Back in the 1800s were two small companies that made buggy whips… Smith Brothers and Jones Brothers. The vision statement of Smith Brothers was “We seek to make the best buggy whips in the world.” Jones Brothers had a vision statement “We provide navigational control solutions for the world.” The first vision statement makes a lot of sense, while the second one is rather strange… correct?
However, back in the 1890s the horseless carriage (automobile) was perfected and that began the demise of the horse-drawn buggy. What happened? The Smith Brothers company kept growing, for awhile, gaining market share in the buggy whip market. The Jones Brothers market share of the buggy whip market kept shrinking. BUT… this was because Jones Brothers began developing steering and control devices for automobiles. So over time Smith’s Brothers became the dominant company in a dying market, while Jones’ Brothers moved into strong niches in automobile, boat, and eventually airline navigation and controls.
-Story by Clarke Graham (former VP of Engineering at Sperry Marine)
This is one of only two things I remember from my Orientation Training at Sperry Marine (now part of Northrop-Grumman). The other thing was a note I got from a fellow new hire. The note said,
What are the following? “Hades” “Gehenna” “Tartarus”?
I am not sure why he decided to ask me that. I soon found that he was part of a heterodox group that has roots in Christianity. My response was:
“Abode of the dead” “Place of Torment” “Infernal Place”
But why are these the only two things I remember?
The first probably had two reasons for being memorable. First, stories are naturally more memorable than propositional statements. Second, the story had a more general applicability. While most of the orientation had to do with how to fit into the work environment of Sperry, this story was about more generally useful in life. It is about vision.
The second was that I was asked caught me for two reasons as well. First, it was an unusual question directed at me, as opposed to telling me something that I may or may not be interested in. Second, it happened to be a Biblical topic and so was one that I was interested in.
That was over 20 years ago. I suppose that tells me that if I am trying to catch someone’s interest,
- Tell stories rather than share facts.
- Choose universal themes, rather than targeted topics.
- Ask questions that interest the other, rather than tell things that interest me.
- Say things that get the other to think a lot and hopefully talk a lot.