This week, inspired by a fascinating new documentary on crop circles, Billy Langsworthy shines a spotlight on the notion of the 'misunderstood genius'.

EDITOR’S COMMENT: Field of dreams

A documentary landed on Netflix UK at the weekend called A Field Full of Secrets.

It centres on a guy called Charles Maxwell as he investigates crop circles in Wiltshire, and follows him as he pursues various rabbit holes including ‘attempting contact’ and, naturally, building his own UFO based on ‘instructions’ left in the crop circles.

While it’s very easy to laugh (and I did, lots. Especially as the film starts to resemble the Spinal Tap of UFO documentaries), it’s a film that’s made with a lot of love, and the quote from astronomer Carl Sagan which opens the film speaks volumes about the honesty with which Maxwell is undertaking the film.

"They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

It’s something of a bitter truth that Sagan is alluding to: just because some geniuses were laughed at, it doesn’t mean that all who are laughed at are geniuses.

And it’s something worth bearing in mind when it comes to toy creation.

It’s all too easy to react to criticism with ‘well, they don’t know a great toy when they see one’, especially if it’s someone’s life’s work (having several ideas rather than putting all your eggs in one basket can help soften that potential blow).

But sometimes that can absolutely be the right approach.

Hell, Leslie Scott didn’t strike gold with Jenga immediately and Goldieblox founder Debbie Sterling faced hostility to the idea of construction toys for girls from the industry professionals she initially went to for help. But they believed in their ideas, they perservered and it paid off.

So this isn’t to say you shouldn’t have self belief. It’s absolutely necessary to get a product off the ground and while (spoiler alert) Maxwell didn’t make contact with aliens as a result of his experience, what he did make was a cracking documentary.

But, like everything, it’s about balance. Have belief in your ideas but don’t be too precious.

It can be the difference between being Columbus and being Bozo the Clown.

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