Seeing what’s coming

When Alexander Graham Bell developed the telephone, he offered to sell the patent to Western Union. He knew that getting the idea to spread was the hardest part, and he figured that a big firm that was already in the communications industry would be better equipped to get the idea out there. This was part of the minutes from the Western Union board meeting that decided the telephone had no future:

Bell’s instrument uses nothing but the voice, which cannot be captured in concrete form…. We leave it to you to judge whether any sensible man would transact his affairs by such a means of communications. In conclusion the committee feels that it must advise against any investment whatever in Bell’s scheme.

I hear similar things all the time from firms. We often get so caught up with what is good about what we’re currently doing that we fail to see any value at all in alternatives. Consequently, we miss out. Or, worse, we are made irrelevant by someone else.

What threats (or opportunities!) are you missing right now for the same reason?

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

7 thoughts on “Seeing what’s coming

  1. Hey Tim,
    Didja see the Western Union memo from the 1960s that made a bunch of bold predictions about information appliances? It was recently unearthed and posted to (I think) Boing Boing. I forgot where I first saw it but it was prescient.

Comments are closed.