When things aren’t working out well

The best ideas, the most powerful ideas, are the ones that are really useful.

Sometime in the early 1800s, Captain Barbier got inspired with what he thought was a great idea. Barbier, a professional soldier in King Louis XVIII’s French army, found a way for his front line troops to communicate secretly at night. The good captain called his idea “night writing”

Night writing was a series of raised dots and dashes on a piece of paper. The soldier receiving the message only had to run his finger over the paper and he could read the message silently and without the need for light.

The idea was sensational. There was only one problem! There were so many combinations of dots and dashes that soldiers could never remember them all. Apparently there was a lot of whispering going on at the front line as soldiers asked each other what the dots meant.

The French army rejected Barbier’s idea. But Captain Barbier was not one to give up easily. A born marketer, he repackaged his idea, called it Sonography and tried to sell it to The Institut des Jeunes Aveugles, the world’s first school for blind children.

The director of the Institut, Dr. Pignier, agreed to allow his pupils try the new system of writing and reading. Anything that could help blind people read was worth a shot.

Unfortunately, the result was the same. The system was just too complicated. It was too hard to learn.

But one blind student was intrigued by the idea. Young Louis, only 13 years of age, set about creating a simpler system of raised dots. It took him several years but he created an entirely new system based on only 6 raised dots.

The new system, called Braille after its young inventor, Louis Braille, made it possible for blind people to read as efficiently as sighted people.

For the first time blind people could read, write to each other, study mathematics and even read music. It was a revolution.

Barbier had the germ of a great idea, but it was too complex. Louis, on the other hand, saw the potential of Barbier’s idea and was prepared to work on it until it was a really useful idea.

Having trouble getting ahead? It may be that your idea is more like Barbier’s than Braille’s. If it is, then take it back to the drawing board. Refine it, hone it! Give it more thought. Shape it, work with it until it is really useful.


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