Take a random cross-section of the technologies around us. Smartphones, tablets, coffee machines that connect to the internet, thermostats that can be controlled from halfway around the world, cars that can parallel park themselves.
At the turn of the millennium, if someone claimed that a search engine company would lead the world in technological advancements in 10 years, and that a book store could send you anything you could imagine in less than a day, people would have thrown you in the same category as the Y2K preppers.
But the true visionaries at the time saw where the world was going, and were able to think past the reality around them so that they could create the world of tomorrow.
In essence, they time traveled.
For most, time travel evokes images of compost-powered DeLoreans or alcohol filled hot-tubs, not a bunch of people starting a company. Of course, the former images are much more entertaining than the latter, but the truth is that innovators are the real time-travelers.
These individuals travel backwards to see what is already out there, and what has been tried in the past. They talk to the people that were there, and re-trace footsteps in order to gain a better understanding of the problem they are trying to solve. They then have to think 1, 2, 5, maybe even 10 years ahead into the future and tailor their concepts to match the world of tomorrow. Of course, they must reign all this in and build a product and/or service that is feasible in the reality of today. But going backwards and forwards in time is essential to building something relevant that’s more than a flash in the pan.