Dare to dream: lessons from world-known inventors and presenters

Toy Boat at Selsey, Kenneth Rowntree

We’ve witnessed business visionaries like Steve Jobs, whose groundbreaking presentations captivated audiences worldwide, read countless articles and books on the subject, and yet wonder how such people drive progress. And most importantly, how can we follow in their footsteps?

 

The crux of the matter lies in our approach. The business focuses on selling, which is quite logical, of course. But at every stage of product development, our minds are consumed by sales. Everyone, from engineers to marketers, is immersed in formulas, analytics, and advertising strategies. These aspects are essential and valuable, yes. However, more than these processes are needed to become proper technology and marketing revolutionaries. To surpass mediocrity, one must transcend the singular focus on sales and embrace ideas and meaning above profit.

 

On that unforgettable day when Steve Jobs unveiled a personal computer from a simple bag, more powerful and productive computers already existed. Future advancements were in the works as well. Yet, people weren’t dreaming about RAM capacities or processor speeds. Instead, they yearned for personal computers that mirrored the sleekness, convenience, and aesthetics of everyday household appliances like televisions and video recorders.

 

Twenty-three years later, when Steve Jobs took the stage, unveiling the first iPhone, there were already “smart” mobile devices offering superior communication and longer battery life. However, people truly craved a handheld computer — a device that would fulfil their dreams.

 

Apple’s secret sauce was to bring people’s dreams to life, capture their imagination, and deliver what was envisioned. But to accomplish this, you must be a dreamer yourself.

 

In a serendipitous twist, Jobs once referenced a refrigerator while contemplating the ideas behind the Macintosh. It’s hard to fathom now, but refrigerators and computers share a similar origin story.

 

Once, refrigerators were massive industrial structures found in warehouses or aboard ships. A century ago, even the most innovative and modernist architects didn’t consider refrigerators when designing houses and apartments. Instead, they incorporated ventilated storage rooms or cold cellars, as preserving food was a constant challenge, particularly during summer.

 

Only a fortunate few could afford to install a home cooling unit, which required a separate room for the engine and compressor. It was a complex and cumbersome affair. The dream of a portable refrigerator that could fit into a small space, no larger than a closet, seemed unattainable.

 

However, in 1927, General Electric introduced the Monitor-Top home refrigerator—the first mass-market model that turned this dream into reality. Despite its hefty price tag of $525 (equivalent to $7,500 to $8,000 today) and the looming Great Depression, the Monitor-Top sold over a million units, profoundly impacting the concept of comfort, the food industry, and architectural design.

 

Steve Jobs had a knack for finding relatable examples; one of his favorites was the refrigerator. Like how you effortlessly store and retrieve food without worrying about spoilage, Jobs believed computers should be equally intuitive and hassle-free. The focus should be on using them rather than understanding them.

 

In 1968, Alan Kay introduced the concept of Dynabook, a device encompassing the features of today’s personal computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Kay’s visionary sketch contained elements that would later become a reality in these devices. However, at the time, such advancements only existed in science fiction.

 

Even Alan and other experts understood that they were dreaming, realizing that widespread use of such technology lay in the distant future. The arrival of widespread computerization depended on dreamers like Jobs and Wozniak, who dared to push boundaries and make dreams a reality.

 

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that Apple wasn’t the sole master of turning dreams into reality. Other pioneers dared to transform ideas that seemed straight from science fiction into tangible products.

 

A massive wave of excitement surrounded the release of the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X cell phone in 1984. How many of those eager customers were avid fans of the intrepid Captain Kirk and his crew’s adventures aboard the Enterprise? In those very adventures, the heroes wielded wireless handheld devices for communication, pushing the boundaries of imagination.

 

Surprisingly, the need to create and bring a cell phone to the mass market wasn’t even apparent to futurists then. In Stanley Kubrick’s visionary film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Dr. Heywood Floyd utilized a specialized cabin apparatus to make wireless calls. Motorola took a risk, charging a hefty $3,995 for the novelty (equivalent to $10,000 to $11,000 today). Still, they bet on the dream and emerged victorious, solidifying Martin Cooper as the “father of the cell phone.”

 

This principle extends beyond the realm of information technology. Consider Lee Iaccoca and his invention of the Mustang. Did you know that the initial base model of the Mustang wasn’t a bona fide sports coupe? Iaccoca tapped into the aspirations of millions of Americans (and beyond) who yearned for sports cars but couldn’t afford the high price tags. By crafting a car based on a family sedan that exuded the essence of speed even when motionless, Iaccoca captivated the hearts of dreamers everywhere.

 

Heinrich Nordhoff had a similar vision when he transformed the Volkswagen Beetle into an international automotive phenomenon. His dream was to create a car that transcended social status and could be purchased without concern for neighbors’ or colleagues’ judgments.

 

Dreams have guided the paths of illustrious figures like Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, Guglielmo Marconi, and the Lumiere brothers, propelling them towards remarkable commercial success.

 

By now, you’ve likely deduced the conclusion we’re driving at: to become a truly successful techno guru poised to etch your name in the annals of civilization and reap substantial rewards, you must dare to dream. Embrace ideas that others envision, even if they appear crazy and fantastical.

 

Instead of merely “solving the user’s problem” or “selling a product,” you must embrace the art of giving dreams away—for a modest fee.

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