Does Your Business Suffer From Chronic Blindness?

It’s easy to make fun of Bill Gates for saying “No one will need more than 637 KB of memory for a personal computer.” To give you some sense of the scale of Bill’s blindness, the computer that I’m typing this on has 8388608 KB of memory.

That’s quite a mistake coming from the technological lantern like Bill Gates. However, there are only two differences between him and the rest of us.

  1. Bill’s blindness was public. We have the benefit of making our stupid statements in private most of the time.
  2. And Bill was able to correct for it. Most of us go down never able to adjust and change our minds. In other words, we insist on being blind.

Perhaps one of the “secrets” of Bill’s success is his ability to root out his own blindness and correct for it. Most of us are not so lucky. In fact…

History is littered with examples of smart, successful people making stupid statements and being chronically blind. Thus ruining their business in the process.

Dig These Examples

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I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.

This piece of chronic blindness is brought to you by none other than an IBM Chairman Thomas Watson, upon evaluating the business potential of new technology in 1943.

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The concept is interesting and well formed, but in order to earn better than a C the idea must be feasible.

We think that our intellectual elite has what it takes to be smart. Alas, no one is safe from chronic blondness.

The above quote is from a Yale professor explaining the poor grade he gave to one of his students on his research paper regarding overnight delivery system.

The student’s name was Fred Smith who decided to follow through on his not-feasible idea and went on to start a little company called Federal Express after graduating from college.

—————————————————————————————————————–

I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out a year.

Yikes. Is there even a name for chronic blindness like this one?

What short-sighted moron could have uttered such a statement?

An editor in charge of business books at Prentice Hall publishers.

—————————————————————————————————————–

There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.

Ken Olson, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, in 1977.

—————————————————————————————————————–

Airplanes are interesting toys, but of new military value.

Marshall Ferdinand Foch, professor of military strategy in one of the most prestigious Military Academies in France uttered this piece of chronic blindness sometime before World War I.

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The automobile will never, of course, come into as common use as bicycle.

Of course.

Thank you, 1899 edition of the Literary Digest, for that piece of chronic blindness.

—————————————————————————————————————–

Everything that can be invented has been invented.

I guess we should all just pack up and go home, ey?

This quote comes from the Commissioner of the US Office of Patents, Charles Duell, in 1899.

—————————————————————————————————————–

We don’t like their sound, and the guitar music is on its way out.

Some chronically blind music executive at Decca Recording Company back in 1962. The band Decca rejected?

You may have heard of them, they call themselves the Beatles.

—————————————————————————————————————–

All this of course is only the tip of the iceberg. Our past -both our own and the past of others- is littered with examples of chronic blindness.

Can We Learn From This?

It seams that all these examples have at least one thing in common.

These chronically blind statements were made by people who were experts in their own field. People who should have had a better foresight. Alas, NO ONE is safe from chronic blindness.

  • What are YOU expert in?
  • Can you see YOUR chronic blindness?
  • Do you have what it takes to correct for it?

Human Generated Related Posts:

This post was loosely based on a very funny and thought-provoking book The Stupid History of The Human Race (Amazon Affiliate Link) by Bob Fenster

Dino Dogan

Global Force for Badassery | Founder of Triberr | Refugee from Bosnia | Writer for Technorati | Speaker | Lousy Martial Artist | Pretty good singer/songwriter | Hi :-)

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  • http://www.itinerantentrepreneur.com/journal/ Robert Dempsey

    An expert is defined as someone that knows more than someone else. So by that definition, I’m an expert of many things! Hence, I get business, people reading my blog, etc.

    In order to be sure I can see my blindspots I’m always talking with other people – telling them what I’m up to, asking for feedback. This allows me to be sure I’ve covered many angles. If there are holes, I can quickly fill them.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      haha..you said “holes, I can quickly fill them.” :-p

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      On the serious bit yo…as a network engineer of yore, I remember when .tv domain extensions became available. The dude purchased the rights to it from a small island of Tovuli or something rather for like 50 grand. Then he started charging all sorts of crazy money for .tv domains. I was sure that was the stupidest business move in the world…needless to say I was dead wrong…tho I still think .tv domains are dumb :-)

  • Anonymous

    I love that you point out that these sort sighted people were considered experts in their field. What people forget is that experts become experts by learning from their mistakes. You don’t become an expert and magically stop making mistakes. You still make mistakes, just not the ones you’ve previously made.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      I like that…lets make that a rule :-) Experts make mistakes, just not the same ones.

      • http://www.montrealfinancial.ca/blog ronika

        I was just have this discussion (learning from mistakes) this evening. Sony may have lost (badly) with the Betamax, but they certainly seem to have won (a very similar battle) with Blu Ray.
        Of course there is a difference between being ignorant and short sighted, and learning from one’s mistakes, as your excellent examples demonstrate.

  • http://twitter.com/lavenderuses Patricia Millman

    So many people label themselves as ‘experts’. I haven’t met too many of them yet…..but I did love all your examples. I had heard a few but not all of them.

    And I’m glad that many of my mistakes have been made in private. Bill Gates can afford to laugh at himself eh ;-) He did something about the ones he made. Enjoyed the post. Thanks Dino

    Patricia Perth Australia

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Thnx Patricia…the examples are really good. I got them from Fenster’s book on stupid history of human race…awesome, fun and quick read. I’ve heard of some of those prior to the book of course (the bill gates one, IBM one, DEC one..notice a pattern? lol all computer related :-) But the rest were just as fascinating and he’s got ton more in his book.

      oh…and I’m with you on the whole experts thing…I’ve met very few in my life :-)

  • http://www.expatlifecoach.com/blog John Falchetto

    Dino, yes we all do suffer from chronic blindness, or putting plainly just being stupid. Sometimes we push the limits of stupid and win a Darwin award, other times we fail and learn. In the end we all call it experience right? ;)

    Thanks Dino for reminding us that we all fail sometimes, it’s how we fast we learn from these failures that really count.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      For sure…I couldn’t agree more.

      Btw…we’ve set triberr to “drip” retweets instead of just blasting the same tweet to every tribe member. Let me know your impressions once you start seeing your today’s post “dripped” into tribal twitter stream :-)

  • http://live-your-love.com/ Brankica U

    Dino, you were right when you told me about this. It is world rocking!

    I know of at least one “expert” in “our circles” that think knows the best and keeps teaching people the wrong stuff. Don’t worry, people, I am soon to correct those mistakes cause by the person and write about stuff that won’t hurt your rankings, lol.

    Dino, this is awesome. I can’t believe Gates said something like that. But the others are even funnier. I think my favorite is the guy with the patents that said everything is already invented. When I was younger one day I thought, what can they invent that would be as popular as a TV or an airplane, and needed in every day life. Well I don’t think about that anymore, cause obviously people can come up with some crazy yet very useful ideas!

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      My fav is the French General who didn’t see military use for airplanes. #duffus :-)

  • http://hypertransitory.com/ John Garrett

    I love how these guys are so confident and so assured when they make these statements.

    Didn’t Steve Ballmer make some sort of statement about the iPhone being a $600 paper-weight or something along those lines? Some people have the vision, and some just don’t.

    It is a real wake-up call, though. You’ve always gotta be coming at your idea/problem from every angle possible, bouncing it off others and making sure you didn’t miss anything. It’s not always humanly possible but the power of these quotes is that a little open-mindedness could have woke these guys up to some new possibilities.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      You know, your comment reminded me of another one. Xerox developed what we know as computer desktop and the input device (mouse). Yet they didnt see the potential in it and gave it up for nothing to Apple and Microsoft.

      One of the execs said, and this is pretty much a quote “no one will ever use something called a mouse.” wow huh?

  • http://twitter.com/LeoWid Leon Widrich

    Dude, these quotes are such a great source of motivation, I feel. Really gets me to dig my heels in even more. We can’t forecast what will be big in 1, 5 or 10 years. But we can do the work :).

    Thanks for this little reminder Dino. Let me Buffer this :)

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      haha..awesome..buffer away!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/janetcallaway Janet Callaway

    Dino, aloha. My favorite has long been Fred Smith’s Yale professor. It gets back to the difference between those who teach (with no actual experience in the subject outside academia) and those who do.

    You are also right on that we get to make our faux pas in relative private as compared to the world stage.

    Thx so much, Dino. Aloha. Janet

    P.S. Brankica, noticed your comment and look forward to seeing what you have to teach us.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Hey Janet. You’ve been such an amazing member of my little community I would like to extend an invite to triberr….send me you email via twitter DM.

  • http://www.thesaleslion.com/ Marcus Sheridan,The Sales Lion

    Awesome examples Dino. Love this man. Just makes you shake your head with each one and think, “Wow, that guy was an idiot!!” ;-)

    always enjoy your stuff Dino

    Marcus

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Thnx Marcus. You know…I have to apologize for neglecting dedicated DIY community members like yourself. I’ve been so busy getting triberr off the ground, it has consumed most of my “free” time. Anyways…DM your email address and I’ll send you an invite to triberr..you will love it :-)

      • http://www.thesaleslion.com/ Marcus Sheridan,The Sales Lion

        Can you send me a link on triberr so as to describe it? I like groups but I’m always worried about false relationships, ya know? Granted, there is a fine line and they do get a little blurred, but I’d be interested in learning more about it, that’s for sure. My email is Marcus1thesaleslioncom

        thanks bud.

  • http://twitter.com/SheilaAtwood SheilaAtwood

    Dino,

    I have never put my foot in my mouth.

    It is a good thing that there were people that did not buy into what these experts had to say. “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” is my favorite.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      haha..yes…I love that one too. Wow…talk about lack of imagination and shortsightedness, huh.

  • http://www.allisondevelopmentgroup.com Erica Allison

    Very thought provoking post, Dino. I loved the examples of statements made totally idiotic when given a good dose of perseverance and time. In addition to this showing me that I need to review my blind spots, it also shows us that we shouldn’t take no for an answer or give up when faced with a ‘smack down’ comment like those seen above. Thanks!

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      I love when my posts have the desired effect. And this one clearly did “land” exactly how I hoped it would :-)

  • http://twitter.com/StartYourNovel Start Your Novel

    I find it surprising that Ferdinand Foch — a professor of military history, no less — wouldn’t know that the Mongols used carrier pigeons to drop small explosive pellets on their enemies, and that airplanes, those “new toys,” could carry a lot more than pigeons ever would. Talk about chronic blindness.

    Thomas Watson made the mistake of thinking computers would never shrink in size. I mean, back in ’43 computers took up entire floors. So it’s understandable. I don’t know whether he ever recanted. Hope he did.

    These grand pronouncements seem remarkably stupid now, but you’re right to bring up the question, “can we learn from this?” What if we are deceiving ourselves in similar ways? Sometimes we’re too caught up in the present to catch a glimpse of the future.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Here is my take on it.

      I think the reason Foch didnt see airplanes as viable is he prob didnt know about the Mongols. The information was a scarce commodity back then.

      As far as Im concerned, there is not even a question that we do fool ourselves in thinking we are impervious to this kind of blindness. It takes a special care to one’s awareness to see it and admit it to one’s self.

      However, I’ve learned something long time ago. I could say that Fedex is a bad biz model or that airplanes have no military use, but is it useful to think in the negative like that? Would it not be better to say HOW could Fedex make for a good biz model or HOW could airplanes be used for military purpose.

      This type of thinking is the essence of my positive philosophy because its constructive, not reductive.

      ANyways…thnx for leaving another amazing comment that got the gerbil in my brain spinning its wheel :-)

      • http://twitter.com/StartYourNovel Start Your Novel

        That’s it exactly. Thinking in the negative leads nowhere.

  • http://www.hanelly.com hanelly

    Great post, man. I’ve got nothing else to add except that this is awesome.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Thanks Andrew. I always appreciate and love seeing your face here :-)

      When you can, you got to give me some additional feedback on triberr. We’ve changed the algorithm to collect the latest post only every 24 hrs. Which will minimize the monopolization of everytone’s twitter stream. Makes sense?
      Let me know if there is anything else we should work on :-)

  • http://www.murlu.com Murray

    As a response thing thing, I’d say that (like we talked about before), having people that you actually LISTEN to is very, very important. Being open to the idea.

    Think of how many great things have been passed over because they “wouldn’t work” – someone fresh brings up the idea and the old system rejects it.

    This means we have to reject that noise and do it on our own; we have the tools, time for the leg work.

    (dang, that got preachy haha)

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      That DID get preachy but thats ok…I think its just the side effect of being in New Orleans for a week lol

  • http://twitter.com/Faryna Stan Faryna

    The moral of the post: Embrace science <imagine Bill Nye the science guy saying it)!

    In other words experiment, make mistakes, learn from mistakes, and do amazing things. Rinse and repeat.

    I agree with you, Dino.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      haha…I love that guy Bill Nye. (and apparently Im adding rhyming to my resume :-) and nicely summarized. Make mistakes, learn from mistakes, and do amazing things. Rinse and repeat. Indeed.

  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com davinabrewer

    I think blindness and lack of vision and foresight aren’t exactly the same thing. I’m not blind but I do struggle to see around the corner, past the next projects sometimes – pressing needs of the NOW making SOMEDAY seem less important; I go a little Scarlett, think about tomorrow tomorrow. ;-) Something I need to work on for sure. Right now looking ahead 5 years is almost impossible, as you never know when the next game changer will come along, and in what form. In a recent NYT piece, David Pogue quoted some pundits saying “it’s a failure” and “underwhelmed” and “great it is not” and the naysayers who didn’t get it. These were reviews of the first iPad, which he mentioned in his iPad 2 review. FWIW.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      You’re right about 5 year plans being …ahhh…useless, I guess is the word. My main and most promising project and the thing Im most excited about at this moment didnt even exist 2 months ago. Btw, Im talking about http://triberr.com of course …

  • Adrienne

    Great post Dino and so glad people moved ahead and did it anyway. I’ve learned to never say never on the majority of things because you just never know. You did such a great job I really have nothing new to add.

    Your posts are always so interesting and really get me to thinking. Thank you for that.

    Adrienne

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      “You just never know.” Thats not a bad way to go through life :-)

  • http://www.realityburst.com Eugene

    Anyone else find it a little odd that the Commissioner of the US Office of Patents would make a claim like that? Isn’t it his job to basically record new inventions? So he basically claimed that his job is useless?

    A lot of thought had to go into that statement lol

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      LMAO….yeah…true ..so true…either a lot of thought or none at all lol, its def one of the two.

  • http://askaaronlee.com Aaron Lee

    We learned half of them in classes as well and Bill Gates is the example that we often use. It was funny indeed, fact is we won’t know and we can’t predict technology much. One reason why Warren Buffett doesn’t invest in technology stocks. People used to call him crazy, till the dot com stock crashed. People now call him “the man” :)

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      I didnt know that about Buffer…but I love his songs :-p

      The two non-tech examples (the Beatles and Fedex) show that it really isnt limited to technology. We are pretty blind most of the time. I know I have to work hard to remove the cob webs…

      But all that aside, when are you going to be done with school and start doing this Social media thing full time? So we can all brace ourselves …cuz you know you gonna rock :-)

      • http://askaaronlee.com Aaron Lee

        Oh yeah! forgot about those. I read about the beatles and how hard they worked in Outliers by gladwell. Fed ex is a superb case study that we did in class. Interesting indeed.

        So yes! businesses do suffer from chronic blindness!!

        Me? I am finishing in May, will intern till July and work with a company till December i guess, need the experience. Lack tons of them. Got rejected by few companies because my resume showed no “real” experience.

        Cheers! love your blog post.

  • http://twitter.com/SecretsOfEntrep EntrepreneurSecrets

    Great article. Thanks for sharing.
    Sammy from http://www.entrepreneurshipsecret.com/

  • http://twitter.com/ElisesReview Elise M

    AWESOME. People have no idea what they are talking about, right? I love it when stuff like this turns the so-thought impossible into everything completely possible.

    Pigs WILL fly one day and when they do, I’ll be there to tell everyone “told ya so.” :-)

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      LMAO…Im so tweeting that shit :-)

    • http://www.codrutturcanu.com Codrut Turcanu

      Exactly people don’t know what they talk about, don’t even know what they want, that’s why us, as bloggers writers and consultants with their well-being at heart should guide them along the Internet jungle.

      P.S. My blindness was that I can do what I’m doing all by myself and need nobody else. I now try to delegate some of my tasks and free up my time for what I love the most: writing problem-oriented blog posts and content that help people, not waste their time.

      • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

        haha..your blindness was my blindness my friend …once I allowed others to do stuff for me I actually started getting someplace…go figure lol

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  • http://www.facebook.com/mick.haensler Mick Haensler

    A fun article and a great reminder on a Monday morning.