Gadgets That Have Changed Our Lives

Greetings. Time magazine has just come out with its list of “The 50 Most Influential Gadgets of All Time” and it is definitely a blast from the past (and present). It is also a really fun way to think about innovations that have shaped our lives and changed the way that we connect, explore, listen, picture, learn, play, make, share, and entertain ourselves.

As you go through the article and the gadgets and their brief histories, try to think about why each of these inventions generated so much interest and what lessons they offer in how you and your colleagues can create even greater interest and value in the products, services, and solutions you offer. Then imagine how some of the most recent gadgets, especially those that deal with connecting and educating people, might be used to enhance your work and build an even stronger bond with your customers, team members, and stakeholders.


But most importantly, have fun taking a stroll through this brief history of every day technology.

And in case you are pressed for time, here are the Top Ten…

10. The Hitachi “Magic Wand” (1968)

Let’s just say that this is the only item on Time’s list that is not always intended for children of all ages.

9. The Apple iPod (2001)

The device that changed the way a new generation consumed music and made Apple and the iTunes Store the world’s biggest music retailer.

8. The Kodak Brownie Camera (1900)

Talk about a revolution, Kodak put photography within everyone’s grasp 116 years ago when it made it possible for the world to capture and share the moments of our lives.

7. The Regency TR-1 Transistor Radio (1954)

It is fun to think back to countless evenings as a child when I fell asleep listening to San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s baseball games with my transistor radio under my pillow. It is also fun to think about how we tell our kids today to put away their slightly more versatile electronic devices and go to sleep.

6. The Victrola Record Player (1906)

While the phonograph was invented in 1877, the Victrola was the first record player to bring classical music and opera to homes around the U.S. and the world.

5. The IBM Model 5150 (1981)

Remember the day when almost everyone had an IBM PC or an “IBM Compatible” computer running the DOS operating system? And to think it wasn’t that long ago!

4. The Sony Walkman (1979)

I fondly recall having my first Walkman at the University of Michigan and delighting in my ability to take my music anywhere, in multiples of twelve songs. All by the same artist. I was literally a party waiting to happen! I also fondly recall trying to explain to our kids who have grown up in the digital age, why this large, limited, and somewhat lame gadget was so cool and revolutionary.

3. The Apple Macintosh (1984)

Bold, brash, intuitive, and launched with much fanfare and symbolism in 1984. While it might not have been what George Orwell intended, the first Mac would begin to reframe our connection to “thinking” machines.

2. The Sony Trinitron (1968)

While it wasn’t the first TV or the first color TV, the Trinitron would raise the state-of-the-art in televisions and establish Sony’s place as a global leader in consumer technology.

And Number One is…

1. The Apple iPhone (2007)

An elegant and user-friendly device that would revolutionize our notion of phones and smart phones, and that today places more apps and more computing power in the palm of our hands than a major university computer center did when I was going to college.

It is an intriguing list and an interesting lesson in modern history. And except for missing the waffle iron, twist top bottle, nose hair trimmer, and Popeil’s “Pocket Fisherman,” I would have to say that the folks at Time are pretty spot on in capturing the gadgets that have shaped our lives.



Competing With Yourself

Greetings.  Amid all of the excitement about the new iPhone 5, it is interesting to think about the creation of the original iPhone.  Launched in 2007, it became one of the most remarkably successful technology products in history–with each new version setting sales records that dazzle the imagination.  In fact, within an hour of taking orders, Apple announced that it had sold out its initial inventory of the iPhone 5.

But an even more fascinating story involves the logic behind creating this product.  A logic that was driven in large part by the desire to create an offering that would "kill" its equally impressive and successful iPod before any of Apple's competitors did.  Because it was clear to the team at Apple that someone was going to figure out how to combine a music and content player with a smartphone.     

To learn more, click here to read Farhad Manjoo's article which appeared earlier this week in Slate and was reprinted in Sunday's edition of the Washington Post. Then think about whether it is time to reinvent your offerings or even your entire business in a bold and compelling way–before someone else does.  Because that might be the only way to survive and prosper.


We win in business and in life when we anticipate the need to change. And when we do it brilliantly before anyone else.

Cheers and have an inventive week ahead!

Notes From Sweden

Greetings.  Just in case you aren't able to visit Sweden anytime soon I thought you might enjoy a few observations about life here.  

First, everyone here seems to have an iPhone.  Well maybe not everyone, but Swedes are the highest per capita owners of iPhones in the entire world with over 1.0 million sold here to date in a country of 9.3 million people…with an additional 50,000 new owners each month.  In fact, Swedes are not only really into having the coolest phones, technology and applications, they are also at the forefront of "simplifying" their lives by using their mobile devices.  This includes using their cell phones instead of tickets on buses and trains.

Second, everyone seems to drive a station wagon, or "combi" as the Swedes call them.  Our unofficial survey indicated that roughly 75 percent of the vehicles on the road are station wagons with Volvos at the top of the list.  These vehicles remain very practical in a place where many households have only one car and the average family has 1.9 children.  Not that there aren't a growing number of SUVs on the road, but they are clearly not the vehicle of choice.  It is also interesting to note that public transportation goes almost everywhere and reaches almost every small village and resident in this relatively large (geographically that is) country–even villages with fewer than 100 people.  

Third, the Swedish economy seems to be doing quite well even in the face of the world's current economic crisis.  This is particularly interesting given the country's unique mix of capitalism and government support for social welfare that includes free education all the way from primary school through university, universal healthcare and eldercare and a wide range of other "benefits" that would be shocking to most Americans.

Fourth, a lot of people here smoke or use other tobacco products even though health and fitness is a strong cultural value and this is one of the most highly-educated nations on earth.  And, while a very large percentage of the population ride bicycles regularly, very few people wear helmets.  It does help that most cities have dedicated bike paths that protect riders from all of the station wagons on the road.

Fifth, there is another very interesting connection between Sweden and Minnesota that I only discovered this summer.  Now we all know that many residents of Minnesota trace their family trees to Sweden and other Nordic countries.  But if you tune to 94.9 on the radio here along the west coast of Sweden you can listen to Minnesota Public Radio.  Which was almost a "Twilight Zone-esque" experience.


We win in business and in life when we appreciate the things we have in common with other places and learn from our differences.