There have been quite a few news stories over the past year. Mainly interviews with billionaires who have taken the Warren Buffet pledge. They focus on the differences between MBAs and Entrepreneurs. An MBA is a short sighted creature, dim of wit and, with the help of good glasses, can see as far as the end of the current quarter. They are looking to invest in a single thing which must contribute to the bottom line before the end of the quarter in which it starts. While they pay lip service to 5 year plans, those plans aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. None of them could conceive building something which will last let alone trying to position a company for a good 30+ year run.
An Entrepreneur will invest in 50-60 projects simultaneously. At least 30 of those are different approaches to solving the same problem. They know at best 2 or 3 will pan out and that is a home run for them. Great achievements and long lasting things come from Entrepreneurs while the cheapest piece of doo-doo on a Wal-mart shelf comes from an MBA.
On rare occasions an Entrepreneur will mistakenly take a job with a bunch of MBAs. Once they find out they quickly drum him or her out of the company, but, during their brief stay magic happens.
One such individual got a job at Sony Electronics. Unlike the rest of management, he mandated he be given a tour of all the labs and all of the projects. In one lab engineers had hanging on a wall what today we call ear buds. They explained it was an experiment to see just how small they could make a speaker. There wasn’t any practical application for them but they learned things now being used for car and home stereo systems. Another lab he went into had this great sounding music. He asked about it and found it was coming from a tiny cassette tape deck. The engineers explained they were trying to build the smallest cassette deck possible but when they got done they realized there was no room for recording heads and they didn’t think anyone would want a cassette deck which could not record.
Some of you may know where that story ends. He ordered a trial production run of 10,000 units each. Had them packaged in a box together and called the product the Sony Walkman. The grandfather of your MP3 player. Two failures put together changed consumer electronics forever.
A group of engineers at 3M tried to push a maxim of their industry. That maxim was the longer glue took to dry the harder the bond. They set out to push it to an extreme. There goal was to make a glue/adhesive which made the Crazy and Super glues of the day look like Elmers School Glue. There was only one problem. The glue/adhesive never really got dry. It would stick to things and come right off. It was deemed a colossal failure. Someone there played around with yellow copier paper and that adhesive. You probably have heard of the Post-It Notepad.
Failure being success in waiting also applies to writing. The movie “Office Space” is a classic example. Originally this movie was supposed to be about the Milton character. Yep. Movie saved by director relegating Milton to a bit role. Milton did have an impact in the real world though. His cherished red stapler got a following. The movie came out in 1999 and after a few years of being inundated with requests and orders for a red stapler which didn’t exist, they finally introduced the Rio Red model.