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Interviewing Inventor and Google Genius: Making Innovation Make Sense

When you are wedded to your assumptions you are not learning. Tweet This Quote

Bio: Tom Chi has worked in a wide range of disciplines from astrophysical research to F500 consulting to developing new hardware and software (web & client) products and services. He’s worked on large projects of global scale (Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo Search), and scaled new projects from conception to significance (Yahoo Answers from 0 to 90 million users).

Things you learn in any discipline have application in every other discipline. Tweet This Quote

Tom has pioneered and practiced a unique approach to rapid prototyping, visioning, and data-driven design that has allowed him to both get new things off the ground and move large organizations at unprecedented speeds.


For more from Tom Chi, check out his writing on UNREASONABLE.is here

About the author

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Unreasonable Media

As a company, Unreasonable Media is dedicated to leveraging the power of stories to shift paradigms and solve problems. That's why we have made almost all the videos you see on this site. Long story short, we are not your average production company. Visit our site to see for yourself.

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89 Comments

  • It’s hard to break away from our assumptions especially for those who believe that what they think is always right. We need to open our eyes and ear to hear what the others are saying and explore the unknowns.Like what Tom Chi said that we should convert the unknown to ‘known’ (something we learned).

  • I agree with Tom that in order to solve an issue, we should dig into its root. It is sad but true that people often stuck with the result
    of a problem instead of seeking for what cause the problem.

  • Wow, it was amazing to hear Tom talk about the different processes and patterns. Thank you for reminding us to think back to the roots/core of issues!

  • This video reminds me to never be too arrogant as to ignore an entrepreneur’s enemy – the unknown, instead try to minimize it by gathering knowledge. And also by looking at the bigger picture or trying to identify seemingly unrelated things, we can pick up on unlikely patterns to solve a problem. Big or small.

  • I appreciated Chi’s passion and explanations with
    regard to there not being one true business process. It’s freeing and
    liberating to know there is no right path for all. Each person needs to chart
    their own course and this concept works well for businesses because in our
    society, fueled by technological changes, simply demands it. His advice to entrepreneurs was enlightening
    as he talked about the key attributes that entrepreneurs possess: ambition,
    talent and intelligence. But these same attributes can also serve as their
    enemy because they may not be open to new ideas and innovation. Spot on advice.

  • I agree about what he says about unknown. Obviously, people are afraid to meet or do something they are not familiar with. As Chi said, i think it is true that people should face the unknown and learn from it, even you do not have idea in your mind. If people choose to run away from the unknown, they will not learn anything and move forward. As an entrepreneur, you should learn how to solve and face the unknown.

  • It was really interesting to hear Tom talk about the process of not only answering questions, but also figuring out what the right question is. I agree that we often focus on “downstream metrics” rather than the actual source of the issue.

  • It is so true that assumptions are not about learning when you are trying to innovate. To solve the unknown is to transfer them to knowledge, assumption never gives you the final form of your innovation.

  • I really agree with what Tom says that
    people often think that they are right when they make an assumption, at that
    point they do not try to learn something because they close their mind with so
    many possibilities out there that they can’t even think of it. It is called
    entrepreneurship because you do not know part of it and therefore you should
    learn something and try to listen to those possibilities out there. As it is
    said that by not learning about something, you are preventing yourselves to
    solve what the actual problem is. So, I believe as an entrepreneur, we should
    being open minded to every possibilities out there, by doing that we would
    learn something to solve the unknown problem.

  • I have a list where I would write down business ideas and products. Recently, I shifted to writing down problems, and then a process template or guideline that would help find market based solutions to those problems. I would love to hear how Tom approaches problems and forms customer experiences around solutions to those problems.

  • I believe it is very important to look for the root problem and find the right questions to ask. I am entertained by the quote, “things you learn in any discipline have application in every discipline.”

  • I never thought of entrepreneurship as tackling the unknown. It makes a lot of sense. Separating the unknown into the end form of your product, or the end product is visualized and you don’t know how to get there, is brilliant. I wish my teachers in my entrepreneurship classes taught me to change the unknown into knowledge, that’s one of the greatest takeaways I’ve seen in a video recently.

  • I agree that the best process is the process of switching between processes quickly and efficiently. Only look at one side of a problem will not allow you to fully solve it.

  • It’s very interesting to hear the experience Tom went through with different people and bussinesses he consulted. Such a priceless experience Tom! Good job!

  • Nice post!!! I like the idea of making known “the unknown”. I think it is necessary to find the real problem and eventually detect the cause of the problem and solve it. Very informative post!!!

  • I do really like this post and I think this post is very informative and educating the young entrepreneur out there . Tom explained that we need to find the right questions to solve the real problems and I think it is very important for entrepreneurs to solve their problems with the right questions.

  • I like it when he said “Need to tackle that unknown in a conscious way”. It may be true that some people have more knowledge than others. Everyone has a limited knowledge about certain type of subject. And that is when we need to look at that unknown. We have to start learning about it and make it become a known which is our knowledge. This is a great video to tell us that we all should learn new things so that our live will be smarter.

  • What a wonderful experience, Tom! This is a nice connection to what we heard from Sue Oliver the other day. She also emphasized asking questions. It applied to a different setting, but it is important nonetheless.

  • How intriguing, very well said. Focusing on the root and starting there can sometimes be overlooked. Thanks for this perspective.

  • Sam, you touched on a great of this video! Often times I believe we do over look the root of our problems and instead try to mitigate the symptoms. It is good to remember to take a moment to analyze the situation and try to get at what the true problem is.

  • This interview is very informative. Innovative and creative thinking always not the way of solving problems. “You can do it, but doesn’t mean You SHOULD do it!” It was the thing that I was thinking vaguely, but couldn’t come up with clear decriptive words. Learned alot by “Very Smart” person (I agree!).

  • Working in data Ive always thought that as long as you have the numbers to back up your ideas, then what else is there that you need. From what Tom had to say it gave me the bigger overview of the issues at stake or problem I’m addressing. Because in most cases, when trying to address a problem we become stuck by not asking the right questions.

  • It’s interesting to hear Chi’s perspective about how entrepreneurs solve a problem. It’s all about looking at the cause/root of the problem and asking the right question in order to solve the problem. Great video! I would love to hear more talk from Tom Chi.

  • Thank you for sharing your knowledge, very informative interview. I agree that finding the root cause is very important if you want to tackle a problem. By not finding the root cause, then you won’t be able to solve the problem, you are merely treating the symptoms of it. Thanks again for the great interview!

  • I work in retail and this is a very relatable subject for my day to day tasks. When helping a customer, I have to figure out the right questions to ask and be able to know ” what she wants before she knows she wants it”. So many consumers walk around aimlessly, not knowing what they actually want until a sales person tells them what they want.

  • This article is really inspiring us, especially the ones in the business industry to develop what we’ve got. Other than that, it also reminds us to think more widely than other people in order to boost our creativity.

  • I like the idea about changing unknow to knowledge by learning. We can not do any work if we don’t know the actual situation or if we only know the partial situation. It is true that it is very easy for us to be satisfied with current situation and what we have already know. It is the same way in doing business, we just need to keep learning.

  • Tom had an interesting point about finding the root of the issue. We may think we know the problem we are trying to solve, but a lot of time it might not be the root cause. However, it can definitely be a good motivator.

  • Refer to the first quote; we certainly need to listen from
    other people and change our bad behaviors in order to be a better person. We
    can’t simply stick to our perspectives because it might be inappropriate. I also
    agree with the second quote.

  • Very interesting to hear about the relationship between the downstream effect and the real problem. And I think it is critical to ask ourselves the correct question to help us finding the real problem.

  • I agree @greatelk:disqus. His mention that, “you’re finding solutions to problems, but also you’re finding the right problems” sums up, what I would like to believe, is the heart behind every entrepreneurs’ ambitions.

  • Another great advice Tom! I totally agree. Entrepreneurs often time got mistake by jumping righ into the conclusion that they are solving a obvious outcome of the problem but forget to dig down what are the roots of the whole thing. My class just had a guest speakerfew days ago, and shetalked about the exact same thing. If one cannot identify exactlywhatroot of problem he/she solving, having a wrong target market is nota hard thing to forecast.

  • Tom Chi makes a good point about entrepreneurs can be blocked in my only relying on their assumptions. I think this is where a consultant can step in and ask questions that will make entrepreneurs to step out of their box and learn more about the problem they want to solve.

  • I completely agree, as entrepreneurs often make mistakes by jumping ahead to the conclusion but, at the same time, forgetting the crux of the problem.

  • Interesting post for the entrepreneur aspect. I do think it is important to allow yourself to step back and listen to others opinions because yours might be blocked by your own assumptions. This doesn’t mean you always have to accept the opinions but it does allow more options for consideration.

  • I really admire the idea of becoming a problem solver that are welcomed everywhere we go. However, big things have small beginning and to be able to achieve like Tom someday, I think it’s critical to gather more knowledge ASAP and have them used wisely whenever needed

  • It definitely makes sense that the key is finding the answer to the right question vs answers to all questions that we may have about something. It’s the process to narrowing it down that makes the most sense in finding that right answer.

  • He talks great point that we have to identify what is real problem. There is a no real problem on downstream, we have to think what is real cause of the problem. I think that is significant point for entrepreneur people.

  • I love that idea! Finding a problem to create a solution – not having a solution and finding a problem it can solve. I believe Tom would have a great answer for you after watching the video.

  • I agree with Tom when it come downs to solving problems. We often try to solve without looking at the underlying circumstances..

  • Tom makes a most interesting point in saying that problems are often rooted much more deeply than we think they are. When we look deeper, when can better solve the real problem.

  • Everyone has a different way of approaching a question or problem but it is important to remember Tom’s comments about asking the right questions and being very pragmatic but innovative about your approach. Being thoughtful at the beginning of a process is always more effective than needed to look back and dig deeper after you are already far into a project.

  • Tom’s ideas are all very intriguing to me. I especially like the notion of bringing his knowledge in seemingly unrelated fields and applying it to businesses. I think there are many processes, even naturally occurring ones, that can be translated into a business if help under a microscope. Making sense of experiences and connecting them seem to each other seems beneficial.

  • Tom had an interesting point about solution and problem.
    Problems are what help us understand the solution in deeper view. I found
    myself in the same situation. I had a solution but I did not think about the
    problems. Looling at the problem will make you better to understand your
    solution and make it better.

  • It is a shame that Toms mentality is not more prominent. We have become accustomed to using trusted templates to base our decisions off of instead of using personalized analytical skills to create a true sense of innovation.
    In such a technologically advanced world it is easy to take things for granted. One must make a lasting effort to stimulate his or her own knowledge. It be academically or in any other aspect of life, your mind must become elastic and more than willing to expand.
    As knowledge grows, each new idea builds on the next creating a unique structure for each individual. Every person has their own monumental ideas, but with a foundation made of assumptions and false pretenses the great structure is bound to collapse or simply become abandoned.

  • Although this can be true, I believe most people propose solutions that deal with the problems not the downstream effects, they just may not say it outright. A lot of people are trying to tackle big problems that have stemmed form a bunch of little ones and the only way to go about fixing the big problem is by fixing the smaller ones. Just because they are generalizing when talking to the public doesn’t mean that their solutions aren’t valid.

  • I completey agree with what tom chi is talking about. Often times we focus on the current problems and know everything about what them, but seldom go to the root of it. A good example is the reputation of African Americans in this country. All you hear is how lazy they’re and all they know is how to deal drugs and act thuggis.
    Well, what one has to do is go back and study how they becam that way.
    These folks, were systemactically subjected to all kinds of brutality intended to make it as difficult as possible to succeed. If you don’t go all they way back to find out how they became they way they’re, then you’re being disingenuos pure and simple.

  • I completely agree with Tom in that society should tackle the different parts of a problem and not just the main problem. I also think that assessing the root of a problem can help solve more than one of the main problems and is more efficient.

  • I think the key is spend as much time “in the medium” as possible. If you want to help a particular type of customer, go to the place where the product or service is used and watch them try to use it. Writing down problems is a great jumping off point, but the best work is done in the field by directly helping people and watching how things go.

  • Very interesting point of view. I completely agree with asking the right questions. People tend to be afraid of asking questions but you learn through curiosity and knowing what is the right questions to ask is key. Great post.

  • I think the biggest insight from this is the idea that you
    can abstract knowledge from any topic and apply them to other ones. The
    problem with today’s society is that there is an inherent lack of this sort of
    abstract thinking because, I believe, of the narrowing of professions and specialization,
    and a focus on hyper rationalism. There really are so many concepts that can be
    borrowed from one area of thought and brought into another with huge success
    simply because no one else does it themselves. I think Google is definitely a
    pioneer in this within the realm of business and technology, and they see the
    value that can be had from the broader applications of concepts, as can be seen
    by their hiring of people with philosophy degrees, and their numerous pet
    projects. Everything is hackable, and everything is constantly being tinkered
    with. Being from a liberal arts college myself and being so interested in so
    many different things, I’m really glad that this trend seems finally to be
    starting to usurp the more traditional and stagnant business practices that are so common place that have been so stubborn in dying off.

  • What I really appreciated about Tom Chi is despite his genius, he is very good at explaining things in layman’s terms and make sense of stuff people put their whole life into trying to master. The essentials I got from this is that all these fortune 500/master businesses are successful through very similar methods. Yes they vary and have differing strategies, but the important thing is they all work and drive off similar principals. I love his point that the most significant thing is how adaptable your business is. How you guys can tackle certain issues and change between differing scenarios that are presented, will make you ready for any adversity and prevail no matter what. Great article!

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