I was reading through an old book from uni days – Joel Barker’s Future Edge and came across an old article I wrote on pardigm shifts.  Some excerpts with a change management flavour…

Listen to the music

The first music CDs were a whopping 12 inchs…yes, same size as a vinyl album. Its one of my favorite stories in creative thinking workshops.

By 1976 Sony had engineered CD audio technology but saw no commercial value in them. After all at that size, they figured the average CD would hold 18 hours of music and cost close to $US 200. They were blinded by the paradigm that the CD should mirror its vinyl predecessor. They accepted the size as a certainty. Enter the folks from Phillips who approached Sony in the late 70s wanting to establish international standards for CD. The travelled to Japan and rather nervously showed Sony their CD prototype CD…roughly the same size as what we have today. The lights went on for the Sony designers – they had missed the key – figure out how much you want the disc to hold because that will determine its size. Moral of the story, look beyond the boundaries of what you are doing to see the potential future.

Hotel – Motel

Kemmons Wilson was a traveling salesperson from Memphis, Tennessee. He regularly drove on the intestate highways to various jobs and wanted to stay at a hotel, near a highway, with simple food and adequate parking. None really existed at the time, so he set up a small no frills hotel on a busy highway which he dubbed a “motel”. From such a humble start his company, Holiday Inn, would become the largest motel chain in the world.

Time is not always on your side

In 1970, the Swiss had more than 65% of the world watch market and more than 80% of profits. They had dominated the industry for over 60 years with their innovation and quality.

 By 1980, their market share was less than 10 %, with 52,000 watchmakers losing their jobs in 3 years.

What happened? They didn’t anticipate the future or consider how technological change could be applied to their industry. While the Swiss, rather ironically, invented the electronic quartz watch, they saw no application for it in a world where watches had always had moving parts and precision engineering. They were happy to let Seiko of Japan use it. Within two years Seiko and the Japanese watch industry had gone from 1% to 35% of world market share. The Swiss never really recovered although in the 1990s they rebounded slightly. Moral of story, consider all possibilities, observe trends, and get to know what might lie ahead for you and your organisation. Time, is not always on your side.

 Going up!

In 1852, Elisha Otis built the first elevator that would not crash thanks to his newly invented emergency breaking mechanism. To prove its safety, he had a passenger ride in the elevator about 100 feet up in his test lab in front of an intrigued audience. He then cut the cable! The elevator descended slowly and safely. The willing volunteer passenger exited unharmed, but was never heard of again. Otis established himself as a leader in his industry and his surname now appears in elevators world wide. And his story proves the point that demonstrating a concept will always help people understand it better than by talking about it.

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