Great Risk Equal Great Reward at theCO

“This is typical Berlin hot air. The product is worthless,” wrote Heinrich Dreser, head of Bayer’s Pharmacological Institute, rejecting an invention by German chemist Felix Hoffman: the aspirin.

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home,” scoffed Ken Olson, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp, in 1977.


“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible,” a Yale professor responded to Fred Smith’s paper, which proposed reliable overnight delivery. Smith went on to found FedEx.

These are more than amusing stories about rejected inventions that later became wildly successful; they are examples of people who were well-established and respected in their fields rejecting creative ideas. This illustrates what organizational psychologists at Cornell University have dubbed “creativity bias,” a tendency to dismiss creativity when the outcome is unpredictable and promotes a sense of uncertainty.

In this area, small start-up companies have an advantage over large corporations. Most corporations have carefully designed processes constructed to deliver a predictable outcome. Innovation requires breaking that process, fracturing the ability to anticipate a specific outcome. Too often, companies get stuck in what has worked for them in the past that they fail to experiment with what might work better in the future. The most successful companies have found ways to shift their focus from delivering a specific outcome to learning something new that can serve to better their product, service or business down the road.


theCO was founded on the idea that collaboration is constructive in creating new ideas and breaking old patterns. From our CO.STARTERS program to our weekly meetups, we are committed to helping our members and community of West Tennessee think of original business ideas and strategies to promote their success. Even our CO:working space, which allows entrepreneurs, makers, and techies to intermingle, can foster new ideas, supply fresh perspectives, and provide assistance in new endeavors.

“I am surrounded by amazing people that help make me better every day,” said Austin Thompson, founder of marketing company, Thompson Industries, and creative side business, Random Pieces of Wood. “The way we all interact amazes me.”

What’s the takeaway? Innovation requires moving away from the predictable outcome. If businesses are unwilling to break tradition, then they can never reap the rewards of innovation and will suffer for it long-term. And theCO can help you get started on more creative and successful path.