I am a big fan of history. When you read broadly about the foibles of our forebears, you learn quickly that we are doomed to make the same mistakes over and over and over. When this book popped up on Bill Gate’s list of must-reads, I just had to read it and bring it you. John Brooks wrote this book in 1969. He takes a look at some of the biggest business miscalculations, blunders and missteps of the 1950’s and 1960’s. What can we take from it? While the stories may be dated, the lessons they give us are timeless.
He begins by examining the creation of the Ford Edsel. The Edsel is used as a punchline for failed product launch to this day. The Edsel was created for the low income Ford auto owners who would replace their vehicle as soon as they were able to financially do so. The trouble was they were not trading up to a Mercury (Ford’s only mid-income auto). They were switching to the competitors mid-priced car. Ford spent countless man-hours, millions of dollars in research and development to create what they believed to be the solution. How did Ford get it so wrong?
While the Edsel failed miserably, Ford is one of the most successful automakers today. The biggest take-a-way is businesses must be gutsy enough to continually reinvent themselves and their products. While, there will be loses and embarrassment, success will almost always follow. Side note: Google a picture of an Edsel and you will see a large part of why it failed.
I enjoyed the majority of the twelve tails and the lessons they bring. The Edsel, Piggly Wiggly Supermarkets (I get such a kick out of that name!), and Xerox tales are the standouts. I hope you will read this oldie but a goodie. It truly is a classic yet applicable to business today.