How could they get it so wrong?

This weeks tip is in celebration of getting it wrong. Not just a little bit wrong. I'm talking about badly wrong, spectacularly, completely and utterly wrong.

Here's an example:

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers
Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943

See what I mean?

Here are some more:

This "telephone" has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.
Western Union internal memo, 1876

Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible
Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895

Everything that can be invented, has been invented
Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899

We may not know very much about what the future brings but in some areas we can virtually guarantee that we have got it utterly wrong.

More on this in a moment but first, here are some more examples:

The concept is interesting and well formed but in order to earn better than a "C", the idea must be feasible. Fred Smith's professor at Yale in response to his paper proposing a reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express).

640k ought to be enough for anybody
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, 1981

Notice how many assumptions in these quotes are going unquestioned and when thinking about what is coming along in the future, some things we DO know:

So, this week, have a think about where you might be getting it wrong…

What do the experts, the experienced, the wise heads in your business take for granted?

The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?
David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investments in the radio in the 1920's

What assumptions do you and they take for granted about the future?

Computers in the future may weigh no more that 1.5 tons
Popular Mechanics magazine on the march of technology, 1949

What would be possible for you, your team, and your business if they (and you) were completely wrong about what's coming?

There is no reason why anyone would want a computer in their home
Ken Olson, President, Chairman and Founder of DEC, 1977

And if you set aside every basic assumption you hold true about the future then what could possibly happen to you, your team and your industry?

Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value
Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre

So, what should you be working on to take advantage of this? The thing about being wrong is that few of us like to admit that we might not have it right. At this stage of our lives in can be quite difficult to start questioning basic assumptions about our business/company/industry/world but question them we must because, if we don’t, we run the risk of ending up like the man who turned down the Beatles saying that guitar groups were on the wane!

Imagine for a moment that you came into work only to discover that you had lost 95% of your money, buildings, customers, people and products. What would you do with all that freedom? I only ask because somewhere out there, right now, is a small start-up with only 5% of what you have. And if you don't act soon, they are going to take your business away. What do you need to do NOW?

Imagine for a second that you have it completely wrong but fortunately you began to question everything before it was too late. Just consider what riches could be lying in wait for you, the seeds of a new idea, plan, product or direction that would allow you to create the future instead of missing it…