Learning Lessons from “The Crazy Ones”

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On February 21, 2012

A while back Apple ran a television commercial that celebrated some of the more innovative thinkers, movers and shakers, and creative people throughout history. Over images of individuals such as Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Branson, Thomas Edison, Mohammed Ali, Ted Turner, Mahatma Gandhi, Emilia Earhart, and others, the voice-over proclaimed:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

The point, of course, was that these were all people who refused to accept the status quo. Often their ideas were initially ridiculed (or at least rejected), yet they refused to accept defeat. They didn’t believe in (or couldn’t tolerate) “business as usual.” The prevailing thinking that “This will never work” didn’t deter them.

What can we learn from them for today’s business? What did they posses that we need if we’re going to succeed? One thing is for sure: They thought about things differently (which, by the way was the catch phrase of the Apple campaign). Can you solve a significant business problem by coming at it from a different perspective? Maybe you need to focus less on the technology and more on solving the real problem.

One other common characteristic these world-changers shared was persistence. None of these individuals achieved “overnight success.” Thomas Edison perhaps captured it best when he said: “I have not failed, I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.” Do your failures paralyze you or do they propel you forward, because you know what not to do next time?

Care to share a failure you had recently that contributed to your future success?