For one thing, there’s an essential human factor in every business endeavor. It doesn’t matter if you have a perfect product, production plan and marketing pitch; you’ll still need the right people to lead and implement those plans.
1. A lesson from the 1962 Flash Crash:
At their core, humans are basically emotional, irrational beings. Over the course of only three days, fear and panic led the stock market to plummet $20 billion only to boomerang back up a day later. Facts are a lot less compelling than the dictates of the lizard brain.
2. A lesson from the Ford Edsel fiasco:
Pay close attention to your market. Customers’ wishes can change very quickly and it’s important to keep a finger on the collective pulse. When Ford wasn’t looking, mid-sized dropped off of their buying radar.
3. A lesson from the federal income tax system:
Sometimes, the best solution is to scrap it. Over the years, the US tax system became so convoluted, corrupt, and loophole laden that it now encourages inefficiency. The only real recourse would be a do-over.
4. A lesson from the Texas Gulf case of 1959:
Just as people are inherently irrational, you can also count on them to be pretty self serving, too. In summary: when Texas Gulf executives found out about mineral-rich ground the company had just struck, they slowly began buying up stock shares and telling their families to follow suit – all the while denying the find to the public. Thus, insider trading laws were born.
5. A lesson from Xerox’s rollercoaster success:
Never trust a rapid success. Nobody expected copy machines to take off when Xerox launched its product in 1959, but by 1964, revenue was so good that the company could afford to drop $4 million to support the UN. By 1965, however, Xerox was in trouble: while they’d been busy philanthropizing, competitors had caught up fast.
6. A lesson from Piggly Wiggly’s investment debacle:
Revenge isn’t actually so sweet – and it certainly doesn’t pay. To teach them a lesson, incensed Piggly Wiggly owner Clarence Saunders sought to buy back all of his stock from tricksy prospectors. What he got instead was near bankruptcy.
7. A lesson from the Bretton Woods Conference of ‘64:
A small group of determined individuals can prevail against a bigger, stronger foe. When a collective of savvy prospectors believed Britain couldn’t keep up the currency exchange rates, they started betting against the pound in the market. Despite odds (and a strong central bank alliance against them) they won.