My Pispective on Reinventing the Wheel


(A pi-spective is where you write about something in 314 words).

Don't reinvent the wheel. If I had a wheel for how many times someone has said that to me...

The thing is the wheel gets reinvented all the time. And we like it. But the wheel was first used to throw pots. Then someone attached it to an axle and stuck it on a cart.

That was a big 'reinvention'. Though to be fair it was an application of an existing technology to a new use. Which is something that we recognise as good and smart. Then someone cut out the inside bits of the wheel and made spokes. That is addition by subtraction, which we also say is a good and smart.

Next people wrapped leather, then iron, around the wheel to extend the life of the wheel. That led to other smart people replacing the iron with rubber and filling the whole thing with air! What madness is this?

What does "don't reinvent the wheel" mean? It sounds like an empty phrase to me. But there's some sort of subtle put-down in there somewhere. Because the history of the wheel is a history of reinvention. And I'm not going to get in the way of that at all.

"Don't reinvent the wheel" sounds like a bullshit managerialism to me. My guess is there's a bit of fear in the statement: "Don't be smarter than me." Or that there's a fair amount of egoism in play: "Just stick to the plan." Or a sort of checked-out laziness: "I can't be bothered thinking about this."

To invent is to find or discover, as a result of original thought. The 're' element is about taking something back to it's origin. In other words to go back to first principles. So to reinvent is to attempt to rediscover something. Something that is lost or we can't see clearly. I can get behind that.

Reinvent that wheel.

Image by Olichel via Pixabay