What’s the Ultimate Creativity Killer?

Hammer

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” ~Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” ~Ken Olson, president and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” ~H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927

“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” ~Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962

“I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper.” ~Gary Cooper turning down “Gone With the Wind.”

“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. ~Western Union internal memo, 1876.

“The concept is interesting… but to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.” ~Yale professor on conceptual paper that became FedEx.

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.” ~Bill Gates, 1981.

“What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.” ~Michael Dell on Apple, 1997.

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” ~Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.

“The next time you make an assumption, see what happens when you do the opposite.” ~me

Originally composed on Twitter, one quote at a time.

About the Author: Brian Clark is the founding editor of Copyblogger, and co-founder of Teaching Sells and Lateral Action.

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Comments

  1. You tell ‘em :-)

  2. That is really an eye opener! I’m going to share it!

  3. Cool idea! I enjoy following you on Twitter – keep it up! Where do you find all these great quotes?

  4. How far off one can be…

  5. Love that last one. A good mantra to live by. Thanks for sharing!

  6. These are all great quotes! It’s funny looking back at them and wondering, “How could anyone be so naive?”

    But I’m sure that most of us have thoughts like these all the time for different situations.

    Very inspiring quotes.

  7. Great quotes. Makes me think of all the Internet Marketers who do the “Death of…” pitch. In order to promote the next new thing, they try to convince people what they are doing is dead. More often than not, it is alive and well, or not even being used to it’s full potential.

    These quotes remind me to keep an open mind and use common sense. There are no absolutes.

  8. Good stuff Brian! I thought of doing the same time for creative writing, will give it a shot :)

  9. Never say never, and never say die.

  10. I don’t think that many people will see this article since this “Internet” thing really isn’t catching on with the masses.

  11. I always think the Bill Gates quote seems out of place in lists like these. Don’t you think he meant that 640K was enough for anyone in 1981, and not forever?

  12. Brian, please don’t take this the wrong way. I follow you on twitter and read your blog daily. So, call me weird or something else. But, I don’t get it. 11 quotes on twitters makes a blog post? “That is really an eye opener!” How is it an eye opener? “Cool idea!” Why is it a cool idea?
    Again, I enjoy your blog and the advice you provide on it is great and I use it daily. But, I just don’t get the point.

  13. The point is that assumptions are creativity killers.

    I guess I shouldn’t have assumed everyone would get it. :-)

  14. That Brian Clark…He’ll never get more than 100 subscribers!

  15. Hehehehe.. I absolutely love it!

  16. Hey… where would we be without these peoples comments though? Maybe comments like these actually kill creativity for some… and motivate the heck out of others.

    Nice list by the way!

    – Trevor

  17. Was wondering what you were twittering about! Now it makes sense! :-)

  18. So, did you violate your own rule? ;-) Recovering lawyer here too. I am trying not to think that hard right now when I read something. Part of the 12 step process to recovery.

  19. I always thought “no” was the creativity killer, and “yes..and” was the creativity enhancer.

  20. Great info!

  21. As a visual artist, I get a lot of this. Thanks for sharing – this is great motivation.

  22. Love all the quotes, and am reminded of that famous rejection of Fred Astaire: “Balding, skinny, can dance a little.” Um, yeah, I’d say he could dance a little! One of my favorite little books at home is a volume of famous book rejections–because when you hear how many times hugely-popular writers were rejected before their first break, it’s reassuring. Or something. But, ultimately? You’re right–you’ve got to think outside the box to catch the opportunities floating around. They only count as opportunities if you’re smart enough to spot them.

  23. If everybody took “no” seriously then nothing would ever happen.

    Vision is usually left to people who have very tough skin, no interest in other people’s negative thoughts, and a drive that most of us can not fathom.

    Wasn’t it Thomas Edison who had to endure 10,000 failures before he could get the electric light bulb to work. Can you just imagine the amount of people that were telling him to give up and that it will never work.

    Live From Las Vegas
    The Masked Millionaire

  24. Awesome!!

  25. Amen; I love this because it’s incredibly true.

  26. I love reading those quotes. Especially when they come from “big” names. Thanks!

  27. Thanks for the inspiration! It really got me thinking that I need to reform my methods of analyzing new ideas. I even wrote a blog about it!

    http://textrapolate.com/2008/05/make-few-assumptions-many-validations/

  28. One of my favorite personal mantras has always been “There is no no.” I’m all about the yeses and maybes.

  29. Assumptions can be a powerful “tool,” at times.

    But other times, they just make you look dumb!

  30. This is a stellar collection of quotes. I try to follow the rule “If you think you can’t, do it anyway.” These quotes are great examples of why I should press on.

  31. @ Shari – in my experience, you should try to train yourself to modify that way of thinking.

    If your line of thought is “I can’t really do it but I’ll try anyway,” you’re probably not going to be as great a success as you could be.

    It’s important to truly believe you can do it right from the start.

    One way I have combated the “I’m not sure I can do it” is by writing down that thought the instant I get it and then immediately writing down 2 reason why I can.

    After a while, I trained my thought process to do this automatically. It’s like a button that triggers in my head now – my “can’t do” is automatically flipped to, “here’s why I can.”

    ….just a thought.

  32. Imagine if we stopped inventing….sad.

  33. Hehe, nice.

  34. This one will be linked on Friday http://www.prosperousartists.com

    Good stuff.

    Rosh
    http://www.rosh.com

  35. “i seriously doubt we will run out of oil in the next 50 years”

  36. Enjoyed the quotes tremendously! Just proves that Never say “Never”!!

  37. Great stuff, Brian.
    And is the hammer picture simply a visual reference to “tools”?
    Or were you also sneaking in a reference to one of my favorite expressions used to describe limited thinking: “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”?
    Looks like most of these speakers were limited by that kind of tunnel vision so that they were correct based on their own limited assumptions, but way wrong when reality/progress forced new assumptions into their industries.

  38. If the purpose is to encourage people to persevere, the quotes are useful. If it is to put these guys down for seeing limits that didn’t exist, let he without sin cast the first stone.

    Each of these people also had something major to contribute.

  39. Jack, I think the purpose is pretty clear.

  40. “Yes, but thats not possible” – So wrong!

  41. Love it.

  42. It is incredibly useful to remember that smart people can be wrong. Especially if they just told you you can’t do something.

  43. “Where is all the water coming from”
    Noah’s neighbor the skeptic.

  44. This are great quote.. I really like the last one the best..;)

  45. great quotes this is my favorite “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home”

  46. Great quotes – this is my favourite, “Wisdom outweighs any wealth” Sophocles

  47. Jack, The purpose is pretty clear.

  48. We created a list like this last December to get inspired for the coming year and to fend off some of our known “creativity killers”
    Here are two from our list:

    #4. “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”
    -Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.

    #5. “Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.”
    -1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard’s revolutionary rocket work.
    P.S. Nasa has this thing now called the Goddard Space Center

  49. Great Collection of quotes! I always appreciate the inspiration you give. You see what some of these people have said and just go DUH! “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” was said over 100 years ago! There’s a government appointed worker for you.

  50. HYSTERICAL! I Want to print them up and hang em’ around the office.

  51. Some fantastic quotes there :) Had never heard of them before, so yeah- thanks for sharing!

  52. Got me thinking of David Brent from The Office (uk version)

    “Don’t assume, it makes an ass out of ‘u’ and me” :)

  53. “whatever you’re thinking of,
    do the opposite!” someone says so!

  54. Really good article, I used some of the points in my blog and then put a link to send my reader to your blog.

    Thanks for your inspiring writing.

  55. I still think that this “telephone” has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.

  56. Wow, I must be slow to get the concept that was being made because I really didn’t understand how these quotes related to “Creativity Killers” until I read the comments and found out it was about making assumptions.

    Then I reread the post and understood them and seen Brian’s finial quote that referred to assumptions. It is a helpful and great post that help me realize that just because it seems impossible to me could very well be possible to someone else that sees what I don’t see.