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P.I.P. Editorial – The Better Mousetrap Fallacy

“Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. ” 

The quote that has stirred countless innovative inventors and inventive innovators could very well be the most used phrase to instill a sense of creativity in the business minded individual. Let’s get real here though – does it actually make any sense? If it ever did, does it still apply today?

Originally attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson in the late nineteenth century, many people don’t know that the quote is almost always quipped, posted, shared and otherwise expressed inaccurately. The entire and total quote is actually:

” If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods. ”

Not as snappy eh? The spirit is definitely the same but there’s obviously no mention of mousetraps. Other sources claim that the quote was altered 7 years after it’s initial appearance to include “mousetrap” in the general inventory of things folks will beat a path to your door for.

The phrase isn’t just a hollow business drone inspirant like “PROMOTE SYNERGY” though – the U.S. Patent office has issued 4,400 patents for “better mousetraps. ” Inventors have taken the misquote quite literally making the mousetrap the most frequently invented device in U.S. history.

Now here comes the obvious counter : “IF IT AIN’T BROKE – DON’T FIX IT!”
More from Southern lore and wit than maybe experience business blokes the truth should still be ringing in your ears (or eyes, in this case).

Invention is amazing – innovation is the engine that has made countries like America especially awesome. The fallacy that should be lit up in neon is : NOT EVERY INVENTION IS NECESSARY.

Take note – saying “NO” to an idea can be the most crucial decision you can make for your business. Form , function,  and logic should never take precedent completely and strangle your creativity but without a firm process of production those “fun ideas” will be the water you and your business drown in.

And don’t act I wasn’t here trying to throw you a life preserver. Until next time fiscal futurists, you princes and princesses of product information….

Dan “Buy Buy Buy” Rule 
P.I.P. Chief Editor