Henry Ford was not the person to invent the car or even the assembly line. Still, he goes down in history as one of the greatest innovators not only of his time, but of all time. He made motor vehicles commercially available to the masses as opposed to only a selection of the wealthiest in society. Before Henry Ford, the car, commonly called the horseless carriage, was a luxury that wasn’t widely adopted until the cost and efficiency of manufacturing could be brought down. Henry was innovative by taking something like the assembly line or horseless carriage and revisioning it to fit the mold of something in high demand.
In August of 2017 Forbes actually published an article on some of the greatest lessons aspiring innovators can learn from Ford and I’ve decided to share them with you here. First on this list is, “be so good at what you do that people think you invented it.” As I mentioned before, Ford did not invent the automobile, he did not have the proprietor rights, but he transformed the idea all together. Sometimes you don’t conceive an idea, but you see it to its completion—revisioning is a powerful tool because it requires the ability to un-see as well. Collaboration is a beautiful aspect of human invention, as they say: two minds are greater than one. The second lesson is “failures are opportunities.” Like many successful people before and after him, Henry Ford failed numerous times on the way to his legacy. The interesting thing about this is the selective nature to which people tend to recall his short comings. Embrace them, they’ll be little more than a bump on the road to success anyway—win some and learn some! Next on this list is “be as strong behind the scenes as you are anywhere else.” Henry Ford didn’t just talk the talk, but he also walked the walk. His inquisitive nature began with a pocket watch he wanted to learn the mechanics of.
As a boy he wasn’t doing this in hope of making money. One famous quote of his was, “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking” and he exemplified that over the duration of his life. Next on Forbes’ list is “don’t be a show off” like many highly successful people, Ford freed up cognitive space by dressing in casual clothes and wasn’t over concerned with his outward image. Instead he let his work speak for himself and expected people to know who he was not, how he looked. Lastly, “don’t be in the business of making money” Ford fought for his brand and would make it so his workers got competitive wages from the beginning. Henry Ford was famous not because of the money he made (which was a lot, don’t get me wrong), but because of his brand which people needed. Ford was not a perfect person, and was notorious for his problematic opinions, but he was an excellent entrepreneur in practice. Perhaps with a nuanced application of something in demand you can bring innovation to today’s existing technology as Ford did!
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