Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas which change the world. A metal box which can be easily loaded and unloaded transformed the pattern of world trade and the economics of shipping and distribution. Brainchild of Malcolm McClean the idea of containerisation is one of those innovations which changed the world.
McLean was a tough entrepreneur who’d already built a business out of trucking. He’d learned the rules of the innovation game the hard way and knew that having a great idea was only the start of a long journey. Realising the value at scale would take a lot of ingenious problem-solving and systems thinking to put the puzzle together. He needed complementary assets — the ‘who else?’ and ‘what else?’ — to realise his vision. And he understood the challenge of diffusion — getting others to buy into your idea and enabling adoption through a mixture of demonstration, persuasion and pressure.
But he wasn’t the first to come up with the idea; that distinction probably goes to another systems thinker who played the innovation game well throughout his unfortunately short life. And, like McClean, he can take a big share of the credit for transforming the pattern of world trade, this time in the 18th century. This podcast looks at the innovation work of James Brindley, canal builder, millwright-engineer and innovator extraordinaire.
You can find a transcript here