Lessons from the Seventies
At lunch the other day and for whatever reason, the history of the 3M Post It Note became a subject of our conversation. This technological marvel unveiled in the 1970s is still widely used today.
As with other new or disruptive technologies, the ‘sticky note’ was panned at first and for some time. According to Wikipedia, the technology was first developed in 1968. It was not until 1974 that it gained some internal company support.
When finally introduced in 1977, the pilot results were unsatisfactory. However, things started to change in 1978 when a small (focus) group of consumers were positive about the product.
The United States roll-out began in the spring of 1980, followed by Europe and Canada in 1981. A bit of trivia, the reason it was originally yellow was because yellow colored scrap paper was readily available at its inception.[i]
Earlier the day of our lunch meeting, a discussion revolved around how long it might take an idea to become a fundable start-up company. Several participants argued that with proper guidance, the process still might take up to two years. This pundit argued that many entrepreneurs would see that as too long and become disinterested.
The legacy of the Post It Note suggests that this pundit might be incorrect. The lowly sticky note did not even begin its journey to become a Unicorn until twelve years after its technology was discovered.
In 2015, we penned a blog, Titans of the 1940s Today. The basic premise of that piece was when commenting about the Internet of Things (IoT) and its complexity, individuals such as Richard Feynman and John von Neumann (father of the 1945 computer architecture that is the basis of modern computing) had developed solutions for today prior to this author’s birth.[ii]
We stand on the shoulders of these and other giants. The challenge of every generation has been to build on what those who came before advanced. So it remains today!
Body of Knowledge
Human kind has developed a rich body of knowledge in all areas of endeavor. It is readily available for entrepreneurs as well as those employed by all types of organizations. This knowledge base has been addressed in this blog and other writings by the author. Interested readers are invited to review my blogs and newsletters dating back to the last century.
Our march through history provides all of us a ‘go-by’ that can shorten our learning curve. One example this author often cites is the depth of historical knowledge of management.[iii] Contrary to many gurus, humans have managed others and processes for many millennia.
Fail Fast, Fail Often?
If 3M or Feynman et al practiced this technology development model as most interpret it, our world might be a lesser place. Give up and move on to the next?
One interpretation suggests, “Originating from Silicon Valley and its ocean of start-ups, the real aim of “fail fast, fail often,” is not to fail, but to be iterative. To succeed, we must be open to failure—sure—but the intention is to ensure we are learning from our mistakes as we tweak, reset, and then redo if necessary.”[iv]
This same article goes on to state, “Thomas Edison, by example, ‘failed’ 9,000 times before he was successful with his light bulb invention.” Perseverance can be a lonely quality!
Don’t lose heart. Great ideas abound but must gestate. It is often said that we find our soulmate when we least expect to—I know I did. Progress is an iterative process fueled by creativity and critical thinking.
Is Your Idea a Unicorn Waiting to be Born and Mature?
For More Information
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Critical Mass: Value from the RBC Framework
Nuclear physicists define the term, “critical mass” as the amount of fissile material whereby a nuclear reaction is self-sustaining. From that original definition, the construct is further developed along societal and political terms as a function of the environment and number of adopters and their interdependencies that create enough of a consensus for individual actions that sustains an undertaking.
In 1996, the author published the first of several case studies on a societal interaction model based on the Relationships, Behavior and Conditions (RBC) construct among economic actors. Previously the model was only in the domain of academia.
This blog addresses contemporary issues from the RBC perspective and whether in the present state they are sustainable or not. Many readers may be familiar with the “Innovation Adoption Curve.” RBC seeks to enlighten the causality of behaviors that cause movement towards the critical mass that generates movement along this diffusion curve.
Other Blogs by Dr. Shemwell
Dr. Shemwell is an author/contributor for the following 3rd party blogs.
So, You Want to be an Entrepreneur
Dr. Shemwell is a member of the Global Energy Mentors (GEM) Leadership Team. Every month he or one of his colleagues is posting timely tips to help entrepreneurs navigate the energy start up sector. Check out the Landing Page.
Governing Energy Blog
BTOES Insights is the content portal for Business Transformation & Operational Excellence opinions, reports & news. Dr. Shemwell is a contributor.
Consult 2050 connects organizations with a wide range of consultants all around the world. The firm operates an online marketplace for consultancy services.
Essays on Business and Information
This two volume set covers a series of newsletters and opinion pieces published circa 2002-2009, including Bug Lore–Lessons for the Online Economy that addressed real time systems vulnerabilities from Y2K (1998-99).
About the Author
Dr. Scott M. Shemwell has over 30 years technical and executive management experience primarily in the energy sector. He is the author of six books and has written extensively about the field of operations. Shemwell is the Managing Director of The Rapid Response Institute, a firm that focuses on providing its customers with solutions enabling Operational Excellence and regulatory compliance management. He has studied cultural interactions for more than 30 years—his dissertation; Cross Cultural Negotiations Between Japanese and American Businessmen: A Systems Analysis (Exploratory Study) is an early peer reviewed manuscript addressing the systemic structure of societal relationships.