Innovation Calls for Leadership
By: Jim Clemmer
Jim Clemmer is an international keynote speaker, workshop leader, author, and president of The CLEMMER Group, a North American network of organization, team, and personal improvement consultants based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. His other bestsellers include Firing on All Cylinders: The Service/Quality System for High-Powered Corporate Performance, and his most recent book, Growing the Distance: Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success. His web site is http://www.clemmer.net/
"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is
no path and leave a trail."
Success is one of the leading causes of failure. Market and customer research
is a leading cause of tunnel vision.
Management is concerned with understanding and improving what is. Disciplined
management calls for rigorous market and customer research to pinpoint
the performance gaps seen by our current customers and partners.
- When trains were first developed, the King of Prussia confidently predicted,"
No one will pay good money to get from Berlin to Potsdam in one hour when
he can ride his horse there in one day for free".
- In 1903, the president of the Michigan Savings Bank gave this market advice
to Horace Rackham, Henry Ford's lawyer, "The horse is here to stay.
The automobile is only a fad, a novelty".
- A British Parliamentary Committee assessed whether Edison's light bulb
would ever be useful. They concluded it was "unworthy of the attention
of practical or scientific men".
- Edison himself made these market assessments, "the phonograph is not
of any commercial value" and "the radio craze will die out in
- In 1946, Darryl Zanuck, then head of 20th Century Fox predicted, "Video
(television) won't hold any market it captures after the first six months.
People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night".
- "A man has been arrested in New York for attempting to extort funds
from ignorant and superstitious people by exhibiting a device which he
says will convey the human voice any distance over metallic wires so that
it will be heard by the listener at the other end. He calls this instrument
a telephone. Well-informed people know that it is impossible to transmit
the human voice over wires."
News item in an 1868 New York paper
- In 1980 a Wall Street auto analyst told a Senate committee, "General
Motors, already the automotive king of the road, will become even more
dominant by the mid-1980's and will be the only auto company capable of
building a full range of cars and trucks."
- And from some early market research on steam ships — "What, sir, would
you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire
under her deck? I pray you excuse me. I have no time to listen to such
— Napoleon Bonaparte to engineer and inventor Robert Fulton
But as vital as that is, it's just the beginning. Far too many service
and quality improvement professionals, customer satisfaction specialists,
and market researchers stop here. They become prisoners of the present.
Like the old elephant that finally has the chain removed from his leg,
they've become conditioned to never go beyond the radius of past experience.
Seizing the opportunities of tomorrow calls for leadership. It means taking
off the blinders of what is in order to see what could be. To lead is to
look beyond prevailing products, current services, today's competitors,
and existing markets. Customer, partner, and market leadership means exploring,
searching, and creating new and unique pathways that lead to our vision.