Where is the Glass?

John Sunderland, the former CEO of Cadbury Schweppes, often responded with a parable when an executive argued that the business could increase either margins or sales, but not both. Sunderland would remind the executive of a time when people lived in mud huts and struggled to get both light and heat: Put a hole in the side of your hut, and you let the daylight … [ Read more ]

Skipping Design Research Can Be Costly

Skipping design research can be costly. For example, high-end German automobile manufacturers were stunned when U.S. customers would not buy cars without cup holders. While drinking coffee in the car seemed unthinkable to Europeans, it wouldn’t have taken much design research to learn how important it is to U.S. car buyers. The manufacturers, forced to retrofit, created some of the most complex, expensive, unreliable and … [ Read more ]

Encouraging Creativity and Innovation

In 1945 the Raytheon Company faced a tremendous demand for magnetron tubes to power the new radar system used to detect enemy aircraft. One day when a Raytheon engineer named Percy L. Spencer stepped too close to a magnetron tube, he noticed that the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted.

Other engineers had noticed the same thing, but didn’t give it much thought. Spencer, on … [ Read more ]

Failing to see the road to the future

Examples of those who fail to see the road to the future are often cited with hilarity. Take Harry Warner of Warner Brothers Studios, who commented in 1927 on the advent of soundtracks for moving pictures: “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?“

Or take the senior management at Procter & Gamble when the disposable diaper was first suggested. According to diaper business folklore, P&G … [ Read more ]

Successful Failures

In a small pub in the highlands of Scotland a group of fishermen gathered one afternoon to swap tales over a round of ale. One of them stretched his arms apart to show the big one that got away. At that very point, a waitress walked past carrying a tray of full ale glasses. The fisherman’s wild gestures sent the tray smashing against the wall. … [ Read more ]

Think Outside the Box

You are driving along in your car on a wild, stormy night, it’s raining heavily, when suddenly you pass by a bus stop, and you see three people waiting for a bus:

  • An old lady who looks as if she is about to die.
  • An old friend who once saved your life.
  • The perfect partner you have been dreaming about.

Which one would you choose to offer a ride … [ Read more ]

Stop looking under the light for innovation

There’s an old story about a man searching for his lost keys under the light on a dark night, even though they were last seen elsewhere. When a passerby asks why he continues to search in the wrong spot, the man replies, “Because the light’s better over here.” Too often, companies search within their own sphere of knowledge rather than seeking solutions wherever they may … [ Read more ]

The “Sneaker Game”

The date was December 9, 1934. The New York Giants were playing the Chicago Bears for the championship of the National Football League. The two teams were thought to be evenly matched, but there was a special factor that day that changed the dynamics of the game: heavy rains and cold temperatures had turned the field at New York’s Polo Grounds stadium into a virtual … [ Read more ]