I watched my recorded 65th anniversary broadcast of NBC 5 last night. The station went on the air in 1948—the first television station in Texas. Can I make a confession? I fast-forwarded through a bunch of it. Just a few seconds on the hand-drawn weather maps were enough to tell me: yes, I am glad there have been some innovations, and we do things better now—more animation, more graphics, more motion and color, and much better radar. The program got me thinking about changes and innovations, good and bad, through the years. And for some reason, the CueCat came to mind.
I remember that the CueCat just “arrived” at our house. I could not tell you the date, even the year. I remember holding it in my hand and thinking, “This seems pretty dumb.” And I have no idea whatever happened to my CueCat.
It came to our house to use with our Dallas Morning News. I think I was supposed to plug it into my computer, sit at my computer with my newspaper and the CueCat in hand, and whenever I read an article and wanted to know more or saw an advertisement and wanted to go to the website of the advertiser, I was supposed to run it over some bar code to scan the bar code, and then a website would magically appear on my computer screen.
I never used it. Not once.
(The Dallas Morning News took a $37 million write off on the CueCat. $37 million!)
Not easy and not convenient. In fact, in retrospect, borderline… stupid!
I think I speak for many when I say, “WHAT WERE THESE PEOPLE THINKING?”
Here’s what I think they were thinking: “Cool. This looks new, neat, and cutting edge. Let’s invest a mini-fortune in it, and we’ll be the wonders of our city and our country.”
Now, I’m a big fan of good innovation. It is critical to business advancement and business success. Very few businesses will stay in business if they fail to change, to tweak, to improve, and, yes, to innovate in products and processes.
And I know all the admonitions—you have to be willing to fail many times in order to succeed. You have to be careful about “punishing failure.” But, a bad idea is a bad idea no matter how well it is produced.
I don’t know if the folks who brought us the CueCat learned from their failure, went on to some much better idea, and succeeded spectacularly; but the CueCat does remind us that not all innovations are good, are they?
Professional Speaker & Writer
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