How many times have you heard someone say: “There just isn’t any opportunity anymore?”Well, the trouble isn’t with opportunity because every one of us is surrounded by more opportunity every day than he could develop in a lifetime.
The trouble comes from not being able to see it.
I read an interesting article in the Chicago Sun Times where Lynn A. Williams, president of the Anocut Engineering Company of Chicago, asserted that American business is obsessed with organizational efficiency and that the “oddball” neighborhood inventor can often outdo a giant corporation’s research department. He mentioned that:
“The dial telephone was invented by an undertaker, the safety razor by a traveling salesman, the pneumatic tire by a veterinarian, and color film by two musicians. It’s the non-conformists who make innovations.
“A society of ants is efficient and orderly. It is not creative.”
He might also have mentioned that the paper clip was invented by a man who got to fooling around with a women’s hairpin and fashioned it into the now famous and familiar shape.
All it takes is curiosity and some creative imagination, both of which just about anybody can develop. The knack is to look at everything you see through the eyes of curious creation. Ask yourself, as Alex Osborn suggests, can it be made smaller, larger, a different color? Can it be made better, more efficient at less cost? Can it be applied to something else?
You know, Henry Ford usually gets the credit for inventing the assembly line. But, while he may have been the first to apply the assembly line technique to building automobiles, the assembly line was actually invented, as far as we know, by Eli Whitney who invented the cotton gin.
Incidentally, you may be interested to know that old Eli didn’t make any money on the cotton gin.
He was robbed of all money from that business by hundreds of blacksmiths in the South who copied his designs, sold their gins locally, and didn’t pay him a dime in royalties. The patent law in those days, back in the late 1700s, was full of loopholes.
So, Whitney decided to move north and try his hand at manufacturing rifles – muskets, actually. He set up shop in New Haven, Connecticut, and quickly landed a contract at the War Department for 10,000 muskets when he made an amazingly low bid of $13.65 each.
At that time, muskets, or any other product for that matter, were the work of individual craftsmen.
A gunsmith was a highly skilled artisan who made one complete gun at a time. Naturally, production was slow and costly, and no two guns were exactly alike. The length of the barrels were different, even the bores, sights, stocks – everything – because every part was made by hand for just one gun. Whitney changed all this. He hired carpenters who made nothing but wooden stocks; other men made barrels, others the firing apparatus, some triggers.
Then, he put men to work assembling the parts into the finished muskets. Here was the world’s first assembly line. And it worked like a charm. Better muskets, of uniform quality were mass-produced more quickly and cheaply than ever before.
Now, let’s see… 10,000 muskets at $13.65… that’s $136,500.00. A lot of money in the 18th century… a lot of money in the 20th, too! A creative individual can find enough opportunity in is own home, or in his own work, to keep him happily, productively, and profitably busy for the rest of his life.