- How to make unprecedented profits for investors while saving even more for consumers.
- How to help all Americans, not just those on the Left or Right.
- How to help all people, not just Americans.
- How to catalyze our recovery and usher in a new Golden Age by creatively solving problems others deem unsolvable.
And I have the answers.
“It often takes a rebel to come up with a breakthrough product.”
— Christian Schuh in Want to Come Up With a Hot New Product Idea? Be a Ruthless Competitor
“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.”
— Arthur Schopenhauer
“Why didn't a cab driver think of Uber? Why didn't Barnes & Noble think of Amazon? Why didn't Blockbuster think of Netflix? Why didn't Marriott think of AirBnB? … ‘Well nobody will ever want to buy a book without human contact, so let's keep building stores,’ said Borders, may it rest in peace. … One of the biggest common threads between the businesses that have been disrupted is thinking that your business is immune to changing circumstances.”
— Daniel Burrus in Anticipating Digital Disruption.
What disruption really is—and isn't: the best clarification I've seen
In True Disruption, Jean-Marie Dru said that “disruption refers to everything that is not gradual change”—not just the narrow view of disruption as being “about entrants that penetrate at the low end of a market (and subsequently move up market),” based on Clayton M. Christensen's original theory of disruption. Dru added that A. G. Lafley, former Procter & Gamble CEO, said there are “simply two kinds of innovation: incremental innovation and disruptive innovation. By incremental, he means marginal progress. A formulaic improvement. The extension of a range. Entry into an adjacent market. But in contrast, disruptive innovation brings radical change …”
“Right now, there's a lot of cheerleading for "disruptive" opportunities among VCs [venture capitalists].”
— Elizabeth Lopatto in Silicon Valley is confusing pseudo-science with innovation
“Corporations have a massive shortage of visionaries. Visionaries rarely climb corporate ladders. They're heretics who take risks and ‘don't play by the rules’ …”
— Steve Faktor in Incremental Illness Claims Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer
“Mediocre V.C.s want to see that your company has traction. The top V.C.s want you to show them you can invent the future.”
— Suhail Doshi, quoted in Tomorrow's Advance Man: Marc Andreessen's plan to win the future
“Venture capitalists with a knack for the 1,000x know that true innovations don't follow a pattern. The future is always stranger than we expect: mobile phones and the Internet, not flying cars [I discussed that in Flying cars & jetpacks: why the future never arrived and will comment further below]. Doug Leone, one of the leaders of Sequoia Capital Partners, by consensus Silicon Valley's top firm, said, ‘The biggest outcomes come when you break your previous mental model. The black-swan events of the past forty years—the PC, the router, the Internet, the iPhone—[weren't predictable in advance] … So what's useful to us is having Dumbo ears.’ A great V.C. keeps his ears pricked for a disturbing story with the elements of a fairy tale. This tale begins in another age (which happens to be the future), and features a lowborn hero who knows a secret from his hardscrabble experience. The hero encounters royalty (the V.C.s) who test him, and he harnesses magic (technology) to prevail. The tale ends in heaping treasure chests for all …”
— Tad Friend in Tomorrow's Advance Man: Marc Andreessen's plan to win the future
Comment: One reason why flying cars and robotic chefs never arrived (except for the latter in my home) is because too many venture capitalists are myopically focused on the Internet, lured by the small investments required to fund such businesses, even though game-changing moonshot ideas in the real world have significantly more profit potential and societal benefits.
“I now have a very simple metric I use: are you working on something that can change the world? Yes or no? The answer for 99.99999 percent of people is 'no.'”
— Google co-founder Larry Page, imploring Singularity University students to address the world's biggest problems. A New York Times article added that in “deciding whether Google should spend millions or even billions of dollars in acquiring a new company, [he] asks whether the acquisition passes the toothbrush test: Is it something you will use once or twice a day, and does it make your life better?”
“As chief executive of [Google's holding company] Alphabet, Mr. Page is tasked with figuring how to spin Google's billions … into new companies and industries [which he plans to do] by finding new people and technologies to invest in …,” writing that he and Sergey Brin (Google’s other founder) “are seriously in the business of starting new things.”
— Conor Dougherty in How Larry Page's Obsessions Became Google's Business
“[Google's Larry] Page says he is often drawn by what he calls the 'zero-million-dollar research problem': an interesting challenge that no one is working on.”
— Miguel Helft in Google's Larry Page: The most ambitious CEO in the universe
Comment: If Page knew what I have up my sleeve, he'd be drawn like a magnet to me.
“Google CEO Larry Page is legendary for saying he won't buy your company unless the product or service is something people need and use throughout the day—the toothbrush test. But it's not only that. The service has to be something people 'want' as much as they need …”
— Mark C. Thompson in How To Make Sure You're On Larry Page's 2015 Wish List
“We want to build technology that everybody loves using, and that affects everyone. We want to create beautiful, intuitive services and technologies that are so incredibly useful that people use them twice a day. Like they use a toothbrush. There aren't that many things people use twice a day.”
— Larry Page
“We're at maybe 1% of what is possible. Despite the faster change, we're still moving slow relative to the opportunities we have. I think a lot of that is because of the negativity … We should be focusing on building the things that don't exist.”
— Larry Page
Comment: I am!
“Lots of companies don't succeed over time. What do they fundamentally do wrong? They usually miss the future. I try to focus on that: What is the future really going to be? And how do we create it? And how do we power our organization to really focus on that and really drive it at a high rate?”
— Larry Page
“If we just do the same things we did before and don't do something new, it seems like a crime to me.”
— Larry Page (source)
“I think it is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams. Since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition. In fact, there are so few people this crazy that I feel like I know them all by first name.”
— Larry Page, University of Michigan Commencement Address (2009)
“Despite all the talk about Google's much vaunted moonshots … the company is still basically a purveyor of cheap online ads … The most valuable thing that the official moonshot incubator, Google X, has produced isn't innovative products that will maintain Google's search dominance. It's good PR. It codified the idea that Google is always trying new stuff and failing because that's what true, crazy, bountiful innovation looks like. With the Google X mythology, Google has cover for all sorts of (sometimes expensive) failures …”
— Katie Benner in Google Is the New Microsoft. Uh-Oh.
“If you can, go after a giant problem, one of the great problems of our time, a problem that, if solved, would usher in an era of large-scale transformation across industries and nations. It won't be simple. The really big problems are big problems for a reason.”
— Jose Ferreira in There's a Reason It's Called "Venture" Capital
“The fundamental problem with business is that they're governed by mediocre ideas. Maximizing the return on invested capital is an example of a mediocre idea. Mediocre ideas don't uplift people. They don't give them something they can tell their children about. They don't create much meaning.”
— Bill O'Brien, former CEO of Hanover Insurance
“In order to try something new, you must stop doing something old. A new idea should terrify us, challenging our worldview, the very core of our beliefs. Those who are most complacent and comfortable with the present—or worse, a nostalgic past—are likely to remain trapped inside it forever. It is the uncomfortable and dissatisfied ones who take the risks and ultimately create our future.”
— Ron Baker
“… every executive strives to learn the secret sauce that'll cause their company to rise up as the trend setter and launch disruptive products to keep their competitors on their heels and drive ahead as the category captain while developing an industry reputation for strategic product development and innovative brain trusts throughout the company.”
— Dan Maycock
“If the all-powerful Apple can have a service creep up on them and deliver a critical blow from a service like Spotify, then we should all consider who lurks around the corner.”
— Phil Jones in Disrupt or be Disrupted
“In heaven all the interesting people are missing.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
“It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.”
— Abraham Lincoln
“The great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable. No virtuous man—that is, virtuous in the YMCA sense—has ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a book worth reading.”
— H. L. Mencken
(some interesting science suggests why that is true)
“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice.”
— Albert Einstein
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
— Albert Einstein
“Conformity breeds mediocrity.”
— author unknown
“Conformity is the jailer of freedom, and the enemy of growth.”
— President Kennedy addressing the UN General Assembly
“No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness.”
“To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.”
“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.”
— General George Patton
“Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.”
— Euripides, Greek tragic dramatist (484 BC - 406 BC)
“It is socially unacceptable to be right too early.”
— Robert Heinlein
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
“You can't innovate if you're afraid to fail … Fear kills innovation, but so does complacency. Corporate behemoths with established reputations and healthy market share are far less motivated to take risks, experiment or change their ways … despite the fact that they're all in danger of being toppled by disruptive newcomers.”
— Elliot S. Weissbluth, HighTower Founder & CEO
“Hire someone whose ideas are bold and fresh and forward thinking. If you don't leave meetings with this person where you're just a little nervous, you don't have the right person and they're not being bold enough. Hire someone who is constantly trying to break the paradigm.”
— Edward Jenkins in A Note to CEOs: Stop Killing Your Best Ideas
“… visionaries [often] have creative hobbies, blogs and passions outside of work. … They don't always say the right thing or easily 'fit in'. Despite their quirks, many influence others, build strong networks, and attract followers who value their ideas.”
— Steve Faktor in Empower Your Visionaries
People who don't raise eyebrows in church generally don't do anything great. There's a reason for that. The juice of genius can also make men more likely to act like men, not angels. Americans desperate for gifted leaders and creators should consider the inimical effects of political correctness and rigid judgmentalism so they don't throw the baby out with the bath water.
Albert Einstein, Alan Turing, Richard Feynman, Erwin Schrödinger, Robert Oppenheimer, and Marie Curie were personally flawed yet professionally gifted and indispensable.
So was Steve Jobs. Bill Gates called him “fundamentally odd” and “weirdly flawed” as a person, yet we need more people like him.
“When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”
— Jonathan Swift
“Ridicule is the tribute paid to the genius by the mediocrities.”
— Oscar Wilde
“The thing about smart people is that they seem like crazy people to dumb people.”
“We are at our best when we are pursuing our weird, quirky, idiosyncratic idea of a good life, and we're often at our worst when we're turning our decision-making faculties over to people who want to mold us into whatever they want us to be. So I'm here today to tell you to be weird. … If you do what other people do, you get what other people get … so exceptional investors know they have to hold non-consensus views.”
— Can Being Weird Make You Rich and Happy?: Daniel Crosby at TEDxBYU
No one is perfect and anyone who pretends to be is a phony and hence even less perfect. If Steve Jobs had a screw loose as Gates suggested, the ones he had in place enabled him to build the world's most valuable corporation.
“Perfection is man's ultimate illusion. It simply doesn't exist in the universe … If you are a perfectionist, you are guaranteed to be a loser in whatever you do.”
— David Burns
“I don't think the [Allied] scientists at that time had any idea — in fact, there was a lot of skepticism about what it was [referring to the German V-2 rocket]. I think this is the classic, ‘We can't do it, they can't do it’ — that's one of the greatest intelligence mistakes anyone ever makes.”
— Two experts (one of whom I think was Major Chris Halsall, Intelligence Corps Officer [Ret.]) from a NOVA Nature program, 3D Spies of World War II
Comment: People commonly assume if they or their group cannot do something, it cannot be done. Big mistake. Merely reporting something not previously known can evoke ridicule, which explains why the first British pilot to witness a V-2 launch was mocked as “Taylor's Folly.”
“If people aren't calling you crazy, you aren't thinking big enough.”
— Richard Branson
“The day before something is a breakthrough, it's a crazy idea.”
— Peter Diamandis
“Crazy ideas sometimes work, and the technological society that we have is built on a foundation of those crazy ideas that work.”
— Nathan Myhrvold
“I was a nerdy guy who, in most companies, I don't think would have risen or been backed, anything like Bill [Gates] backed me. One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me … I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you've ever suggested. Please proceed.’”
— Nathan Myhrvold
Comment: Gates is often disparaged as being rigidly inside-the-box (as earlier quotes may have suggested), but Myhrvold's quote proves otherwise. Indeed, Gates's legendary success would not have been possible had he viewed the world via an inside-the-box mentality, in spite of his fabled luck, family, and fortunate connections like Paul Allen the Idea Man. Even now, Gates continues to blaze new trails, such as addressing a root cause of HIV transmission by seeking condoms that replicate the pleasure of “bare” intercourse. That's incisive but also courageous considering how positively squeamish and frankly juvenile Americans can be regarding sex, as I illustrated by showing how comfortable they are with the blatantly commercialized sexuality of strangers but not discussions of spousal sex that strengthens their bonds and thus marriages and society.
“Churning out employees who aren't risk takers and can rarely think for themselves – who constantly need to be told what to do when. Where will we find the risk-takers, the innovators – those who will future-proof our planet? … We need more risk takers. We need more creative minds not hindered by the 'system.' We need unfettered imagination. We need self-starters and misfits far more than we need order takers and MBAs.”
— Creel Price in Killing Our Kids With Kindness
“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher (1844 - 1900)
“You know, I've got a plan that could rescue Apple. I can't say any more than that it's the perfect product and the perfect strategy for Apple. But nobody there will listen to me.”
— Steve Jobs, 1995
“The most passionately creative types that end up providing the world with the most innovative ideas are the ones (at least initially) who are met with the most resistance from the status quo.”
— Andrea Kuszewski in Creativity: A Crime Of Passion
“A man with a new idea is a crank—until the idea succeeds.”
— Mark Twain
“It's kind of fun to do the impossible.”
— Walt Disney
“It always seems impossible until it's done.”
— Nelson Mandela
“The impossible is often the untried.”
— Jim Goodwin
“I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can't be done.”
— Henry Ford
“'Underpromising and overdelivering' is an act of manipulation that is designed to elevate mediocrity. By setting expectations low you can exceed them by attaining exactly what you knew were already capable of. That isn't going to inspire anyone. And the reality is that no one really 'underpromises.'
— Dustin McKissen in No One Really Underpromises and Overdelivers
Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell: 'There Are Steve Jobses All Around Us'
Excerpt: “… there are plenty of creative, talented visionaries out there today who have the potential to innovate and disrupt the tech industry just like Jobs did.”
Comment: Yes, there are. The problem is that America's system of capitalism has not expeditiously identified them.
Book: Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Hire, Keep and Nurture Creative Talent
From the publisher's website: “When looking for employees, ignore credentials. Hire the obnoxious (in limited numbers). … Once you have them, isolate them. Celebrate their failures. Encourage ADHD. Ply them with toys. Encourage them to make decisions by throwing dice. Invent haphazard holidays. Let them sleep. The business world is changing faster than ever, and every day your company faces new complications and difficulties. The only way to resolve these issues is to have a staff of wildly creative people who live as much in the future as the present, who thrive on being different, and whose ideas will guarantee that your company will prosper when other companies fail.”
The Hunt for the Creative Individual
Excerpt: “Some people are more creative than others and are literally bubbling with ideas, while others rarely or never show signs of creativity. What should we look for when searching for creative people?”
Comment: One of the seven creativity characteristics was “Need for originality: Resists rules and conventions. Have a rebellious attitude due to a need to do things no one else does.” Our society imposes many bizarre rules and conventions with no net benefit. Creative people are more likely to buck them, while others perpetuate them. In Finding the Next Steve Jobs, Bushnell discussed this characteristic and some others mentioned in that fascinating article.
“If you stop being the scrappy underdog, fighting against the odds, you risk the worst fate of all: mediocrity.”
— Howard Schultz in Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time
“Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood.”
— Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO
“One of the biggest problems with big companies doing clean-sheet innovation is that even if you see it, you have to be a really long-term thinker, because for a long time it will be a tiny slice of the company. … The key thing is to be willing to wait 5, 7, 10 years. And most companies aren't willing to wait ten years.”
— Jeff Bezos
“If you're an incumbent in any industry, and rapid change is underway, you're uncomfortable, even if long term it's going to be good.”
— Jeff Bezos
“It's nice when people agree, but if everyone thought along the same lines all the time, nothing would ever change. Every company needs mavericks. … Schools are all about being able to fit in. Many businesses then follow suit and encourage people to toe the line. The people who really make a difference are often those who don't quite fit in. The ones who don't act in the same way as everyone else and take risks rather than following the status quo.”
— Richard Branson in Yes Men? No Thanks!
“Dogs bark at what they don't know.”
— Gijs van Wulfen in Companies Frustrate Innovative Employees
“Most people tiptoe through life to make it safely to death.”
— Billionaire philanthropist John Paul DeJoria
“Einstein's E=mc2, Galileo's sun-centered solar system, and Darwin's theory of evolution
were laughed at for years by experts around the world. … Paul C. Lauterbur, winner of the Nobel Prize for coinventing MRI, explained, "You can write the entire history of science in the last 50 years in terms of papers rejected by Science or Nature." Big ideas in all fields endure dismissals, mockeries, and persecutions (of them and their creators) on their way to changing the world.”
— The Myths of Innovation, Chapter 4
“So-called 'peer-review' is an oxymoron: if an idea is actually new, then the existence of peers is obviously impossible, which is why almost all of the truly valuable ideas and inventions have come from people who were totally outside the scientific community, people like Edison, Tesla, the Wright Brothers and a long list of others.”
— Arthur Jones
“If Thomas Edison had used a focus group he would have just invented a bigger candle.”
— The Brand Show episode The Science of Branding
“When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That's a very limited life.
Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. The minute that you understand you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, you can change it, you can mold it. That's maybe the most important thing: is to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you're just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.
I think that's very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you'll want to change life and make it better, 'cause it's kind of messed up in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again.”
— Steve Jobs
“A's hire A's and B's hire C's.”
— Donald Rumsfeld
“Never try to win a debate by presenting yourself with authority [as if your views should prevail because you're the boss or otherwise more powerful, not because you have a better argument or the facts on your side].”
— Afraj Gill in How to Leave Your Ego at the Door
“Far too often we revert to the same old 'go to' people who know about this and that, and are experts in this and that. But far too often they are dry, stale and have become a cog in their own machine – drowning in their 'expert-ness', they are hard pressed to think of the most obvious things. And often won't come up with the most non-obvious either. … Great thinking often comes from the edge …”
— Derek Handley
“Experts won't risk their expert status to find a solution.”
— Daniel Jacobs in You Don't Need to be an Expert to Innovate in Your Field
“It is no measure of good health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
— Jiddu Krishnamurti, Indian spiritualist
“All technology starts as a spark in someone's brain. An idea of something that didn't exist before, that once they have invented it—brought it into existence—could change everything. … This [inventing and the venture capitalists who fund them] is a situation where you don't count the failures, you count the successes. And even a few successes can change everything.”
— Nathan Myhrvold in Reinventing Invention
“Imagination has brought mankind through the Dark Ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreams—day dreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain-machinery whizzing—are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent, and therefore to foster civilization.”
— L. Frank Baum in The Lost Princess of Oz
“It's extremely hard to come up with something as revolutionary as what you did. … I think that that was genius.”
— Lori Greiner on Shark Tank, to the creators of the Baker's Edge® Edge Brownie Pan™ and Better Muffin Pan
Comment: Gee whiz, what will she say when she sees my ideas? :-)
“Real innovators are actually tinkerers. They like to build.”
— Elliot S. Weissbluth
“Lack of money is no obstacle. Lack of an idea is an obstacle.”
— Ken Hakuta
“Rules are a great way to get ideas. All you have to do is break them.”
— Jack Foster in How to Get Ideas
“The biggest success stories started with a single step on an uncharted path.”
— Ilya Pozin
“Expose those individuals who see opportunities where others do not … Connect ideas and people in novel ways.”
— Advice from IBM's Cultivating organizational creativity in an age of complexity
“Every time there's innovation it rarely comes from the big guy.”
— Barbara Corcoran on Shark Tank
“The boss doesn't always make the most money. Find stars and pay them well. If you want to attract those stars, you'll have to lure them with dollars. Remember that money's the great motivator, and if it means you take a hit financially, take it. Talent will always bring in more money for the company, and that has got to be your number one priority always.”
— Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary in The 10 Secrets to Being the Best Boss You Can Be
“Some of us know how to grow past a valuation [of a company or product]. Some people look backwards, some of us look forward. … [What matters is] where you can go.”
— Mark Cuban on Shark Tank, Season 5, Episode 12
“Show me the product. Show me the ingenuity.””
— Oracle Investment Research chief market strategist Laurence Balter, bemoaning Apple's lack of wizardry in the post-Steve Jobs era (source)
“I think it's going to be very difficult for them [Apple] to come up with the next big thing.”
— Michael Cusumano, Sloan School of Management at M.I.T. professor (source)
“… Apple will no longer be the consumer technology giant it is today. It will become obsolete. Its products will no longer be trendy. Other companies will innovate and drive Apple out of markets it had once dominated. It's inevitable.”
— Zach Epstein in … Apple could be ‘obsolete’ in 2-3 years
Comment: Did Apple forget the lesson Steve Jobs taught them? Nonstop bold innovation is key to success.
Speaking of Apple: Ronald Wayne sold his 10% share of Apple for $800 soon after he co-founded it with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. In August 2011, his stock would have been worth over $35 billion.
“Most companies make all their money on new products. They barely break even on old products. They have to innovate to be viable, and that's a hard path to follow.”
— Christian Schunn, University of Pittsburgh (source)
Comment: It's not hard if you hire the right inventors! Aside from my handful of exceptionally valuable ideas, I have thousands of others in countless fields: energy, electronics, computing, medicine, beauty, manufacturing, automobiles, recreation, boats, snowmobiles, ATVs, national defense, personal defense, firearms, clothing, home construction and repair, and countless others. The mistake most companies make is assuming that engineers can invent. Some can, but most cannot conceive of the leaps that constitute genuine inventions. Frankly, many engineers can't even engineer, as evidenced by how exasperated I am by myriad products with obvious flaws that could be corrected at little or no cost, or even a cost savings.
“Now what would happen if any one of these manufacturers were able to dramatically increase their share in this global market? Does that have value? (Kevin O'Leary responded, ‘Yesssssss!’)”
— Michael Schiavone on Shark Tank, discussing Caffeindicator's potential
Comment: Great idea, but I have even better ones for helping manufacturers increase market share and crush their competition, including prototyped and proven inventions for much bigger markets.
“The DNA of your leadership team … D: A Dreamer — Usually the founder or CEO, this is someone with a vision and the passion to make it happen …”
— Bernard Marr in The DNA Of Leadership: 3 Key People Every Successful Company Must Have
“Unless they invest in the difficult task of creating new things [not just fine-tuning the old ones], American companies will fail in the future no matter how big their profits remain today. … Today's ‘best practices’ lead to dead ends; the best paths are new and untried.”
— Peter Thiel in Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
“Figure out something that nobody else is doing and look to create a monopoly in some area that's been underdeveloped. Find a problem nobody else is solving.”
— Peter Thiel in Zero to One (quote source)
“What [Clayton] Christensen [author of The Innovator's Dilemma] … found is that firms seeking growth via new markets are 6x more likely to succeed than firms seeking growth by entering established markets, and the revenue opportunity is 20x greater. It's counterintuitive, isn't it? When we start in a place where no one else wants to play, where the scope of the opportunity appears limited, the odds of success actually improve.”
— Whitney Johnson in Disrupt Yourself
“Something everyone else had overlooked often became the basis of an inventive solution.”
— University of Massachusetts cognitive psychologist Anthony McCaffrey discussing how top inventors overcame cognitive obstacles enabling them to produce significant inventions
“If you really want the key to success, start by doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing.”
— Brad Szollose
“I cannot give you a formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: try to please everybody.”
— Herbert Bayard Swope
“If I'd asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a better horse.”
— Henry Ford
“The light-bulb was not invented by trying to improve the candle.”
— Kevin Boyle
“In a battle between two ideas, the best one doesn't necessarily win. No, the idea that wins is the one with the most fearless heretic behind it.”
— Seth Godin
“… keep your eye on the problems modern-day inventors are solving and the early prototypes churning out of lean startups. One day in the not too distant future, those ideas could be the basis for a technology that makes the impossible possible.”
— Intellectual Ventures
“Every moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won't make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won't create a social network.”
— Peter Thiel in Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
Comment: I generally agree with Thiel, but not this time (see below for one reason why).
“When we need a fact, it's like we get it in seconds.”
— Television journalist Elizabeth Vargas, referring to Internet search, ignoring its reality, which is that users must usually sift through countless results manually searching for what they want to find, which often proves maddeningly elusive. Current searches are littered with dead ends and garbage results obviously — even risibly — irrelevant or just plain unhelpful. Search engines are not find engines. I had a hunch I could build a find engine. Months of coding later, I did, with the first listing unequivocally giving me what I wanted in a split-second, never being led down a blind alley, and never having to look at more than one result.
“Why did the 40-somethings not do it? [conceive Google's search engine] 'Cause we were — all of us — were hobbled by convention, and they saw a new path.”
— Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Now the Google brains are 40-somethings, hobbled by their notions of search, blind to a new path. Google is likely cocksure that their technology cannot be leapfrogged, but their days as King of Search are numbered. Revolutionizing search is a national imperative because untold billions of hours have been wasted Googling.
“You may think using Google's great, but I still think it's terrible.”
— Google's Larry Page (source)
“Google was at the heart of disruption, until they grew up and decided that their core business was advertising revenue and killed off a lot of other efforts and projects that didn't support either cost savings (hardware, energy, infrastructure, etc) or information gathering and computational ninjutsu to support greater returns for their advertising customers … How many railroad companies went out of business, when planes and trucks came into the picture, because they said they were focused on building better trains vs building better ways to transport?”
— Dan Maycock in The Ugly Truth About Disruption & Innovation
Comment: And now Google's days are numbered until it too is disrupted. Perhaps ironic that the disruptor becomes the disrupted, but that is generally the history of innovation as corporations with better ideas steamroll others before being crushed by newcomers with even better ones. And the beat goes on …
“We've made many errors. People over-focus on errors of commission. Companies over-emphasize how expensive failure's going to be. Failure's not that expensive. … The big cost that most companies incur are much harder to notice, and those are errors of omission.”
— Jeff Bezos at the Wired Disruptive by Design conference
“I've made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com. … None of those things are fun. But they also don't matter. What really matters is, companies that don't continue to experiment, companies that don't embrace failure, they eventually get in a desperate position where the only thing they can do is a Hail Mary bet at the very end of their corporate existence. Whereas companies that are making bets all along, even big bets, but not bet-the-company bets, prevail.”
— Jeff Bezos
“Of the six people who started PayPal, four had built bombs in high school.”
— Peter Thiel in Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
Comment: Innovative people break rules and take risks. The key is to take those nutty impulses and channel them into productive pursuits that help people and build businesses instead of, say, building bombs, cannons, and flamethrowers that inexplicably delighted me when I was a kid without a father to guide me, and a mother usually gone working two or three jobs. So I basically raised myself, not knowing what the hell I was doing, blindly bouncing from mistake to mistake except for occasional successes such as graduating in the top 1% of my class in medical school even though I HATE school and was so bored by it my mind could rarely focus for more than five minutes before wandering off.
But a valuable lesson emerged from that chaotic life: people who raise themselves learn to think for themselves in novel ways. After reading my first book (Fascinating Health Secrets), a Discovery Channel producer told me, “Dr. Pezzi, there are thousands of books on health, but no one writes like you.” He was so enchanted by it he wanted me to co-host a new health show, which fell through when his wife persuaded him to move to Hawaii.
My unique thinking produces some duds—pretty much expected when a person raised without a roadmap has no roadmap to follow in thinking up things no one has ever conceived—but also some inventions bound to amaze you and help you in surprising ways that people smarter than me would never think of because they've been too successfully trained to think like everyone else.
When was the last time a company came up with a new product or service that really wowed you? Apple, Google, Microsoft, HP, IBM, 3M, Sony, and a long list of others, including appliance and automobile manufacturers, seem to have no more big ideas. But I have several—all the product of a mind that doesn't think like others, as the Discovery Channel producer said, and as you will later see for yourself when they're marketed and you marvel using them several times every day. When my ideas become indispensable parts of your life that make it much better (when was the last time that happened?), you will appreciate the most essential diversity: intellectual diversity: thinking for yourself, and going where no one has gone before.
An advertising slogan created for Apple Computer in 1997 brilliantly explained how “the round pegs in the square holes, the ones who see things differently” who are “crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”