Develop, Don't Invent

Did Henry Ford invent the modern assembly line? KIND of. Did Steve Jobs invent the iPod? KIND of.

Where do ideas come from?

Some of the most successful ideas are not original. They are expanded versions of old ideas.

For example:

If you ask most people, "Who invented the iPod?" they'll say, "Steve Jobs!"

And he did. Kinda.

See, the iPod is really just a nice version of a portable MP3 player. The first one of those came out in 1997, four years before the first iPod.

But even the first MP3 player was just an evolved version of a digital audio player, the first of which debuted in 1979!

In other words, Steve Jobs didn't invent the ipod so much as he developed it.

I like that word develop because it's a lot less pressurized than invent.

When you want to come up with new ideas for your business - or even your life - there's a temptation to try to come up with something BRAND NEW and TOTALLY ORIGINAL.

But that can be a recipe for failure.

It's like a writer staring at a blank page.

Any writer will tell you it's easier to start with something, no matter its quality, and to develop that rather than starting from scratch.

Steiner Sports is a great example. Needless to say, we didn't invent the concept of athletes signing memorabilia.

But we did develop that concept into athletes adding inscriptions to their signings, like "Super Bowl Champs" or "Cy Young Award, 1993." Or to have someone like Derek Jeter sign a photo and to couple that with a disc of dirt from Yankee Stadium.

We have hundreds of original products at Steiner Sports, but almost all of them were "developed" as opposed to being "invented."

Another great example: So many people credit Henry Ford with the manufacturing assembly line.

But Ford didn’t actually invent the assembly line. He decided to use it to produce cars after visiting a meatpacking plant where such lines were used to process the beef. His big idea was to reappropriate the concept. To develop it in another area. But it was such a significant jump in manufacturing that we remember him as inventing it himself, much like Steve Jobs with the iPod.

I think all of these anecdotes are important to remember in business and in life.

Because we have a tendency to want to come up with and execute ideas from scratch.

We all want to be "our own" men.

But going it solo like that too often ends in frustration or paralysis. 

It's often more effective to look at ideas that already work and sculpt them to your own needs. To "develop" them.

And you don't have to develop only ideas of others.

It often helps to look at ideas you've had that didn't work but that had potential - and tweak them until they DO work.

You seriously don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Heck - Henry Ford didn't even invent the assembly line!

SO - Is there an idea that you love that you could fit into something new?

Do you have an old idea that might be worth tweaking until it's fully developed?

PS - Shout-out to my good friend Alex Mandossian for inspiring this post, with a talk he gave at Steiner Sports earlier this week.


Leave a comment