In the United Kingdom, 1865, the Locomotive Act – otherwise known as the “Red Flag Act” – was passed. This legislation was a response to the first cars that were starting to be produced. These “self-propelled vehicles” were deemed a threat to stagecoach and railroad industries of the time.
Cars are too dangerous!
The Act stipulated that self propelled vehicles should:
- adhere to a speed limit of 4 miles per hour
- be accompanied by a crew of three, including an engineer
- have a man with a red flag walking at least 55 metres ahead of the vehicle, to warn others of it’s approach
The railroad tycoons, lawmakers and self-appointed gatekeepers used regulation to stifle innovation.
When we look back now, we can’t help but laugh at how silly the whole thing sounds, but these ‘innovation flagman’ still exist in business and society today.
A radical idea is often met with skepticism, ridicule, even hostility from those who stand to lose the most from it’s success.
The best example of this happening right now is yet again in the same industry. Uber, the transportation and ride-sharing platform, is currently banned in 3 of the 8 states in Australia – based on the premise that it is ‘too dangerous’.
Even within businesses today, despite the push for innovation and creative thinking, there will always be individuals that want to slow down progression – often out of fear or misunderstanding. The best way to deal with these road-blocks is open communication and engagement of as many stakeholders as possible (you’ll rarely get them all).
Just like the car, and just as will happen for ride-sharing platforms, innovation can be slowed but inevitably it will succeed. Keep an eye out for the flagman in your organisation or community, and take the first step greet them at the pass 🙂