It’s the early 1990’s and Joanne is down on her luck. A recently divorced, single mother who’s jobless, she decides to move back from England to Scotland to at least be closer to her sister and family.
During her working days in Manchester she had started scribbling some ideas and notes about a nonsensical book idea and, by the time she’d moved home, had three chapters written of a book. Once back near Edinburgh, she continued to write and improve her manuscript until she had a first draft completed in 1995 – fully five years from her first penned thoughts.
During the next two years she pitched the very rough manuscript to a dozen major publishers. They all rejected it and believed the story would not resonate with people and, as a result, sales would be dismal.
Undismayed she eventually convinced Bloomsbury to take a very small chance on the book – advancing her a paltry $1500 pounds and agreeing to print 1,000 copies, 500 of which would be sent to various libraries.
In 1997 and 1998 the book, Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling, would win both the Nestle Book award and the British Book Awards Children’s book of the year. That book would launch Rowling’s worldwide success and, to date, her books have sold over 400 million copies.
The eventual success of the Harry Potter series of books is very instructive for breakthroughs and innovation.
The most important breakthroughs—the ones that change the course of science, business, or history — are fragile. They rarely arrive dazzling everyone with their brilliance.
Instead, they often arrive covered in warts — the failures and seemingly obvious reasons they could never work that make them easy to dismiss. They travel through tunnels of skepticism and uncertainty, their champions often dismissed as crazy.
Luckily most of the champions of breakthrough items are what many would describe as loons – people that refuse to give up on their ideas and will work, over time, to smooth and eliminate the warts.
When it comes to supply chain planning innovation, you’d have to put Andre Martin into the loon category as well.
In the mid 1970’s Andre invented Distribution Resource Planning (DRP) and, along with his colleague Darryl Landvater, designed and implemented the first DRP system in 1978 – connecting distribution to manufacturing and changing planning paradigms forever.
Most folks don’t know but around that time Andre saw that the thinking of DRP could be extended to the retail supply chain – connecting the store to the factory using the principles of DRP and time-phased planning.
The idea, which has since morphed and labelled as Flowcasting, was covered in warts. During the course of the last 40 years Andre and Darryl have refined the thinking, smoothed the warts, eliminated dissention, educated an industry and, unbelievably, built a solution that enables Flowcasting.
I’ve been a convert and a colleague in the wart-reduction efforts over the last 25 years – experiencing first-hand the some irrational responses and views from, first, a large Canadian retailer, and more recently the market in general.
But, like JK, the warts are largely being exposed as pimples and people and retailers are seeing the light – the retail supply chain can only deliver if it’s connected from consumer to supplier – driven only by a forecast of consumer demand. Planned and managed using the principles of Flowcasting.
The lesson here is to realize that if you think you’ve got a breakthrough idea, there’s a good chance it’ll be covered in warts and will need time, effort, patience and determination to smooth and eliminate them.
It can, however, be done.
And you can do it.