Lessons in Innovation from Rome’s Arch Enemy

Hannibal (247 – 182 BC) was an illustrious general of the North African state of Carthage, Rome’s enemy and rival for control of the Mediterranean.  His father was a Carthaginian general, Hamilcar, who made his 9 year old son swear undying enmity for Rome.  As a boy Hannibal went to Spain, which was under Carthaginian control, and trained to be a soldier.  At the age of 26 he was put in command... Read More--


How will we Solve Problems like Global Warming?

The great advances mankind has enjoyed in health, prosperity, food production and longevity are largely taken for granted.  Around one billion people have been taken out of extreme poverty in the last 20 years.  The march of progress in technology is remarkable – the computing power in your mobile phone is many times that which first put men on the moon. Science, innovation, entrepreneurship... Read More--


Idealize the Answer

When you are looking at a tricky problem try specifying the ideal answer in a world where there are no constraints.  What would a perfect solution look like if we had unlimited resources to achieve it? In the book, Idealized Design[i], Russell Ackoff, Magidson and Addison describe how Bell labs did just such a thing with the telephone.  In the 1950s the VP of Bell labs challenged teams of engineers... Read More--


John Harrison – the master craftsman who solved the Longitude Challenge

On October 22 1707 a fleet of the Royal Navy under the command of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell encountered severe weather near the Scilly Isles off the south-west coast of England. Four ships ran aground and were wrecked with the loss of 1400 sailors including Shovell himself. The main cause of the disaster was the inability of the seamen to accurately calculate their positions. In those days navigators... Read More--


Adversity can be a Spur to Innovation – as shown by the Greatest of Composers

Possibly the greatest composer of all time and certainly the most revolutionary was Ludwig van Beethoven.   Before Beethoven classical music was genteel, calm, structured according to strict rules and designed to please wealthy patrons. Beethoven introduced the Romantic Movement with music that was powerful, disturbing and passionate. He composed nine symphonies, five piano concertos, one violin... Read More--


Which is the Greatest Invention of All Time?

Johannes Gutenberg Which invention or innovation has had the most positive impact on the development of civilisation and the greatest benefit for mankind?  A strong contender is the printing press. Johannes Gutenberg (1398 – 1468) was a German blacksmith, goldsmith and printer who invented the printing press and movable type. Before Gutenberg all books had been hand written or stamped out with fixed... Read More--


How a Boy enabled the Blind to Read

Louis Braille Louis Braille was born in 1809 in Coupvray, a village near Paris. His father was a saddler and little Louis liked to play in his father’s workshop. Unfortunately at the age of three he accidentally pushed a sharp tool called an awl into his eye. His eye became infected. The infection spread to his other eye leaving the small child completely blind. Despite this terrible setback, Louis... Read More--


An Assembly Line of Innovations

Henry Ford A great way to innovate is to take an idea from another place and apply it in your field. Take as an example the assembly line. Henry Ford (1863 – 1947) is often credited with the innovation of the assembly line in mass manufacturing and he was the first to use it in automobile manufacture. However, Ford got the idea from an abattoir. A Ford executive, William Klann, was impressed with... Read More--


An Idea that Transformed Shopping

If you ran a supermarket in say 1960 then you had a problem. The number of different consumer goods kept increasing but how could you accurately price every item at checkout? Even the best checkout clerk could only remember a limited number of prices so most items had to have price stickers – but stickering every item was time consuming and labour intensive. If a price changed then all the units... Read More--


When it comes to Innovation you can either be the Diner or the Dinner

Innovation gives you a choice.  You can either ride with the change and benefit or oppose the change and be run over.   A recent Reuters report describes how taxi drivers in Milan, Chicago and Paris are vigorously opposing the use of the Uber service – a mobile app that allows users to summon a chauffeured car.  It bypasses one of the best established of closed shops.  In places like Milan taxi... Read More--