Crushing dreams

put aside a small chunk ofmoney and have your staff give it out to people whose ideas you're absolutely sure haven't a hope -because those are ones your people will learn from, and those are theones from among which the next great product set will eventually arise.
Written by Paul Murphy, Contributor

It's common wisdom that less than one business idea or product per hundred ever makes it to market - so, have you ever wondered what we're missing, and why?

On the sad but not true side, I'm glad to report that at least one of the big four accounting firms just turned down an opportunity to enter today's hottest consulting market --because they thought the start-up revenues at the Hunsaker, Dunn, & Heinen ethics advisory firm too low to justify their partnership demands.

More seriously, there are lots of great IT products that just aren't being offered - and in most cases you can thank some idiot, or a committee of idiots, who crushed the dream early enough, or violently enough, for the originator to have dropped it.

I don't think, for example, that Linksys ever actually made an iPhone - and Cisco's product under that name seems more intended to raise Apple's costs then to sell to consumers - but someone working with Linksys must have had a great idea crushed.

I've had a few: for example I believe I was the first, back in 1991, to suggest that the best way to use Microsoft Windows for email and other functions requiring confidentiality would be to install a Windows emulator on Windows - rebooting the emulator as required and then suggesting that the VM model could be applied to automate the reboots. Nobody believed me when I said the market would develop. -;)

Today I think there's a nice opportunity for a customer recovery plugin for business intelligence processing. The idea here is simple: people move a lot, and stores like Walmart have the information to recognise when regular customers stop using a credit card at some store, or local group of stores, but don't immediately re-appear using that card somewhere else. When that happens, the plugin would get the customer's new address from the card issuer, and send the customer a gift basket including a gift certificate welcoming them to the chain's nearest store in their new neighbourhood.

I think I'll call Sobey's (a Canadian grocery chain) and ask if they want to pilot test it - or more likely not; I've been crushed before and didn't enjoy it.

And then there's the MoonRay. Sun's cross licensing agreement with Microsoft probably lets them develop a new WABI for Solaris - couple that with the MAJC based XVR-4000 architecture that's just sitting in the discontinued bin and you have what it takes for a 3D capable home and office desktop that runs just about everything -but does it with the security and cost advantages of centralised SPARC processing.

I know: nobody believes that the market will develop.

Interestingly, the MoonRay would be the perfect home extension for the iMac, pocket edition (now known as the Apple iPhone) because it could combine power-at-home with the best features of a server based web presence. Seamless and secure: full access from anywhere, at any time.

But hey, I know, I know: nobody believes that the market will develop -;)

My all time favourite lost invention, however, is the diet plate - largely because I remember the less-than-delighted reaction this got from the woman I was with at the time.

The idea is simple: imagine a lightweight dinner plate, mark out pie slices, build weight sensors and a three button keypad into each slice, add an LCD readout somewhere. Put lunch (or supper) on the plate, push it onto separate slices, type in the 3 letter food code for each slice - and the display shows total calories on the plate, counting down as you eat.

Crushed! and in more ways than one - but, guess what? possible now - especially as an iPhone application - meaning that you'd carry a fashion accessory rather than an ugly plate to restaurants.

There are lots of genuinely good ideas that don't make it to market largely because somebody in authority thought they wouldn't sell or wouldn't fit someone else's agenda - so don't be that person. If you've got any kind of R&D budget control at all, put aside a small chunk of money and have your staff give it out to people whose ideas you're absolutely sure haven't a hope - because those are ones your people will learn from, and those are the ones from among which the next great product set will eventually arise.


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