I recently delivered a talk
in Colorado Springs – at the heart of so called, ‘Middle America’. Everyone proudly
flew their American flags. (A symbol, which for many represents the embodiment
of innovation supported by encouragement to succeed – whoever you maybe.)
Whenever I travel overseas,
I try to look around. So I secured the services of a taxi driver called Dave.
Together we set off. “Where would you like to go?’ asked Dave. “ The real
Colorado Springs – not just the tourist bits.” I answered.
Our first call was at a
hamburger restaurant. We tucked in and chatted about living in The Springs. “Well,”
said Dave, whilst dipping a chip into some ketchup. “It’s like those adverts on
TV offering some clever new device. What you see is not what you always get. Take
this place; average diner, gentle folk. Everyone so polite…” I agreed. “So
what’s wrong?” Dave smiled. “Oh you’ll soon find out when we set off on the rest
of the tour”.
I asked if I could visit
a boot maker and genuine gun store. (We were after all in ‘cowboy country’.) The
cobbler’s range of boots was magnificent. Each styled with Americana symbolism.
As I examined the boots I noticed how the cobbler kept on casting Dave strange
looks. On leaving, I asked if there had been some problem with the store. “Ah,
you are beginning to get it…”
…At the gun store, the owner
peered at Dave. “What you doin’ here boy?” Understandably, I was growing nervous.
“I am just guiding this gentleman from England around,” replied Dave. The storeowner,
muttered something under his breath and showed me a “fine pistol that could blow
someone’s head off at 20 yards”.
Back in the car, Dave –
who was black, continued the tour. He pointed out some of the prettiest suburbs
I had ever seen. Most featuring the American flag on the porch. “That house belongs
to a Klansman – that one does too.” And so, what started as a tour of the American
dream now felt like an appalling glimpse into a nightmare.
Dave continued. “This is
the real middle America, land of opportunity – providing you play the game and
fit in. If not; we are two hours from Texas and those boys sure know how to deal
Dave then told me about
a book which he had been trying to get published for years . It was
about another out-of-towner. This time from Serbia. He was called Nikola Tesla.
Tesla sailed for America in 1884, arriving in New York, with four cents, a few
poems, and designs for a flying machine.
According to Dave, in May
1885, Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh bought the patent rights to
Tesla's polyphase system of alternating-current dynamos, transformers and motors.
The transaction precipitated a colossal power struggle between Edison's direct-current
systems and the Tesla-Westinghouse alternating-current approach, which eventually
Tesla soon established his
own laboratory. Countless innovative experiments included a carbon button lamp
the power of electrical resonance, and various types of lighting.
Tesla's system to light
the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago won a contract to install the first
power machinery at Niagara Falls.
In 1899 Tesla moved to Colorado
Springs. Here he unearthed probably his most important discovery: terrestrial
stationary waves. He proved that the Earth could be used as a conductor
and would be as responsive as a tuning fork to electrical vibrations of a certain
frequency. He also powered 200 lamps without wires from a distance of 25 miles.
What’s more, he generated man-made lightning, producing flashes measuring 135
feet. At one time he was certain he had received signals from another planet in
his Colorado laboratory, a claim that was met with derision.
He was so pioneering that
his sponsors simply couldn’t keep up. Eventually his funding was withdrawn.
(The rest, as they say, is history. With a certain Mr Edison being placed
at the centre for the accreditation of the commercial–wide use of electricity.)
As Dave finished his story
and the tour, I noticed another American flag flurry in the breeze on the HQ of
a large US corporation.
I wondered if even today,
companies are pledging allegiance to openness towards innovation and innovators,
or simply paying lip service; initially offering an open hand to out-of-towners
with a different way of thinking, yet in the long–term flying flags which in truth
can occasionally turn out to be very different kinds of standard bearers.
Have a nice day ya all –-
About the Author
Jonathan Gabay is on CIM’s
core Faculty. Be sure to check out his website http://www.gabaynet.com/
Future recommended CIM
training courses featuring Jonathan include:
- Managing Ideas
- Step inside your customers’
- How to write amazing