A story to install a sense of urgency.

This short blog is about a story of a project that is my inspiration – and I have to admit I am somewhat obsessed with the product so my comments might not be entirely objective.

Some time in 1946, a man who worked in a senior position in the car industry went for a walk on a beach with his brother who worked in the same industry. They started to discuss an idea for a new sort of car – or rather a new version of one that had been built in the US but never in the UK. Between them they started to draw an outline of the car with a stick on the sand and discussed how it would meet their needs for a farm vehicle that could drive on the roads. They thought maybe there might be a wider market for it too. Back at work in the midlands, he worked up the idea and had it accepted by the board in 1947. It was launched in 1948. And thus the legend that is Land Rover was born. With our understanding of the impact on the climate of CO2 emissions, of course there are significant factors to add to the story to day, but my point is that this entire process took only 18 months. From idea to launch of an entirely new class of motor vehicle.

OK cars were simpler then and yes the first Land Rover was largely made from existing parts. And yes there are probably other stories of rapidly developed cars that went nowhere (the Transport Museum in Coventry has many of these as does the huge British Motor Museum). But taking this success story, it pre-dates the concept of the rapid prototyping by over 50 years. And yes these days cars require endless testing before they can be launched. There is also the very fashionable (and really important) approach of the Lean Startup by an even longer time frame (see my previous blog here for a description). So there are models you can use today that can potentially deliver similar results.

But here is my message to everyone reading this blog: when you are thinking of making a change, you will automatically face resistance. It is human. But when faced with people telling you it can’t be done], or saying your plan will take 10 years, perhaps you can think of this story and ask yourself if the change you are making is more fundamental than the one pitched to Rover in 1947?

Why am I telling this story now? I think there is a really important parallels to the challenges we face today. I suspect that a lot of the positive attitude and the “let’s get on with it” shown in the story came from the war time experience of society facing appalling hardship and massive challenges. Today we face the massive challenges of recovery from COVID and at the same time tackling climate change. We need to tap into this entrepreneurial spirit everywhere. These are global challenges and two brothers on a beach in Wales will never be able to solve them – no matter how good their idea. We need to find great ideas and make them work across the world. And we don’t have much time. There is potentially the worst economic recession ever looming as we emerge from COVID and the climate clock is ticking. We must make changes to our world like never before. These changes need to be fundamental and fast. There is no time to waste.

Postscript: I am quite sure many people reading this blog will have no real idea what these early Land Rovers was like so here is a description of the time line here , information about the car museum in Coventry is here and the British Motor Museum is here .

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