THE ONLY WAY IS UP
Predatory thinking is about asking the right question.
Such as, what was it that sparked the spread of skyscrapers?
Some people say the invention of concrete.
Some people say the invention of steel.
Some people say sheet-glass for the windows.
The real answer is none of these.
All these allowed people to build skyscrapers.
But the technology wasn’t the issue.
They knew how to build tall buildings centuries before anyone wanted them.
The real question is, what changed to make people want skyscrapers?
The answer is another question: how many flights of stairs would you be willing to walk up?
One, two, maybe three.
That’s it, more than three flights and most people get the elevator.
And that’s the answer.
What made people want tall buildings was the elevator.
An effortless way to get to the top.
So once the elevator was invented people wanted skyscrapers, right?
Well, no actually.
The ‘lifting-platform’ was invented hundreds of years before the skyscraper.
But it was only ever used for freight.
Why wasn’t it used for people?
Well mainly because the rope sometimes broke.
When it did the platform fell and people died.
The real question is, what changed that?
Elisha Otis did.
He’d been a wagon maker and was looking for a safe way to lift goods and people in his factory.
As he’d been a wagon-maker he knew about the leaf-springs used on carts.
When the wheel goes up the spring bends outwards.
When the wheel goes down the spring bends inwards.
He simply turned the spring upside-down, on top of the moving-platform so the ends ran between two vertical rails.
When the platform was pulled up, the ends of the spring bent inwards, and the platform was free to move.
If the rope broke, the springs bent outwards and stopped it falling.
Otis tried to sell his invention but no one was really interested.
He needed a dramatic demonstration.
So in 1854 he erected it at the New York World’s Fair.
In front of everyone he stood on the platform while it was raised six stories in the air.
When everyone was watching, his assistant cut the rope with an axe.
The crowd screamed, the platform fell.
But only a couple of inches.
It stopped as the leaf-springs sprang out and gripped the guide rails.
Otis jumped up and down on the platform, but it didn’t budge.
In the most dramatic way he’d made his point.
Now architects could start designing tall buildings.
Otis made skyscrapers desirable because he made them safe.
Today, Otis is the world’s largest manufacturer of elevators.
Employing over 60,000 people serving every country on the planet.
They make over $12 billion in revenue every year.
Every nine days the equivalent of the entire world’s population travels in Otis elevators.
Next time you get in an elevator look down at the floor.
You’ll see the word OTIS there.
The name of the man who really understood predatory thinking.
How to get upstream and change a problem that can’t be solved into one that can.