built one in 4 hours.
Before you finish reading this post, do yourself a favor and DON’T file this away into the “computer geek” section of your brain (along with Linux, etc.). Why can’t (and shouldn’t) this be the approach for all great innovation — especially in the nonprofit sector where resources are scarce?
Mr. Lee is quoted in yesterday’s NY Times asking, ‘”Would providing 80 percent of the capability at 1 percent of the cost be valuable to someone?” If the answer is yes, he says, pay attention.’
Imagine if every great innovation in fighting poverty, in hospital administration, in public schooling or early childhood education were open-sourced. Wouldn’t we all be a lot smarter and more likely to focus our attention on models that work?
I posted a manifesto the other day making the same point as Mr. Lee: that the innovation, the insight, and the direct impact matter; and that sharing that innovation with others matters just as much.
I think I’m posting one of Johnny Chung Lee’s lines at my desk: “If you create something but nobody knows, it’s as if it never happened.” Get out there and spread the word.
(And if you have 5 minutes to be amazed, watch Johnny Chung Lee’s demonstrations on the TED website).