Since pencils were invented about five hundred years ago they have needed regular sharpening. For most of this period, sharpening was accomplished by a person wielding a knife and whittling away the wood to uncover more of the graphite core. Finally, in the 19th century, people began trying to build a mechanical pencil sharpener that would require no skill to operate and that would deliver consistently sharp pencil points.
The earliest were clumsy contraptions attempting to mimic the reciprocal movement of a hand holding a blade. It finally dawned on inventors that they were not trying to build a duplicate of a human sharpening a pencil; they were trying to build a better way of sharpening a pencil. And they did. What they came up with was the now-familiar device into which you insert your pencil and which contains two or three helical cylindrical cutters that rotate about the pencil when the handle is turned.
The first versions of many inventions like the tractor, sewing machine, and airplane all failed because their inventors remained locked into the old way of doing things. Subsequent versions succeeded as innovators discarded the old visions opening their minds to solving the problem rather than merely improving the old system.
We’re all susceptible to the trap of not being open to entirely new and revolutionary ways of solving problems. Do I really need a full-time secretary and an office in which to house her or could I use a virtual assistant? Do I really need a car or could I make do with Uber? Let’s see how even the smartest man in the world, King Solomon, slipped up by clinging to an old model.