Why You Should Reinvent the Wheel

Car wheel, yellow background. 3D illustration.By Katherine Beaty

The saying “don’t reinvent the wheel” is so wrong! The wheel, strictly speaking, has been reinvented tons of times. We did not always have the full rubber wheel you see on automobiles today. The wheel started from a round stone slab, then was reinvented from stone to a solid round slab of wood, then reinvented again to a wooden wheel with spokes, next came metal frames, and then rubber was added.

The best reason to reinvent something is to learn! Revolutionary ideas do not come that easily, so if you want to learn and develop a great idea, it often comes from using an existing idea–the wheel–and then deciding how it could be more efficient. You need skills to create your idea. By working on something that already exists, you can make yourself understand how it work and how it can be improved. Things are not perfect, but they are perfectible.

Another great modern example of recreating the wheel: cell phones. They started off as heavy brick-like items the size of a suitcase. Now they can be as small as a watch, in fact they can be a cell phone and a watch at the same time!

Where do you think we would be today if someone said to Steve Jobs, “Hey, you do not need to reinvent the wheel–the phone works just fine.”

Remember that things evolve because people continue to reinvent the wheel, and this should be encouraged.

Katherine Beaty is VP of implementation at Tez Technology.