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#263 Land's Polaroid: A Company and the Man Who Invented It
August 18th, 2022 | E263

What I learned from rereading Land's Polaroid: A Company and the Man Who Invented It by Peter C. Wensberg.


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[0:01] Why is Polaroid a nutty place? To start with, it’s run by a man who has more brains than anyone has a right to. He doesn’t believe anything until he’s discovered it and proved it for himself. Because of that, he never looks at things the way you and I do. He has no small talk. He has no preconceived notions. He starts from the beginning with everything. That’s why we have a camera that takes pictures and develops them right away.

[1:33] More books on Edwin Land: 

Insisting on The Impossible: The Life of Edwin Land by Victor McElheny 

The Instant Image: Edwin Land and the Polaroid Experienceby Mark Olshaker 

A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War by Ronald Fierstein 

Instant: The Story of Polaroid by Chris Bonanos 

[2:18] “Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid, said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” —  Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson (Founders #214)

[5:17] This guy started one of the great technology monopolies and ran it for 50 years.

[7:35] He lived his life more intensely than the rest of us.

[8:53] His interest in our reactions was minimal — polite, sometimes kind, but limited by the great drain of energy necessary to sustain his own part.

[9:30] He never argued his ideas. If people didn’t believe in them, he ignored those people. —A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age by Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman  (Founders #95) 

Loomis was not someone you could argue with. He would listen patiently to an opposing opinion. But his consideration was nothing more than that-an act of politeness on his part.” — Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and The Secret Palace of Science That Changed The Course of World War II by Jennet Conant (Founders #143)

[11:40] Right before he introduces the most important product he ever makes — he is in a fight for his life. There's a good chance that Polaroid is going to be bankrupt.

[14:29] The parallel to Steve Jobs is striking. Edwin Land —like jobs — had to turn around the company he founded before they ran out of money!

[15:02] At 37 he had achieved everything to which he aspired except success.

[15:32] Against The Odds: An Autobiography by James Dyson (Founders #200)

[22:48] The heroes of your heroes become your heroes.

[23:39] Bill Gates would later tell a friend he went to Harvard to learn from people smarter than he was —and left disappointed. —Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire by James Wallace and Jim Erickson (Founders #140)

[27:22] The young hurl themselves into vast problems that have troubled the world's best thinkers, believing that they can find a solution. It is well that they should for, from time to time, one of them does. — Autobiography of a Restless Mind: Reflections on the Human Condition Volume 2 by Dee Hock. (Founders #261)

[29:30] He concentrated ferociously on his quest.

[29:43] We live in the age of infinite distraction.

[30:03] My whole life has been spent trying to teach people that intense concentration for hour after hour can bring out in people resources they didn't know they had.

[30:29] Among all the components and Land's intellectual arsenal, the chief one seems to be simple concentration. — The Instant Image: Edwin Land and The Polaroid Experience by Mark Olshaker. (Founders #132)

[41:50] A Landian question took nothing for granted, accepted no common knowledge, tested the cliche, and treated conventional wisdom as an oxymoron.

[42:44] A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War by Ronald Fierstein  (Founders #134)

[48:33] They had no alternative but to succeed with the camera. Everyone left at Polaroid knew that at the present rate of decline the business, the company, and their jobs would not survive 1947.

[55:45] Smith estimated that throughout the eighties he spent at least four hours a day reading. He found he relied quite heavily on his own vision, backed by assimilating information from many different disciplines all at once. “The common trait of people who supposedly have vision is that they spend a lot of time reading and gathering information, and then synthesize it until they come up with an idea." — Overnight Success: Federal Express and Frederick Smith, Its Renegade Creator by Vance Trimble (Founders #151)

[59:05] If you’re not good, Jeff will chew you up and spit you out. And if you’re good, he will jump on your back and ride you into the ground. — The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone. (Founders #179) 

[1:02:24] They were among the first of the park's attractions to be finished, but the pressure of time was already weighing on everyone. One day John Hench stopped by to check the progress on the coaches and had an idea, which he brought to his boss. "Why don't we just leave the leather straps off, Walt? The people are never going to appreciate all the close-up detail."

Walt Disney treated Hench to a tart little lecture: "You're being a poor communicator. People are okay, don't you ever forget that. They will respond to it. They will appreciate it."

Hench didn't argue. "We put the best darn leather straps on that stagecoach you've ever seen."

Disney’s Land: Walt Disney and the Invention of the Amusement Park That Changed the World by Richard Snow. (Founders #158)

[1:05:53] There is no such thing as group originality or group creativity or group perspicacity. I do believe wholeheartedly in the individual capacity for greatness. Profundity and originality are attributes of single, if not singular, minds.

[1:10:32] There's nothing more refreshing than thinking for a few minutes with your eyes closed.

[1:11:00] The present is the past biting into the future.


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