Horseless Carriage Thinking: a Helping Hand or Hindering Hand?

Horseless Carriage Thinking had me at hello: as soon as I was introduced to it, many years ago, I was captivated by the ease it offered to introduce new concepts. How so?

Horseless Carriage is the way cars were originally introduced: not as something brand new, but instead as something more familiar. Since people then were familiar with a carriage, a car was introduced as a horseless carriage. Not something alien and scary, but something one’s mind could more easily come to terms with. And that’s essentially the idea behind horseless carriage thinking, or the way it was introduced to me. We can think of it as a better, improved mousetrap, and hope they will, indeed, come!

There are many examples of it.

Moving Pictures: instead of a “movie”, which may be a shocking concept, how about just pictures, that people were familiar with then… Just moving? And the idea behind that gave us many more examples of how to introduce new movies, for example. Edge of Tomorrow? It’s Groundhog Day in the future!

A self-propelling vacuum: it may be easier to embrace a Roomba like that instead of as an autonomous cleaning device.

So what’s not to like about horseless carriage thinking?

Well, as the quote to the right indicates, one wonders if it may hold us back. Perhaps it’s stopping us from a radical innovation.

Perhaps if we weren’t bound by thinking about a horseless carriage, we would have thought of a flying one, a self-navigating one, one with 500 horsepower (fast!)

Perhaps thinking of “moving pictures” stopped that industry from introducing “talkies” for way too long?

Perhaps thinking of “let’s do more of the same” is why we have so many movies that are prequels and sequels or the same with more superheroes, instead of fresh and exciting new plots?

Perhaps if we weren’t stuck with a “better mousetrap” as in a horseless carriage, we’d have self-cleaning floors instead of ones that have a self-propelling cleaner?

What do you think? Do you have examples of this way of introducing concepts that has worked well in the past, or might work well for future concepts? Do you think this horseless carriage thinking is helpful or a potential hurdle to future advances?

Advertisement

62 thoughts on “Horseless Carriage Thinking: a Helping Hand or Hindering Hand?

  1. Whenever something new is offered to us there has to be a way of making it relatable, so if horseless carriage thinking makes the something new seem more real, then I’m for it. The only example I can think of, and it’s not a very good one, is Post-it Notes. When they first came out we always said the word “Notes” but as they became understood and ubiquitous, they became Post-its.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do think that making something relatable can only help with adoption, and I will admit that I have more than a couple different sizes of PostIt notepads in more than a few colors at hand 🙂 Ok, it’s a LOT more than few …

      I wonder, though, while it can ONLY help with adoption, can it possibly hurt in the DEVELOPMENT of new … things? Would the inventor of the PostIts have disregarded the possibility of creating them because the glue wasn’t strong enough or because it was never done before?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, revolutionary thinking. EW, you are so good at pushing the boundaries! I wonder if it’s the engineers/innovators that get caught in this trap or the marketing/leadership. Because if it doesn’t get funded, often it doesn’t get built.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the distinction you’re making: it IS the difference between it being helpful for people who are the potential “adopters” vs. the people who are the “innovators”, who shouldn’t be trapped in the incremental thinking, but, like you pointed out so wisely, in the revolutionary thinking. That’s a TERRIFIC distinction, I think it’s right on the money!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you, Endless Weekend, for yet another VERY thought-provoking post. One example I can think of is the smartphone. A really apt name in a way, but that device is so much more than a phone that “phone” doesn’t really need to be in the name. Its synonym of a sort — mobile device — is perhaps a more unique description.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Dave, I really appreciate that! And I think that’s a TERRIFIC example. I know Steve Jobs was very deliberate about the “smart phone”, in fact, I once read that he created the original iPod to be the size it was to replace something that was being dropped out of people’s pockets at the time, cigarette boxes… He definitely would have considered the adoption of the the “smart phone” that does so much more, like you said, but people could feel comfortable with it because it was “just” a phone, but SMART 😀

      I wonder if that was the thought process around Smart Keys for cars, much less intimidating than “keyless entry”? I love that example, I’d have a whole different set of examples if I started out with that one! 🙂 Thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In theory, as there probably weren’t too many marketing/ad people yet, wouldn’t they have just named something for what it was? I’m assuming car comes from carriage. They just hadn’t shortened it yet. Interesting post that I’m going to ponder all day

    Liked by 3 people

    1. OMG, that’s so insightful: it didn’t occur to me to see “car” as a potential short version of “carriage.” So you KNOW I had to look it up. Wikipedia tells us that the word CAR originated in the Latin carrus or carrum which means “wheeled vehicle” or from the Middle English carre which meant “two-wheeled cart”, both originating from Gaulish karros which means “chariot.” And they left a link https://www.etymonline.com/word/car which shows that car originated around 1300. I live and learn 🙂 Thank you for the lesson!

      Liked by 3 people

  5. I suspect that radical innovation is everywhere but until it’s proven and money exchanges hands there isn’t much fanfare? As I was writing that sentence the concept driverless car struck me. Would that technology be going gangbusters had they named it the “relax and ride car”?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know that it took over a century for LCDs to become a “thing” between the times that they discovered and reached the large scale money-making stage, when we all know what they are 🙂 So, I suspect that there’s a lot of radical innovation that gets ignored … Maybe like da Vinci’s helicopter?

      I wonder if you’re really onto something, and we’re just not as good as we COULD be in introducing radical innovation, and if we were, we’d all be living like the Jetsons? 🙂 And then again, I wonder why it is that 1 in 4 folks insist on believing that the sun revolves around the earth instead of the earth around the sun—what are we missing in introducing these concepts?

      Like

  6. Wow – interesting post, EW! I can’t think of anything to add but love your examples. “Moving” pictures, indeed. I also like Ally and Dave’s contributions – Post-it Notes – yes! And Smart Phones. Thanks! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, Vicki! I was struggling with what examples made sense… I spent a lot of time thinking up devices like “laundry machine” which I wonder why is not more streamlined so it’s more like the magic I’ve experienced on cruises, where I dump my damp towel on the bathroom floor, and, as if by magic, it launders itself, dries itself, folds itself, and places it back on the bathroom hangers… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re making me grin!! I’m with you – and would love a magic laundry machine. I’ve often laughed about “The Jetsons” cartoon show – I want all of those fun conveniences! Although, bad drivers and flying cars? Freaks me out just thinking about it! 😉xo!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. What an insightful way of looking at it! I recently read some of what the author of Sapiens hypothesized about AI and what it could (good and bad) bring to our lives… That’s certainly a very current (and somewhat frightening…) topic!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. As Ally said, making a new idea relatable is a big part of introducing new things. New ideas need to sound like something we need – which is why I just don’t understand twitter – though they can make it into our lives without a horseless carriage, I expect it takes longer. Plus, much invention has to do with improving something that already exists – or at least making it look that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do agree that adoption is … hard. No, very hard. No, extremely difficult. No, one of the most challenging problems we face! Both in a good way and in a bad way.

      I wonder if Twitter had an easier time because it was “140 character Facebook” and Facebook was already a “thing”?

      And I agree, much (most?) inventions are incremental. I wonder how much of the incremental “stuff” is making us ignore some potential RADICAL innovation that would have had us all live in a Star Trek like world with replicators … No cooking EVER, can you imagine? I bet no laundry, either 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My favorite Star Trek invention, besides the ease of the replicators and the ability to beam from place to place, was – I think in Voyager – when they beamed to baby out of Mama’s tummy. Wouldn’t that be the best thing ever?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I love how open minded to innovation the crew seems to be (though not others, necessarily… 🙂 ).

          Did you hear how they came up with Beaming in Star Trek? It’s one of my favorite stories: they were a relatively low-budget production show, and they were waiting for the prop department to create their shuttles from the Enterprise to the planets. But it was still a couple of weeks from being ready, and they HAD to start filming. So they thought: what can we do to just make people show up from the Enterprise to the planet without any props? 🙂 And Beaming was born!

          Liked by 1 person

  8. “Ice box” for refrigerator. Reminds me of one of Malcolm Gladwell’s books where he talks about the chair that everyone hated at first because it looked so weird and different, but it eventually became super popular once people got used to the look of it because it’s so comfortable. There were also certain TV shows and a singer who took a while to take off because people didn’t know how to categorize them. It’s true humans need to be eased into new ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a FANTASTIC example! And it’s a real description of what it was, like “horseless carriage” (less of what it is now, which is now more of a smart-device/art installment 😀 )

      Which book was that? I don’t remember that story, but it sounds right…

      And that’s a very thought-provoking example about how new storylines/music is first rejected, even if it’s better, and why we’re stuck with the same remakes of the same sequels of the same stories, just #192 instead of new stuff. True also at work, where it’s just “safer” to try the same old thing that hasn’t worked before, rather than a new idea that might actually work? 😀

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Interesting. I just finished The Help. (Loved it!) And am now reading Night by Elie Wiesel about his experience in a concentration camp. So not fun reading. I can only do so much at a time. Good thing it’s a short book. After this, I have a book on Mother Teresa. Should be much better! (Well, probably still sad, come to think of it.) What a strange kick I’m on lately!

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Whoa, your reading list is impressive! I remember reading a Wiesel book years ago and being awed by him, but that’s all I remember… After reading Frankl’s book I bought it in hardcover (I liked it that much).

            I’m curious what you think about Mother Teresa: I read an article that presented a pretty negative narrative about how she ended up very rich and treated her patients very differently than she treated herself. I wonder if it was accurate?

            Liked by 1 person

          3. What a fantastic idea: we could collaborate on it!

            It does seem like a contradiction, but Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, might explain it? Kahneman introduces two systems, the first one, the “fast” one is what we see in chess masters when they look at a chess board and just KNOW what to do. As if by magic. It’s how I know that 6+6=12 without needing to take my socks off 😀
            But then there’s “slow” thinking: what I need to do when I need to calculate 66×66 when my phone is not available, or my complicated solving (or not) of where is the best place to live.
            Kahneman also (wisely) warns us that we, humans, are lazy, and tend to want to solve everything as a “fast” problem, including the ones that require “slow” thinking 🙂
            I just finished the chapter about online dating in Don’t Trust Your Gut: it turns out that the characteristics that are most sought after for dating are the worse ones for long term romantic relationship. It’s full of cute nuggets like that 🙂 Onwards to what’s the best way to become rich…

            Liked by 1 person

          4. There’s a chapter on Speed Dating in Blink! How fun it will be to read these books back to back!

            I’ve noticed sometimes (rarely) that I solve a math problem quickly in my head w/o thinking. Then, not trusting myself, I do it the slow way and find that my quick answer was correct! It’s been years since that strange phenomenon has occurred, however. I’m sure it has nothing to do with aging. 😉

            Liked by 1 person

          5. Did we talk about this before?? I have a vague memory of this concept being thrown out there by another blogger some time ago. Think it was you? OMG, was it me?! 😛 I would not at all trust myself to finish a book in a timely manner, however. :/

            Like

  9. Humans resist change and they became more recalcitrant as they get older. It is sometimes hard work to change and I agree, our species can be terribly lazy. I wonder if that has come about through us gathering in groups. Groups were safer, but also gave cover to any group members of the lazy persuasion.
    I did not know a car was a horseless carriage but given an animal might be more reliable than a motor in some instances, the naming was wise!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe you are absolutely right: there’s SOMETHING about us humans that makes us abhor change as if it were an evil ghoul (you know, it is close to Halloween, whether you celebrate it or not :P).

      There’s an old Jesuit saying that says something like “give me a child until he’s 7, and I’ll have him for life.” I think you’re right that the older we get, the more resistant to change we are. I just think that “older” is a single digit age… What do you think?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I was trying to be too cute: I meant that I think that even as 10+ year olds, many humans are resistant to change, including change that can only help them.

          I don’t know that at any age—beyond very young, formative age, as in toddlers—most humans welcome change. Few do, for sure. But most… don’t?

          I, too, am surprised to sometimes look in the mirror and think that perhaps most of my life might not be in front of me… I don’t FEEL my age? Maybe that’s a good thing? Maybe that keeps us younger?

          Like

          1. Our minds appear more stable throughout the years, if we keep them active. Our bodies have a considerable decline due to cellular and soft tissue damage and illnesses.
            It is funny that you use the term cute – as another blogger and I were commenting recently how that word has different connotations in America as compared to other parts of the world!
            I try to welcome change as something new to learn but I suspect you are right that most would rather keep a status quo. I really dislike changing to a new smartphone, yet with all the new gimmicks, I should embrace it.

            Like

  10. I agree with those that commented it’s a matter of marketing or funding research to base the name or description of an invention on what came before.
    I think the best inventors started by solving a problem with an open mind rather than by repairing or adding to a known invention. I believe the ones that make big leaps start by dreaming and then try to explain their castle in the air to those whose imaginations are less lofty perhaps?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really like the distinction you’re making between “consumers” of new things, that are more likely to adopt the innovation if it’s explained in terms of something they’re already using, so it’s a small, incremental step, and the “producers” of radical innovation, who may be able to conceptualize something that has never had its equal in history! (Like the length of this tremendously long sentence 😊).

      So we can explain the “original” Netflix as sending dvds in mail instead of needing to go to the store (incremental innovation?), and Netflix 2.0 as getting those shows “on airwaves” on demand (radical innovation?).

      And that begs the question: do you think there’s any innovation that is so radically different that it cannot be explained in terms of today’s examples? What do you think?

      Thank you for bringing up such a terrific question! I’d love to get your thoughts on it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm… that’s a tricky one. I can’t think of an example that takes a leap so long there’s no connection, but I’ll keep pondering it. I’m meeting a friend to write together tonight, so I’ll throw it out for discussion too. She and I both think creatively, but in different ways. Might come up with more ideas. I’ll let you know…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Your response should get 3 gold stars!
          1) it’s thoughtful, and there’s a shortage in that, thank you!
          2) You have a writing group/pair, I think that’s awesome! How does that work to write with someone else?
          3) You’re going to get more input and share, thank you!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. It was a tough question to think of novel inventions that couldn’t be spun well. Our small group agreed harnessing electricity for home wiring was one of the biggest. The closest thing to it prior was gas lines to feed wall lamps, but the fuel was tangible. It took a long time to convince the public to trust the invisible force of electricity.
            This morning I thought perhaps radio might qualify too. Again, the leap from wires to transmission through the air was unique.
            What do you think?

            Liked by 1 person

          2. I think electricity is an inspired example, but I like radio even better: while there’s a way for folks in the olden days to “imagine” within their frame of reference a bottomless oil supply, radio seems like it couldn’t have been explained away. Voices coming out of… a small box? Must be magic, no? Sort of like what Arthur C Clark said about any technology advanced enough is indistinguishable from magic?

            Can you imagine needing to explain away a telephone to someone from the dark ages? I can only imagine that that would end up with a witch trial 😀

            Those are TERRIFIC examples, especially the audio ones, thank you so much for bringing them about!

            Like

          1. The beauty is it wasn’t rambling, the words were required to get the correct point across. Long sentences are only tedious when they wander off into the weeds. And yes, perhaps kindred spirits. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh, and my writer friend and I didn’t come up with any examples of an invention that defies all convention. Mostly because we got distracted by me finishing the draft of book 5 of my 5 book series that evening. (Yes!!) I plan to bring up the question to my full writers group this evening, and I plan to report back. It should be a lively discussion, and I thank you for that.
    1)Your welcome, and my pleasure, on a thoughtful comment – I have a bit of a problem with thinking more than the average person, I’ve found. 😀
    2)Honestly with group/pair writing we often talk more than write when we gather, but we solve dilemmas in our stories, discuss general plot devices or how film plots went – or perhaps should not have gone, that sort of thing. It’s very inspiring and keeps us on track to write well and more prolifically for the rest of the week when we’re on our own. We also manage to hush and write separately together sometimes. Other folks in the cafe’ stop by and ask what we’re doing if there’s a batch of us at one table. It’s an odd dinner party, but other diners generally find it exciting when they learn what we’re up to. Sometimes they even buy a book or two.
    3)Will do my best to report back tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a MOMENTOUS occasion! Congratulations!!!

      1) I would hardly call that a problem, though I understand how in some (most?) circles it would, sadly, be the case…

      2) I find that approach inspiring. I have not had the opportunity to participate in group/pair writing, and I think that a “fresh” pair of eyes can see things that the pair of eyes that “wrote” may be blind to. Not in a bad way, but I know the sometimes I have read what I wrote and I read what I THINK I wrote and it ended up being pointed out by another that that’s not what was actually written. I couldn’t see it. I can only imagine that works the same for leaps in a plot, etc. It’s a fabulous approach, I hope to have a chance to try it out myself.

      3) Your radio idea was nothing short of ingenious. Thank you! It will have me thinking more about “leaps” in our advances vs. those that can be more or less explained away as “horseless carriage” or “icebox.” Perhaps a second-part? The wheels are turning (which, as you can imagine, is an analogy that came out when gears were invented 🙂 )…

      Again: thank you!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s