On this week in 1908, Henry Ford’s Model T—the so called “universal car” designed for the masses and produced en masse—went on sale for the first time.
Ford’s practical, affordable offering revolutionized the transportation industry and is one of history’s greatest innovations.
A car-themed restaurant near my house has a Model T replica on display in its lobby and a famous, albeit dubious, Henry Ford quote adorning an adjacent wall: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
I love this quote. It’s clever, catchy, and memorable. This quote is popular with thought leaders because it captures the essence of innovation and effective problem solving. The only problem with this quote is there’s no evidence that Henry Ford ever said those words.
Ford’s “faster horses” quote is one of history’s most notorious misattributions.
The quote’s dubiousness, however, shouldn’t taint its merits. Innovation plays an important role in effective problem solving, especially in business. Consumers can often describe a problem they’re having without knowing the best solution.
For instance, turn of the century Americans craved a faster mode of transportation. Faster horses would’ve been an improvement but certainly not to the extent of the automobile. Ford knew Americans weren’t aware of the possibilities.
Consumers rely on innovators’ outside-the-box thinking to provide them with viable solutions, which usually lie beyond the scope of the consumers’ imaginations.
The same thing can happen on teams. Team members can be troubled by a problem without knowing the best way to resolve it.
This is where good teammates show their value.
Good teammates are invested in their teams’ problems and must occasionally take it upon themselves to be innovative in resolving whatever plagues their teams. Their investment in these sorts of problems is a big part of what makes them “good” teammates.
So is their ability to creatively think outside the box, but act within the cube. They can come up with innovative solutions without compromising their core values or their allegiance to the teams’ standards.
In this regard, consider another applicable Henry Ford quote, one that he actually did say: “To be good is not enough; a man must be good for something.”
Good teammates are good for something. They are good for their teams. Nowhere is this more evident than in their innovative investments in their teams’ problems.
As always…Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.