From 10 years ago today: but still just as relevant, don’t you think? (puppy now 10 and still as daft as ever).

I HAD a little disagreement this week with the breeder of my Labrador puppy and it suddenly got me thinking about vision.  Tenuous link, you say, but hear me out on this one.

The breeder, a very successful breeder it has to be said, thinks that my puppy is prize-winning stud material. He wants to show him at Crufts and use him to sire litter upon litter of quality little Labs. I don’t; I want a family pet.

So he’s a bit miffed that I’m wasting the potential of “his” puppy. He seems to forget that the pup ceased to be his when I handed over my hard-earned £350 for the little lad. He phones regularly, asks what I’m feeding him and whether or not I’m training him properly. He just won’t let go. His business is breeding dogs and then showing them at Crufts and the like. If he took his blinkers off, he would see that such beautifully bred animals are also perfect family pets.

If I’m totally honest, I can see his point. I suppose it’s like selling a magnificent Ferrari to a little old lady who will never drive it above 28 miles an hour.

So that’s where the vision bit came in. This breeder has one vision for his “product”, the customer – me – has another. And it’s much the same for inventors, creators, designers and entrepreneurs.

Marconi believed that his radio would be used for relaying music from concert halls to people in their homes. He had one vision, but reality delivered something much, much bigger: technology being applied in a way the inventor would never have thought possible.

And so it has been throughout history.

When the light bulb was first displayed at the Paris exhibition in 1876 the organisers thought it an “interesting trick”, but predicted it wouldn’t outlive the exhibition.

In 1899 the Head of US Patent Office said: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

IBM is famed for its 1940s prediction that there would only ever be a need for five computers in the world. When current CEO Lou Gerstner took over he said: “The last thing IBM needs now is a vision.” Based on previous poor visionary performance, he rather missed the point and has spent his time since playing catch-up with his vision-led rivals, Compaq and Dell.

Just as an aside: Dell, lead by the eponymous visionary Michael, believes in the value of vision. Dell’s dream of selling computers direct to the consumer avoiding the usual vendor channels has revolutionised the industry and made him a billionaire in the very short process.

Back in 1946, 20th Century Fox proclaimed television to be a fad. They gave it just six months before people would become tired of staring at a “plywood box” and come back to the cinema.

More recent examples would be pagers and mobile phones. Invented for high-powered executives and people who needed to be contacted in a hurry, these gadgets have rapidly become fashion accessories. Pagers were adopted by rappers in the streets of New York as the must-have fashion accessory. And now mobile phones are being used by kids as more than just a fashion accessory; phones are actually a dating accessory for teenagers to send endless text messages to their friends. Even younger kids are getting in on the act with toy pagers and phones for toddlers.

Who would have thought it? Certainly not the bright sparks who invented all these revolutionary products.

So what’s the moral of the story?  It’s definitely about having the vision, but it’s also having the wisdom to know when someone else’s vision is greater than yours.

Inventors, creators, designers, entrepreneurs must have vision. Without it, they will never create revolutionary, life-changing products. But the trick is to share that vision in order to widen the market.

A good example is Linux software, an open source operating application, which has grown exponentially as a result of customers building, adding, amending, developing and enhancing the original product over the Internet.

As America’s 28th President Woodrow Wilson once put it: “No man that does not see visions will ever realise any high hope or undertake any high enterprise.”

NB: just one last thought: Microsoft’s Bill Gates once said: “Vision is free. And it’s therefore not a competitive advantage any way, shape or form.” Pity! If he’d had one, he might have avoided all his anti-competition legal wrangles.