12th July 2009

A hundred years ago, a man called Schueller developed an innovative safe hair-dye formula in his French kitchen at home. This was despite his former boss warning him that his idea was 'very limited for the future'. But something spurred him on. He called his product 'Aureole', later becoming 'L'Oreal'. After his initial modest success, he employed the Oxford graduate Lindsay Owen-Jones who dreamed up the slogan 'Because I'm worth it'. That's all it needed. From Schueller's original 1909 notion of helping women to improve their natural hair colour, a business developed, an innovative slogan deployed which tapped into women's minds, and voila, suddenly there's a turnover of 17.5 billion euros!
Similarly, a hundred years ago this month, another 'mad' Frenchman had a strange idea. He decided to put together some ash planks and canvas, tied together with piano wire and perched the lot on a pair of cycle wheels. His name was Louis Bleriot. Despite the fact that his odd contraption actually managed to lift off the ground in Sangatte, just outside Calais, only a few locals bothered to turn out to witness the event. But, something caught the public's imagination.
All this makes me wonder how many other 'brilliant' ideas never see the light of day because either the mad inventor didn't have enough perseverence or chance didn't happen to step in. It's not just Alan Sugar you need; it's the 'chaos'/domino effect too to push the idea along. Sometimes, it's only a chance of fate that decides whether a 'strange' new idea takes off or whether it's left to languish forever unknown in someone's head.

No comments: