1. Pioneer of automotive mass production Henry Ford was renowned for memorable sayings, but nothing sums up the mind-set of the innovator more than:
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
2. Travel back 2000 years from Ford and perhaps the oldest recorded quote on innovation goes to Archimedes, whose bathtub observations led him to solve a problem with metal alloys. Upon his discovery he uttered the immortal word that epitomises a break-through:
3. And now right back to today and WhatsApp founder Jan Koum:
“At WhatsApp, our engineers spend all their time fixing bugs, adding new features and ironing out all the little intricacies in our task of bringing rich, affordable, reliable messaging to every phone in the world. That’s our product, and that’s our passion. Your data isn’t even in the picture. We are simply not interested in any of it.”
In a world where big data, advertising and surveillance are all too pervasive Jan Koum, who grew up in the Soviet Union, eschews them. He built a product that flies in the face of other digital business models, which are often centred upon advertising, and captured the imagination of hundreds of millions of people worldwide including a certain Mr Zuckerberg.
4. Moving on to Mark Zuckerberg himself, the Facebook CEO has the following attitude which he goes on to explain:
“…move fast and break things.
…the idea was, unless you are breaking some stuff you are not moving fast enough.
I think there’s probably something in that for other entrepreneurs to learn which is that making mistakes is okay. At the end of the day, the goal of building something is to build something, not to not make mistakes.
5. What Steve Jobs did at Apple is to many people the most visible innovation of the last decade, the iPod, iPhone, iPad have transformed our relationship with electronic devices. On the inception of the iPhone Steve Jobs said:
“What we want to do is make a leapfrog product that is way smarter than any mobile device has ever been, and super-easy to use. This is what iPhone is. OK? So, we’re going to reinvent the phone.”
6. It doesn’t seem fair to mention Steve Jobs without his great contemporary Bill Gates. He observed:
“Never before in history has innovation offered promise of so much to so many in so short a time”
It has to be said that most of the people on our list have become very rich through their innovations. But they have also enriched the lives of their customers and been driving forces in their respective economies.
7. Thomas Edison, who invented the incandescent light bulb among many other things, speculated mathematically on the potential for innovation:
“We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.”
After a century of further innovation would he now revise this calculation up or down?
8. We often talk in glowing terms of the innovation that goes on in Bristol and the South West. Continuing with Edison’s mathematical take on knowledge and innovation, founder of West Country powerhouse Dyson, James Dyson has a magic formula:
“ Creativity + Iterative Development = Innovation.”
9. Nolan Bushnell, an American engineer and entrepreneur who improbably founded both Atari and Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Theater observed:
“The best ideas lose their owners and take on lives of their own.”
10. He often polarises opinion but this observation from Rupert Murdoch rings true:
“The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow”
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“And one more thing…” Steve Jobs always used to unveil an exciting innovation at the end of his key note speeches and in that spirit we shall leave the last word to him:
“I wanted to leave a ding in the universe”