George Bernard Shaw once said “…all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” Innovators are not the all the same. Some innovators are obvious geniuses while innovators are unassuming individuals who have great, wild imaginations. Then there are people who wait for the innovators to create new things, then make these innovations better. In all cases, those who embrace innovation always wins big.
An innovator is a person who introduces new ideas, concepts, or products. Innovators exists in every field; medicine, the arts, technology, etc.
Innovators break through and continue pushing new innovations to the forefront. This is true even when it seems like everything possible has been achieved.
Innovative ideas evolve
The best innovators find new ways of doing things, then perfect these new ideas. Innovation must serve a bigger purpose
Innovators must be ready to develop their ideas. Failure to do so will result in a competitors arising with better versions of their product.
For instance, Apple Compute based their technologies behind the Macintosh on innovations developed by Xerox. However, Apple Computer evolved the original innovations of the mouse into today’s Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad technologies.
It all started with Jobs making the Xerox mouse more affordable and more durable:
Steve Jobs said to Dean Hovey ‘You know, [the Xerox mouse] is a mouse that cost three hundred dollars to build and it breaks within two weeks. Here’s your design spec: Our mouse needs to be manufacturable for less than fifteen bucks. It needs to not fail for a couple of years, and I want to be able to use it on Formica and my bluejeans.‘
Beware of Wet Blankets
Great ideas are often discouraged because they seemed impossible or insignificant.
Wet blankets are people who spoil other people’s fun or audacious ideas by disapproving of their activities.
In Jim Collins’ book ‘Beyond Entrepreneurship’ he writes a list of “wet blankets” throughout history that is encouraging.
Wet Blankets Through History2
by Jim Collins and Bill Lazier
“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”; Western Union internal memo in response to [Alexander Graham] Bell’s telephone, 1876.
“The concept is interesting and well formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.”; a Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. Smith went on to found Federal Express Corporation.
“We don’t tell you how to coach, so don’t tell us how to make shoes.”; a large sporting shoe manufacturer to Bill Bowerman, inventor of the “waffle” shoe and co-founder of NIKE, Inc.
“So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you.We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard and they said ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t go through college yet.”; Steve Job speaking about attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Wozniak’s personal computer. Jobs and Wozniak founded Apple Computer Company.
“You should franchise them,’ I told them. ‘I’ll be your guinea pig.’ Well, they just went straight up in the air! They couldn’t see the philosophy…. Then they turned us down, that left Bud and me to swim on our own.”; Sam Walton describing his efforts to get the Ben Franklin chain interested in his discount retailing concept in 1962. Walton went on to found Walmart.
“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”; H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.
“We don’t like their sound and guitar music is on the way out.”; Decca Recording Company rejecting the Beatles, 1962.
In 1984, John Henry Patterson was ridiculed by his business friends for paying $6,500 for the rights to the cash register–a product with “limited” or no potential. Patterson went on to found National Cash Register (NCR) Corporation.
“What’s all this computer nonsense you’re trying to bring into medicine? I’ve got no confidence at all in computers and I want nothing whatsoever to do with them.”; a medical professor in England to Dr. John Alfred Powell, about the CT scanner.
“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.”; any number of experienced drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist in his project to drill for oil in 1859.
“That is good sport. But for the military, the airplane is useless.”; Ferdinand Foch, Commander in Chief, allied forces on the western front, World War I.
“The television will never achieve popularity; it takes place in a semi-darkened room and demands continuous attention.”; Harvard Professor Chester L. Dawes, 1940.
Innovation always wins big: Problem solvers
Alexander Graham Bell, Steve Jobs, Bill Bowerman, and even The Beatles all were serving something bigger than themselves.
Bell recognized that communication could be faster and more efficient.
Jobs wanted revolutionize computers so that we could all own and use them regularly.
The Beatles understood that their music was about more than “guitar music”; they had a message they want to tell the world.
Some very “smart” people overlooked some of the greatest innovations in history. On the contrary, “not-so-smart” people have stumbled upon ideas that have changed our world forever.
- Steve Jobs and Xerox: The Truth About Innovation. (2011). ZURB. https://zurb.com/blog/steve-jobs-and-xerox-the-truth-about-inno
- Collins, J. C. (1992). Innovation. In 1321822453 970670622 B. C. Lazier (Ed.), Beyond Entrepreneurship (pp. 219-220). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Press.