None of the manufacturers of horse-drawn carriages became a successful automobile manufacturer

While not entirely true (some companies like Patterson made the transition and had limited success), this sentence I used in my recent Forum des 100 keynote and taken from Building Routes to Customers: Proven Strategies for Profitable Growth summarizes how, in the midst of major changes, markets and balances of power can switch dramatically in a very short time.

I used this statement to illustrate the dangers a country like Switzerland is facing at a time where the internet and other technologies are turning business upside down. A country both successful and conservative has a form of blindness, even a small but dangerous feeling of immunity.

While one feedback was that this is a “consultant’s statement” (I mostly agree), it really struck a chord as most of the interactions I had after the presentation was centered around these words. This certainly is a simplification (the founder of GM was building horse-carriages and is a notable exception), but it is also mostly true. Corporate innovators, if you are looking for a good strong statement to convince your bosses they should let you innovate and take risks, feel free to reuse!

I am an entrepreneur and researcher passionate about understanding the social implications of digital technologies.
2 comments
  1. My grea-tgrandfather in Yorkshire had a company that manufactured bycicles. When a certain Mr. Rolls came along and asked him if he wanted to join a venture to build cars, he said “Nah don’t believe in that industry…”

  2. Apart from the lack of charging infrastructure, is this why the electric car is taking so long to take off?

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