Amnesia and Innovation

My first experiment in random connecting and I almost threw the first two words back. The first two  – “Memento” (a 2000 Christopher Nolan movie) and “innovation”. This is too easy.  Here’s the connection – Memento was an innovative movie.  But throwing words back would be cheating, or at least lazy!  So I forced the act of connecting which brought me on a visit to a row of fruit trees in New Hampshire.

mementomemento 2

In the movie Memento Leonard can’t make new memories, and the last memory he has is of his wife being attacked and killed.  Because he can’t feel time he is stuck in the grief of the last memory, unable to find healing and satisfaction or create anything new.

Memory can kill innovation.  Selective memory of the good in the past – nostalgia – can lead to attempting to remake the past instead of something brand new.  Bad memories can hold us back in fear or grief – we stand still so we don’t get hurt again.

How do you wipe all that clean?  How do you get amnesia and its freshly washed whiteboard waiting for the next new idea?

By not trusting memory?  In the movie, the female character Natalie tells Leonard, “Memory is unreliable. Memory can be distorted; it can change the color of a car.  You can question everything; you can never know anything for sure.”


I’m connecting. What memories are holding me back from being more creative, innovative?  What did I need to question?  And what came to mind was deeper in the past than recent events, like the bad memory of a failed innovation at work or the proud memory of a great award.

Instead it was the lifetime of memories of being the oldest child of five in a turbulent childhood, becoming the conservative caregiver concerned with order and the establishment, unlike my brother the middle child who has not feared to venture into new things or my husband the middle child who is wildly imaginative.  And other “middlers” Bill Gates, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Ernest Hemingway who  were all open to experience and  unafraid to think imaginatively beyond the establishment of their times, whatever one’s opinion of their ideas.  My own habitual response has been so restrained in comparison.

Connecting prompted me to search for a house a three hour drive away where I lived when I was 10 and 11, where my father planted ten sapling fruit trees alongside the house all those years ago, the best 2 years of my childhood. Nostalgia.

The house yellow now, stirring memories of my grandmother and birthday parties and learning to ride a bicycle, the sound of the Cold River flowing behind the house where we fished, the row of trees big and gnarled, I pick an apple up from the ground, small and disappointing and not worth keeping.  I drop it.

alstead fruit tree Alstead apple


Fear, nostalgia, or habitual response caused by memories can’t hold back our imaginations if we recognize and move past them with intention towards creating something big and worth keeping. Drop the apple.


When I return I’ll be sharing what I find when connecting the word “technology” with something seemingly unrelated.



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6 Responses to Amnesia and Innovation

  1. David says:

    I Love you – nicely put

  2. Ray says:

    Great job number ONE Big Sister.

  3. Greg T. says:

    “Drop the apple.” – advice I can use. Tougher than I imagined.

    Enjoyed the imagery in your words and photos, and I remember Memento as a ground breaking movie I enjoyed.

  4. Ana L. says:

    I can relate to being the oldest and having to be responsible and thus not always taking risks…

  5. Israel Gat says:

    I find it fascinating that Peggy takes us back to childhood in her exploration of innovation. The kid that I was many years ago was always so curious how the dots are connected. As I grew up I learned to modulate my curiosity, making certain that other folks with whom I interact have as much “bandwidth” to ask their questions as I do. In the course of so learning, I realized that questions asked by other folks are often extremely helpful in helping me connect the dots, as these questions often add dots to be connected or expose connections that I had not figured out. I do not mean to sound banal, but these days – with Mobile and Social – I really really really feel like a kid in a Toys-R-Us store: an infinite number of dots to explore and connect!

    — Israel

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