I’ve long been an avid collector of “famous last words.” These are pronouncements by experts confidently projecting today’s current limitations into tomorrow. These serve as stark reminders to be very careful about getting stuck in ruts of certainty as seeing the world only as it is.
Here are a few favorite examples:
– Albert Einstein, 1932
“A man has been arrested in New York for attempting to extort funds from ignorant and superstitious people by exhibiting a device which he says will convey the human voice any distance over metallic wires so that it will be heard by the listener at the other end. He calls this instrument a telephone. Well-informed people know that it is impossible to transmit the human voice over wires.”
– News item in an 1868 New York paper
“There will never be a bigger plane built.”
– Boeing engineer after the first flight of the 247 a twin engine plane that carried ten people.
“Radio has no future. Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. X-rays will prove to be a hoax.”
– William Thomson, Lord Kelvin English scientist, 1899 — VARIOUS
I recently came across a catchy video produced by Red Hat, the open source Linux software company. Truth Happens illustrates a few “famous last words” in a fast paced, high-energy three minute video. I am using it in leadership workshops and Management Team Retreats to help participants remove blinders and limited thinking. Leadership means being open to possibilities and imagining what could be.