One thing that I’ve been thinking about lately, especially given my recent announcement, is what will be my innovation legacy.
Another person who pondered this question was Alfred Nobel. Alfred teamed up with his brother and father and opened a lab in Stockholm to study nitroglycerine. In 1866, he discovered that by mixing it with keiselguhr powder, made from a white chalky rock, he could stabilize nitroglycerine. He named the new invention dynamite.
His new invention was immediately embraced by the mining and construction industries. However, it didn’t take long before the military also found a use for it.
In 1888, a rumor that Nobel had died led to the publication of his obituary in a French newspaper under the headline, “The Merchant of Death is Dead.” The first line of the obituary read, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” Nobel was horrified by the thought that he would be remembered primarily as an arms manufacturer whose greatest discovery, dynamite, enabled warring nations to kill their enemies more efficiently.
He set himself on a path to find a way to improve his reputation and leave a legacy that would benefit the world.
Upon his death in 1896, it was announced that he had set aside a $9 million estate to form a foundation which would award an annual cash prize to individuals who had made the most significant contributions to physics, chemistry, literature, and peace. The foundation awarded the first Nobel Prize in 1901.
I’m proud of the products that define my current innovation legacy. But I want to do more than just live off the past. What is your innovation legacy?