Back to the “irrational decisions”!
Continuation of Entrepreneur’s Diary #71:
“Notwendigkeit von unvernünftigen Entscheidungen” (The Necessity of Irrational Decisions “).
The InterFace, too, owes its origin to a very irrational decision. Woe if, at the time, we had had a decent person to control us. He would have called us “insane”. How could anybody try and strive towards such a utopian idea? With ZERO chance of success.
In retrospect, I am actually surprised how something so weird could have worked. All reasonable and rational arguments were certainly against what we had planned. Today, if asked, I would probably advise against what we did at the time.
Our most severe case of irrationality was when we, as “newcomers” and “nobodies” wanted to develop a UNIX text system. There were two of us, along with a few students. And in the process, we actually wanted to try to earn enough money for us and the students to live on quite well. Which meant that you had to delete the term “two of us” from the above sentence, because basically only the students were left.
What happened was the success story of HIT/CLOU. And a few years later, there was a time span of ten years during which Siemens AG created more turnover with HIT/CLOU than with their second SINIX product (which they also had taken under licence), the data base Informix of RDS (that was still the name of Informix for some time) .
At the time, we started developing HIT and CLOU with a colourful selection of young people. It happened against all rational business thinking, simply because we wanted to own a software product of our own.
Since data bases were too complex and the communication technology underwent a total re-structuring, we decided to develop an “electronic typewriter”. … To us, that seemed easier. So we took a closer look at the old “brother” and text machines such as Triumph-Adler and implemented the entire thing anew and a little better on UNIX. How simple the world can be.
And a few years later, we became the market leader in Europe – not just on SINIX, but on many UNIX systems of many producers!
Simultaneously, Siemens AG tried to develop a series of editors. At their place, the product planning team had more members than our entire development, project and sales units. They had planned everything “rationally”, developed it in the classical way and supplied huge budgets. With expensive developers and super consultants.
And still they failed again and again!
Incidentally, Siemens AG made a turnover of 500 million DM during the aforementioned ten years with HIT/CLOU. It is quite possible that, during the same period, they invested more money for all the new developments of theirs that failed either technologically or economically.
Those products were failures due to poor technological competence, such as the demand for a common (!) interface for BS2000, UNIX and DOS. I remember quite well some discussions about what nonsense such a venture was. These were discussions I took part in.
And if, for a change, they were not a failure technologically, then they failed on the market, like with ComfoText against Microsoft.
And everybody asked how it was possible that the small InterFace Connection GmbH with its limited budget could manage to do things that were out of reach for the huge Siemens AG with all the millions they invested and all those many planners, engineers, developers, testers.
Well, the reasons were quite simple: an irrational decision, the enthusiasm of great persons in a super team, an agile procedure, many partners and a little luck – and here we were working!
So here is the second part of my appeal to make “irrational decisions”. Even if they cost money and will worsen the results. We still need them in order to do great things. And, basically, there is something great to every enterprise.
(Translated by EG)
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