Wise Career Advice From the Founder of NBC

While many people resist change, successful people embrace it!

It’s a shame, but in business, most people are afraid of change.

  • In 1876, Western Union was America’s leading communications company with the telegraph. They had the opportunity to buy Bell’s telephone for only $100,000 but turned down the opportunity by saying: “This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.”
  • In 1927, when movies where still silent, Harry Warner of Warner Brothers said: “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”
  • In 1946, Darryl Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox movie studio, said: “Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”
  • In 1977, the second largest computer company in the world was Digital Equipment Corp. When asked about personal computers, founder Ken Olsen said: “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.”
  • In 1980, the big three networks said CNN would never be successful. In fact, they jokingly referred to the Cable News Network as the “Chicken Noodle Network.”

Someone who loved change and embraced it greatly was David Sarnoff, the founder of National Broadcasting Company (NBC). In 1915, Sarnoff was working for the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). At the time, radio was only being used for shipping.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Sarnoff had a vision and realized that radio could be used to broadcast entertainment. He created the NBC radio network. Broadcasting entertainment via radio was a huge success, but Sarnoff didn’t rest on his laurels. He kept his eye out for the next big thing. As a result, he was one of the first people to see the potential for this new technology called television and later created the NBC TV network.

Steve Jobs was another lover of change. In fact, embracing change was Steve Jobs greatest strength.

  • In the 1976, he was one of the first people to embrace personal computer technology by founding Apple Computer.
  • In 1984, he introduced the Macintosh, the first commercially-successful PC to use a mouse and a Windows-like graphical display.
  • In 1986, he embraced new technology to make computer-generated films by buying Pixar.
  • In 2001, he embraced the change to digital music and created iTunes and the iPod.
  • In 2007, he embraced the movement to smart phones and came out with the iPhone.
  • In 2010, he embraced the movement from laptops to tablets and came out with the iPad.

In the 1950s, Ray Kroc turned a small California hamburger stand named McDonald’s into a national institution. He realized and took advantage of the middle class’s move into the suburbs and the need to “give mom a night off.”

In the late 1970s, while the big three American carmakers were still turning out gas-guzzling land yachts, Japanese companies like Toyota and Honda responded to the change in gas prices caused by the oil crisis. They successfully provided the public with smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.

Embracing change sometimes means making a change by cutting your losses. In 1985, in one of the biggest marketing blunders ever, The Coca-Cola Company pulled its classic Coke off the market and replaced it with “New Coke.” The company spent hundreds of millions of dollars making this change. After facing complaints from people all over the world, they cut their losses and pulled “New Coke” and brought back Coke Classic.

To jump ahead of your peers, embrace change! There’s no telling where it might take you and/or your company.