Is Recession the Mother of Invention?


The summer in Florida, although hot, involves sunny days encased in cloudless skies with a breezy twist whistling through. 

Yet I find myself whipping open the curtains each morning and scowling at the sun. Didn’t the globe get the memo that we are in a very grey place and we are not supposed to be tempted to come out and play?

It keeps having the nerve to naively shine and have the wind toss back my hair, as if to say- TODAY IS A BEAUTIFUL DAY! DON’T WASTE IT!

And yes…

It has prompted me to succumb to gratitude, put on a solar-powered pack and consider, what can be done today to make tomorrow better?

Taking a few pages from history and other times of global uncertainty, such as The Great Depression and Great Recession, the years that followed were flooded with inventions that have changed the way we live, communicate and operate.

In rocky times, bold leaders take the helm to assemble new teams or channel their current team to convert angst into action. Common behaviors include:

1) Listening to the needs of their consumers (and reevaluating if those needs have changed)

2) Pivoting and differentiating their product and procedures

3) Emerging fresh and brighter than before

4) Surging past their competitors

How will this time in our history be referenced and how do we rise above?

Will this become the true Great Compression?[1] The entire world has been sent to their room and told to hold tight to what and whom they treasure. The application of pressure and strain the COVID-19 virus has put on our physical beings and economy has caused a boiling point and desperate demand for immediate decision-making and patchwork solutions. The speed and seriousness of the virus has blasted massive holes in our global medical infrastructure, education systems and overall ways we work, communicate, travel and operate.

However, the “new normal systems” in place (i.e. parents simultaneously working from home and home-schooling) are not sustainable.

It’s A LOT.

Or should we consider it the Great Compassion?

It is requiring us to cocoon for a bit.

Should we ride the wave and control what we can, and forgive the rest?

This may be the time to evaluate personal or physical things that have created blockades in our lives and the road to success and pause to adjust.

Should we be charged by new found emotions and grounding to propel us forward?

Regardless of feeling compressed or emotionally revived, the COVID-19 time of uncertainty is forcing us to take what we have known as true and believed as real and throw it out the window.

With industries shuttered across the world, economists are predicting discouraging times and a recession ahead. Where that sounds bleak, if history repeats itself, past generations have proven that when the world has hit rock bottom, many have made that platform a trampoline to fly.

So as we all evaluate what the world will look like in the coming weeks and months, it will be imperative to push past our current state and think… 

What can you do in your respective industry to create evolutionary positive change when we emerge from our nests?

How can you be that bold leader to evoke innovation into a world that is certain to look different after the gates open up?

To inspire you, we have included a few examples below of just a few of the people and fabulous inventions that emerged from turbulent times in the past.

The world is better because of them and will be because of you too.

Until then… Keep calm and innovate on,

AB & TEAM EDISON

A FEW OF THE INVENTIONS THAT EMERGED FOLLOWING

THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND GREAT RECESSION

First Car Radio Brothers Joseph and Paul Galvin partnered with William Lear, a radio parts owner, and Elmer Wavering, an audio engineer, and installed their first model of a radio into a Studebaker in May of 1930. A month later, Paul Galvin showcased his radio by a convention in Atlantic City and orders began to fly in for the radios. In 1933, Ford began offering cars with Galvin Manufacturing or Motorola radios installed.

Miracle Whip

Kraft created Miracle Whip in the early 1930s in response to lagging sales of Mayonnaise. It premiered nationwide at the 1933 World’s Fair and gained popularity, thanks to an intense advertising campaign and even a two-hour radio show devoted to the product (a lesson that advertising in a recession pays off). By the end of the decade, Miracle Whip was selling better than all other brands of Mayo.

The Modern Tampon Dr. Earle Cleveland Haas, a family physician in Denver, said he recognized the discomfort women experienced and went on to create a cotton substitute like he used in surgery. He received a patent in 1931 and registered his trademark Tampax in 1932. Two years later, Gertrude Tenderich bought and founded Tampax the company, and led getting the product into stores and encouraging women to use them.

The Chocolate Chip Cookie Ruth Wakefield, owner and operator of Toll House Inn in Whitman, Mass., had a “butter drop do” recipe for cookies that dated from Colonial times which called for baker’s chocolate to be mixed in. When she did not have any available, she used a chocolate bar Andrew Nestle gave her and cut it into tiny bits hoping it would melt in the dough while they cooked. The chocolate didn’t completely melt, but kept its shape. Guests fell in love with the cookies, and soon after, her recipe was published in a Boston newspaper. Nestle was overjoyed with the cookies’ success and decided to print the recipe on the back of their packages in return for all the chocolate Ruth needed.

Monopoly

This popular board game was created by Charles B. Darrow in the early 1930’s. In 1934, he introduced the game to Parker Brothers, but was rejected by the gaming giant. Undaunted, Darrow produced several thousand copies of the game himself and began selling them. Eventually, Parker Brothers took notice and partnered with Darrow to mass produce the game. It has since become the best selling board game in the world.

iPod, iPad, & iMessage

Apple thrives during times of trouble.

Steve Jobs and Co. introduced the iPod soon after the Sept. 11 attacks and the economic downturn that followed. The product was a seemingly expensive luxury, and yet it sold reasonably. As the economy picked up, and the design changed from year to year, the iPod became a staple for music listeners everywhere.

The iPad seems like a mainstay, but didn't come into our lives until 2010. In January of that year, Steve Jobs released Apple's newest creation, and more than 300,000 iPads sold on the first day. Today, 20 additional models have been released. The idea of a convenient portable tablet once seemed like science fiction, but by 2018, more than 350 million iPads had sold worldwide.


If you've sent a text from an Apple device to someone else with an Apple device, you know the familiarity of the blue bubbles and iMessage. Apple launched iMessage in 2011, a time when most people still had wireless carriers that charged for every text sent and received.


Apple Maps

Google Maps launched first, but the creation of Apple Maps in 2012 was an important step in having a GPS automatically synced and defaulted to your phone. Whichever you're using, chances are you haven't consulted a paper map in years.


Siri

Before 2010, you couldn't ask Siri to tell you the weather, look up a song, or set an alarm. Now if you have an iPhone, you have your own virtual personal assistant. Siri was released as an app for Apple devices in 2010 before it became integrated into Apple devices in 2011. And now, simply saying "Hey, Siri" opens up a world of possibilities for using your phone with just your voice.


Uber & Lyft

It is hard to remember a time before on demand transportation existed; yet Uber wasn't actually an option until 2010. The app was developed in 2009, with the first ever Uber trip taken in July 2010. Uber is now present in over 600 cities. On the bumper of Uber’s success, Lyft launched in June of 2012 and has proven their worth as a strong market competitor, claiming greater market share than Uber with a little over 644 cities of service.


Instagram

Travelling is great, but aligning those pics into a well-crafted Insta feed? That’s what we are talking about! According to Forbes, when Kevin Systrom built Instagram in 2010, the app had 500,000 people signing up every week within the year. Now there are nearly one billion active monthly users on Instagram worldwide, and people are still joining every day.


Online Crowd-funding

Chances are you have come across more than one GoFundMe request urging you to donate money. However, this form of crowd-funding, where users create campaigns to raise money online, didn't really take off until 2010. Kickstarter launched in 2009 and was subsequently named one of the "50 Best Inventions of 2010" by Time. GoFundMe arrived shortly thereafter, in 2010. These services make it easier for people to raise money for everything from pursuing creative endeavors to paying off expensive medical bills—with billions of dollars raised between the two sites every day.


Square and Venmo

Before 2010, payment options were pretty much limited to card or cash. The 2010 invention of Square gave anyone the power to process credit card payments. Splitting the bill became even easier when Venmo launched publicly in 2012 (although it was really developed three years before). By the end of 2018, the app had become so widely used that it had processed around $62 billion in payments for the year.


Airfryers

In 2010, Philips released the very first Airfryer—an invention that has now taken over kitchens worldwide. Despite the name, an air fryer cooks (as opposed to frying) a multitude of foods from chicken tenders to baked potatoes. It's convenient, it's “healthier”, and it's everywhere. Since the first Airfryer, other brands like Ninja and Farberware have gone on to release their own versions of what may be this decade's greatest kitchen innovation.


Postmates

Postmates, which has become a lifeline to the outside world in the past few weeks, wasn't created until 2011. While food delivery apps like GrubHub were around before then, Postmates' invention was unique in that it was the first to deliver not only food, but also anything from dry cleaning to groceries. Postmates gave us a new conception of what can be delivered—and how quickly it can arrive.

[1] The Great Compression refers to "a decade of extraordinary wage compression" in the United States in the early 1940s. During that time, economic inequality as shown by wealth distribution and income distribution between the rich and poor became much smaller than it had been in preceding time periods.