How to Accomplish Anything with Nothing
Why did Russia with a struggling third world economy, beat America into Outer Space with Sputnik in 1957? And how did the Soviets pull off yet another David and Goliath triumph by orbiting a man around the earth before America could even muster a much less impressive sub-...
Why did Russia with a struggling third world economy, beat America into Outer Space with Sputnik in 1957? And how did the Soviets pull off yet another David and Goliath triumph by orbiting a man around the earth before America could even muster a much less impressive sub-orbital shot in 1962?
Our assertion is that the Russians didn’t succeed despite economic deprivation, but because of it. The head of Russia’s Rocket program emphasized this to Dr. Haseltine (when Haseltine served on NASA’s advisory board), saying “Dr. Haseltine, you Americans crack us up: You spend millions in 60’s developing ball point pen to write in zero gravity, where we use pencil. You spend 100’s of billions developing high
tech propellants and engines, where we use simple kerosene engines.”
When given scarce resources, innovators such as the Russians must look much harder for simple solutions than competitors who have millions or even billions of development dollars. That is precisely why the overwhelming majority of game changing innovations emerge from small start-ups and garage-shop operations.
Although conventional wisdom says that companies such as Amazon, eBay, Google, Facebook and Tesla transformed and disrupted their respective markets (retail, advertising, and automobile) because they were not encumbered with a need to protect existing businesses, we argue that such disruptors actually triumphed for a completely different reason: they all lacked massive resources of entrenched incumbents and so were compelled to explore the “do-a-lot-with-a-little” solution space.