Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wet Blankets Throughout History


To help develop an open-minded and defiant attitude to other' rejection of your ideas, remember that many creative contributions are initially met with skepticism if not outright hostility.  Keep a list of creative contributions that we now know to be significant but that were once thought to be crazy, stupid, useless, offensive and doomed to failure.  The next time you or someone you know has an idea, give an idea a chance - or at least to not immediately shoot it down - than to be one of those who always say, "That wor't work." or "That is a bad idea" or "That is too risky" and, hence, never do anything great.  Here are some examples to begin your list:
  • "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communications.  The device is inherently of no value to us." [Western Union internal memo, 1876]
  • "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value.  Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" [David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920's]
  • "The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible." [A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service.  Smith on on to found Federal Express Corp.]
  • "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" [H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927]
  • "I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper."  [Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With The Wind."]
  • "A cookie store is a bad idea.  Besides, the market research reports say American likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you made." [Response to Debbie Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields's Cookies]
  • "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." [Decca Recording Company rejecting the Beatles, 1962]
  • "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." [Lord Kelvin, President, Royal Society, 1895]
  • "If I had thought about, I wouldn't have doen the experiment.  The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this."  [Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesive for 3-M "Post-It" notepads.]
  • "So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you thing about funding us?  Or, we'sll give it to you.  We just want to do it.  Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.'  And they said, 'No.'  So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you.  You havent' got through college yet.' "  Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer.
  • Professor Goddard does not know the relations between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react.  He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools." [1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work.]
  • "Your want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of uyour muscles?  It can't be done.  It just a fact of life.  You just have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable condition of weight training." [Resons to Arthur Jones, who solved the "unsolvable" problem by inventing Nautilus.]
  • "Drill for oil?  You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil?  You're crazy!" [Drillers whom Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.]
I am not sure of the original author of the above but this went the rounds when I was at FedEx back in 1995-1997.  I think that Fred Smith must have been the instigator but we could never prove it.  :-)  If you have any more "documented" Wet Blankets, please send them to me or post them in the comments section.  Thanks,


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