What I learned from reading The Instant Image: Edwin Land and the Polaroid Experience by Mark Olshaker.
Come see a live show with me and Patrick O'Shaughnessy from Invest Like The Best on October 19th in New York City.
Subscribe to listen to Founders Premium — Subscribers can listen to Ask Me Anything (AMA) episodes and every bonus episode.
[1:42] The word “problem” had completely departed from Edwin land's vocabulary to be replaced by the word “opportunity”.
[2:01] What was it about this man and his company that allowed such confidence and seeming lack of concern with the traditional top priorities of American business?
[2:38] There is something unique about Polaroid having to do both with the human dimension of the company, and with a unity of vision of its founder and guiding genius.
[3:36] Perhaps the single most important aspect of Land's character is his ability to regard things around him in a new and totally different way.
[4:14] Right from the beginning of his career Land had paid scant attention to what experts had to say, trusting his own instincts instead.
[4:49] Land has always believed that for any item sufficiently ingenious and intriguing, a new market could be created. Conventional wisdom has little capacity with which to evaluate a market that did not exist prior to the product that defines it.
[5:21] He feels that creativity is an individual thing. Not generally applicable to group generation.
[5:52] Land is a man deeply caught up in the creative potential of the individual.
[6:33] An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.
[7:43] Apple founder Steve Jobs once hailed Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid and the father of instant photography, as "a national treasure" and once confessed to a reporter that meeting Land was "like visiting a shrine." By his own admission, Jobs modeled much of his own career after Land’s. Both Jobs and Land stand out today as unique and towering figures in the history of technology. Neither had a college degree, but both built highly successful and innovative organizations. Jobs and Land were both perfectionists with an almost fanatic attentiveness to detail, in addition to being consummate showmen and instinctive marketers. In many ways, Edwin Land was the original Steve Jobs.
[8:36] There's a rule that they don't teach you at the Harvard business school. It is, if anything is worth doing it's worth doing to excess.
[11:22] Steve Jobs: I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics. 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.
[12:51] In a world full of cooks, Edwin Land was a chef. [Link to The Cook and The Chef: Elon Musk’s Secret Sauce]
[19:34] Land was asked what he wanted to be when he was younger: I had two goals. To be the world's greatest scientist and to be the world's greatest novelist.
[21:28] Everyone acknowledged that the future of Polaroid corporation would be determined by what went on in the brain of Edwin Land.
[22:01] My motto is very personal and may not fit anyone else or any other company. It is: Don't do anything that someone else can do.
[22:54] Fortunately our company has been one which has been dedicated throughout its life to making only things which others can not make.
[25:06] Land had far more faith in his own potential, and that of the company he inspired, than did any of the experts looking in from the outside.
[27:30] Polaroid failed to build a successful company by selling to other businesses: Each [product] would have involved millions of dollars in revenue for the company, but each invention involved a certain degree of transformation of an existing industry controlled by an existing power structure. From this Land realizes he needs to control the relationship with the customer. He realizes he needs to sell directly to the end user.
[36:16] Edwin Land is inspired by, and learned from, people that came before him. One example of this is Alexander Graham Bell. Edwin Land is not worried about the marketing [of a new product] because Bell went through the same thing: Land apparently lost little sleep over the initial situation, calling to mind that the same sort of reaction had greeted the public introduction of Bell's telephone, 70 years earlier. The telephone had been a dominant symbol in Land's thinking. He began making numerous connections between his camera and the telephone.
[40:16] Over the years, I have learned that every significant invention has several characteristics. By definition it must be startling, unexpected, and must come into a world that is not prepared for it. If the world were prepared for it, it would not be much of an invention.
[40:46] It is the public's role to resist [a new invention, a new product/service].
[41:29] It took us a lifetime to understand that if we're to make a new commodity —a commodity of beauty —then we must be prepared for the extensive teaching program needed to prepare society for the magnitude of our invention.
[45:12] Only the individual— and not the large group— can see a part of the world in a totally new and different way.
[48:08] Land's view is that a company should be scientifically daring and financially conservative.
[50:30] To understand more about every aspect of light, Edwin Land read every single book on light that was available in the New York City Public Library. That reminded me of one of my favorite lectures ever: Running Down A Dream: How to Succeed and Thrive in a Career You Love
[51:59] Land on the problem with formal education: Young people for the most part —unless they are geniuses— after a very short time in college, give up any hope of being individually great.
[54:16] Among all the components and Land's intellectual arsenal, the chief one seems to be simple concentration.
“I have listened to every episode released and look forward to every episode that comes out. The only criticism I would have is that after each podcast I usually want to buy the book because I am interested, so my poor wallet suffers.”— Gareth
Be like Gareth. Buy a book. It's good for you. It's good for Founders. A list of all the books featured on Founders Podcast.