The pace of economic evolution is slow. Shockingly slow. Here are some examples:
The Difference Engine:
Invented: 1823 by Charles Babbage
First Built: 1998 by the London Science Museum
First Sold: Never
Invented & Prototype Built: 1938 by Chester Carlson
First commercial prototype: 1948 by Haloid (who licensed the patent from Carlson)
First Sold: 1949, but only in very small volume until 1959
Invented and Demo’d: 1968 by Doug Engelbart
First Commercial Prototype: 1974 by Xerox
First Sold: 1981 with the Xerox Star PC
Revolutionary new ideas seem like they come out of nowhere. However, as these examples show, even in the fast-moving technology world, the pace of this change is pretty slow. Incredibly slow.
This again illustrates the importance of executing ideas. There are enormous differences between having a great idea, and making it into something that actually works. Part of this involves leaping technological hurdles, and part of it involves devising a workable business model.
The delays also reflect the difficulty of diffusing new ideas, even when they are demonstrably better than the ones that they are replacing. Part of this is due to the difficulty of breaking existing connections within value networks, and part of this is due to the natural reluctance that many people have to take up new ideas.
This is true not just of new products, but also of new services and even new ways of doing things. All of these are really embodiments of new ideas. As innovators our number one challenge is to get our ideas to spread. This is true no matter what our role is, no matter what field we’re in.
So the next time you feel discouraged because your ideas aren’t picked up quickly enough, just remember the Difference Engine, the photocopier and the mouse. All great ideas, and all of them took a long time to get executed. We just have to keep at it.
Difference Engine: Electronics Weekly
Chester Carlson and his photocopier: Wired
Engelbart’s Mouse: techgossip