I loved James Ward’s review of the book The Perfection of the Paper Clip. The book describes the invention histories of common office items like the pencil, the ballpoint pen, and the paper clip. Here’s Ward’s conclusion:
Ideas, it turns out, are the easy bit. Making a prototype that works, honing the technology so that it performs every time, working out a way to mass-produce a high-quality product at an affordable price–those are the hard bits. The invention of the ballpoint pen by Laszlo Biro in the late 1930s is a pointed example. (I apologize for this pun…)
This is completely consistent with my own studies of the creative process; it’s rarely about the brilliant idea–instead, it’s about successfully pursuing the iterative, zigzagging process.