Strong opinions

Akio Morita, the founder of Sony, once said:

“Our [Sony] plan is to lead the public with new products rather than ask them what kind of products they want. The public does not know what is possible but we do.”

Sony established its position as one of the world’s leading consumer electronics companies by licensing computer chip IP from US firms like Fairchild Semiconductor, Texas Instruments and AT&T (Bell Labs), and then building consumer products with the technology.

Early on, after one particular meeting with AT&T executives, Morita was told to expect nothing more than to build a useful hearing aid. Up until that point, computer chips were primarily used by the defense industry, and it was inconceivable that chips would power anything more than guided missiles or other military equipment.

Yet Morita had a different opinion. He believed that chips would power a breakthrough in consumer electronics and enable previously unimaginable products.

When new technologies arise, the mainstream’s creativity is bounded by what is imaginable. The greatest founders by contrast come to hold strong opinions about how those technologies can create the inconceivable. The products they create are a reflection of their strong opinions, which are needed to give something new shape and direction.

The developments in semiconductors, transistors, integrated circuits and networked computers in the second half of the 20th century enabled visionary leaders like Akio Morita, Steve Jobs and Sergey Brin to piece together these building blocks to develop products nobody had previously imagined.

Today, rapid advancements in emerging technologies such as crypto and AI, alongside the evolution of established platforms like the internet, cloud computing and mobile, place us at a similar juncture. A large amount of value will be created by those who can anticipate the forthcoming trends of the next decade and design new experiences that weave all these technologies together.