Recently, I was browsing in the closing down sale of a shop that sold a varied mix of gifts, books, and cards and stumbled across “Fifty Cars That Changed The World”, as compiled by London’s Design Museum. It is obvious how cars have changed our lives, but I was intrigued to find out what ‘changing the world’ meant in this context and which cars would qualify. I guess my curiosity was, in part, to see if I had ever owned any of the exalted group!
I picked up a copy, and began to flick through the pages. Eventually, I was sufficiently embarrassed by the amount of time that I had been standing there to actually buy a copy and bring it home. It turns out that not all of them were successes, but each does represent a turning point in terms of technology, e.g. front wheel rather than rear wheel drive, style or popularity. Or, in some cases, disasters that changed the fortunes of companies, for example the Austin Allegro – called “the vital stumble” in the history of British Leyland.
One thing is clear. None of these cars appeared out of thin air. All built on, and adapted, what had gone before. And the same is true in all industries. Times change and products evolve. Companies adjust to new circumstances and move on, seeking growth and success with new ideas and better ways of working. Innovations enable organisations to outcompete and differentiate from others operating in the same market. Usually, the advantage is temporary and overtaken – necessitating new inventions and adaptations to stay in the race; 0ften inspired by customer needs and expectations as much as brilliant flashes of inspiration.