The Fable of the Frog: Jump or Die
Put a frog in boiling water, and it’ll jump right out of the pan, propelled by its need to survive. But take that same frog, place it in temperate water, and slowly start heating up the pan, and you’ll see the cold-blooded amphibian keep adapting its body temperature, right up until it’s boiled and unconscious.
Nokia, Kodak, Blackberry… It’s almost impossible to count all of the fallen giants that have failed to negotiate the turn taken by technological innovation, choosing instead to rest on their laurels, asleep like our poor frog. The ultimate example is Western Union, once a pioneer in telegraphic communication, which committed its greatest error in 1876 when a certain Alexander Graham Bell offered it the patent for his latest invention, in exchange for $100,000. He was refused by the unconvinced bosses. This invention would soon become a revolution: the telephone. At the start of the 20th century, Western Union was bought by AT&T, the new name for The Bell Telephone Company, which Graham Bell founded just after his visit to Western Union.
The lesson to be learned from this old tale is that you should never rely on what you have already accomplished. Instead, continue to challenge yourself and innovate, especially as innovation and decision cycles increase their speed exponentially. And as with any self-respecting fable, I’d like to end with a moral: “When plunged into the burning waters of the future, better to leap than to sleep.”
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