How to Stop Great Ideas

“Inventions reached their limit long ago, and I see no hope for further development.” - Julius Frontinus in the first century A.D.


“A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.” - Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies.


“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy.” - Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859


“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible.” - A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service (Smith went on to found Federal Express).


“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” - H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.


“We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” - Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.


“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” - Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943


“640K ought to be enough for anybody.” - Bill Gates, 1981


“This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” - Western Union internal memo, 1876.


“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” - David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urging for investment in the radio in the 1920s.


“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year.” - The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957


“But what ... is it good for?” - Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” - Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949


“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” - Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.


“Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.” - 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work.


“I assure you, Marlon Brando will not appear in this film,” said a Paramount Studio exec about the casting of The Godfather.


After Fred Astair's first screen test in 1933, the MGM testing director wrote a memo saying, “Can't act. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” Astaire got the memo and kept it over his fireplace.


An expert said of football coach Vince Lombardi, “He possesses minimal football knowledge. Lacks motivation.”


“So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.'” - Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and Hewlett Packard interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer.


“I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper,” explained Gary Cooper on his refusal to take the leading role in Gone With The Wind.


“If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this.” - Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M's Post-it Notepads.


Next Steps