Ignorance as an asset: lessons from Heron

In summary Ad agencies are unique entities. We purposefully set out to build a team of different thinking people who each have a role to play.

While it might not be bliss, as some argue, we definitely believe ignorance is an asset. When you assume your audience knows nothing about your subject, you’ll give a more thorough explanation.

Heron of Alexandria was one of the most innovative thinkers and inventors of his time. He was a teacher at the Museum of Alexandria during the middle of the first century AD, about the time Paul was in the latter stages of his ministry in the eastern regions of the Mediterranean.

His books on mechanics, geometry, astronomy and engineering were centuries ahead of his time. Heron was fascinated with the dramatic arts and created highly innovative methods of moving scenery and props on and off stage using gravity and pulleys in an automated fashion.

Perhaps his most remarkable invention was a steam-powered engine called an aeolipile. It’s described as follows:

“The aeolipile was a hollow sphere mounted so that it would turn on a pair of hollow tubes that provided steam to the sphere from a cauldron. The steam escaped from the sphere from one or more bent tubes from its equator, causing the sphere to revolve. The aeolipile is the first known device to transform steam into rotary motion.”

Keep in mind that the steam engine was not invented until the early part of the 18th century about 1700 years later, and really didn’t become a force in industry until well into the 19th century as it ushered in the Industrial Revolution.

Think what could have happened if Heron had been able to take his invention the next step. Or more likely, if someone else had recognized the brilliance of his idea and had the second idea of how to put the aeolipile into some practical use for daily application. Oftentimes that’s the way it works. The person with the big idea needs the person who thinks from a different side of their brain to turn the idea into a sellable product.

This is why ad agencies are unique entities. We purposefully set out to build a team of different thinking people who each have a role to play. Some clients need more creative thinking and other clients require more strategic and critical thinking. The one thing that should be common to every good agency is good ideas and the understanding of how to implement them. If Heron of Alexandria had an ad agency hanging around or at least someone who looked at life in a different way than he did, the Industrial Revolution might have taken place in the 3rd or 4th century and who knows where we would be now, Star Trek fans.