Henry Ford could have built a faster horse, but didn’t

I’m not one to hunt for famous quotes, they sort of grab my attention dependent on mood and timing.  I was reading something related to cloud technologies and came across a good one from Henry Ford:

If I listened to my customers they would have asked me to make a faster horse

Visionaries always look smarter AFTER they’ve conquered the world.  Most game changing technologies come from the mind of an expert who has vision.  Better mouse trap technologies(Google algorithm combined with better advertising engine) vs. never before seen technology(Netscape Navigator) have certain qualities that I think make it easy to read whether they are truly innovative or just iterative.

When I think about cloud computing and all the things its intended to enable, I don’t see visionary nor game changing.  I see evolutionary or, using Clayton Christensen speak,  ‘sustaining technology’.  Simply put, applying existing technology to a new service and wrapping some additional iterative frameworks doesn’t make revolutionary.  Then I read this article summarizing this years CES show and I’m left thinking, really?  I just don’t see anything on there thats all that interesting.  New innovative technology is commonly beaten down by armchair analysts and I don’t see that on the list.

I think the amount of noise new technology gets, to some degree, can provide a litmus to how disruptive it might be.  Obviously, law of averages puts most new ideas to bed well before any true adoption takes place.  But, those that did in fact “change the world” probably have similar attributes.  Without having the time and energy to study all the game changing innovations over the past 100 years, I suspect a healthy percent must have had to overcome significant adversity.

Think for moment when Henry Ford unveiled his first Model T.  The community must have been startled and dismayed at this limited noisy machine.  Comparing it to the existing horse transport must have led to much doubt and ridicule.  The cost, speed, lack of infrastructure and fuel stations, poor reliability, I mean the list is endless.  If I compare this to the cloud model, its receiving limited doubt(beyond LJE), lots of hype, even though many users are still on the sidelines.  If I apply my newly found litmus test, this gives me a clue that the technology is interesting but not disruptive.

Why does disruption matter anyway?   I don’t think it does, I think its merely a reflection of how brilliant the idea and the person is, and in this case, since no one “owns” the cloud idea per se, its all moot anyways.  What a waste!

Still a great quote.


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