Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Great Ideas That Almost Didn't Make It!

Good ideas usually come from outside sources rather than from inside the company or culture. This is largely due to our conditioned ways of thinking, which encourages us to think in terms of the common good, but unfortunately frequently makes us blind to new opportunities. The most creative companies rely upon ideas being generated outside of their walls as well as from within them. Here are some of the most famous ideas that nearly didn't make it (extracted from a great book - "Beyond Entrepreneurship, Turning Your Business Into An Enduring Great Company" by J Collins & W Lazier):

"the devise is inherently of no value to us" - Western Union internal memo in response to Bell's telephone, 1876

"in order to earn better than a "C" the idea must be feasible": a Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's proposal for reliable overnight deliveries. He went on to found the Federal Express Corporation.

"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 got through college yet.": Steve Jobs speaking about attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Wozniak's PC. Jobs & Wozniak founded the Apple Computer Co.

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?": HM Warner, Warner Bros, 1927.

"We don't like their sound and guitar music is on the way out.": Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles.

"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. He later became the first man to strike oil.

"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.

NB: Apple didn't create the basic idea behind the Mackintosh; those ideas had been around for years, developed by defense, and later at Xerox. A group of Apple executives attended a demo of mouse and icon technology at Xerox (which became an investor in Apple) and carried the basic ideas over to Apple.

The NIH syndrome (Not-Invented-Here) can be countered by various practices introduced by thought leaders, the media and if in companies, by structured processes. If you hear of someone saying, "that will never work", or "we don't do things that way here" then you can be sure that somewhere else, someone will be saying "how can that work?" or even "I love it, let's try it". If you're the one with the ideas, the music, the project or the curiosity then just continue on your path until you have found the receptive thinkers or audience for you. Good luck!

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