利用專利的知識

By:Jim Mathis

一九七零年代,我和我的太太開的影像處理公司,是幾家率先使用柯達皇家處理器的其中之一。因為當時沖洗和儲存老照片佔我們業務的很大部分,所以我很快得就知道要怎麼用處理器讓照片有懷舊復古的感覺。

幾年之後,我去參加柯達的研討會,有人問到如何使用柯達皇家處理器來製造復古的感覺時,柯達的技術人員代表就起來道歉,說這是不可能的事。

當下,我覺得很奇怪。我是否應該跟柯達的技術人員說他們錯了嗎? 還是我發現了一個別人不知道的功能呢? 我選擇了後者,因為我知道於情於理,我都不該去跟柯達的人說這件事。這件事的結局就是,當「財富雜誌Fortune」選出的五百大公司說不可能的時候,我已經用這個功能賺了好幾千元美金。

當柯達人員都不知道的時候,我發現了「專利」。但因為我不是柯達的員工或是任何跟它相關的人員,我只是一個顧客,我就不應該告訴他們這件事。這件事應該由他們自己發覺。

由這件事衍生出幾個問題: 柯達沒有去使用這台處理器嗎?為什麼研討會的觀眾自己也不去嘗試呢 ? 這件事讓我學到一課就是,「專家」經常是錯的,你不能完全相信你聽到或是讀到的每一件事,而是應該自己親身去嘗試。

我現在知道有很多小公司成功的原因,是因為他們做一些大公司沒有辦法或是不願意去做的事。

那台處理器隨著科技的進步成為廢鐵,柯達公司也因為破產和許多原因,衰敗成為攝影工業裡的一段追憶了。但是在我最近的業務當中,我依然在處理和儲存老照片和受損的照片。柯達.伊士曼曾是我最大的供應商,但現在我擁有的唯一件科達的產品被封存在一個古老的展示箱裡。生命和工作真的有時是會有奇怪和出人意料的轉彎。

我想這個故事蘊含了一個簡單但是意義深遠的寓意,適用於職場上的每一個人。那就是無論你灌注了多少的努力在你的工作領域當中,要嘗試新的事物和新的方向。不要相信那些懷疑論者說的不可能,或是那些害怕踏出去的人。而是要去冒險和跟隨著自己的熱情。

箴言29章18節說到,「沒有異象,民就放肆。」(或譯滅亡)。如果我沒有嘗試和發現影像處理機的附加功能,也許我還不至於滅亡,但是我就失去了一筆可觀的收入,和發現連製造商都不知道功能的滿足感,這些都來自於勇於嘗試的冒險。

吉姆.馬提斯在堪薩斯州陸路公園市經營一家照相館。他的專長是商業和影劇界人像。他也經營一所攝影學校。他還寫了一本書「一般民眾的高度攝影表現」,那是一本有關數位攝影的書。他曾是一家咖啡店的經理,也曾是CBMC在堪薩斯州堪薩斯市和密蘇里州堪薩斯市的執行主任。

省思 / 討論題目
你是那種喜歡嘗試一個新的機器、程序或甚至是一個商業的理論的人嗎?請解釋一下你的答案。 你是否經常提供不同的觀點或方法來解決一個問題?如果有人向你提議一個創新的甚至是前衛的方法,你是否願意審慎地去考慮它的可能性?請解釋一下你的答案。 從作者的故事裡,你如何可以應用在自己的職場上? 你是否相信「異象」對於一個成功的企業是一件很重要的事?或者你認為「異象」只是對個人或是職場上的呼召?備註: 若你想看聖經有關此議題的其他經文,請翻閱以下經節: 創世紀1章1、26-27;箴言20章24、24章5節;耶利米書33章3;馬太福音7章7節;以弗所書3章20節

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF PROPRIETARY KNOWLEDGE
By Jim Mathis

In the 1970s the photo processing and printing company my wife and I owned was one of the first to buy a Kodak Royalprint print processor. Since copying and restoring old photos was a big part of our business even then, I quickly figured out how to sepia-tone (brown-tinted) photos using the processor.

A few years later I was at a Kodak seminar when somebody asked about sepia toning using the Royalprint machine. The Kodak technical representative apologized and said that was not possible.

Then I had somewhat of a dilemma. Did I tell the Kodak people they were wrong, or should I proceed knowing I knew something that nobody else knew? I chose the latter, aware I had no legal or ethical obligation to inform Kodak about capabilities they did not know their processor had. As a result, I was able to earn thousands of dollars doing something the then- Fortune 500 company said was impossible.

I had uncovered “proprietary knowledge” that no one at Kodak realized they possessed. Since I was not an employee of Kodak or in any way affiliated with the company other than being a customer, it was not my responsibility to inform them of something they should have discovered on their own.

This brings up a couple of questions. Did Kodak not try it, and why did not the people in the audience experiment with the machine on their own? The lessons I learned were that the "experts" are often wrong, and you can’t believe everything you hear or read. Sometimes it pays off to check things out on your own.

I now know that many small businesses become successful simply because they are doing something that a large company cannot or will not do.

That old processor has since been junked with the advancement of technology, and Kodak has gone into bankruptcy, for a variety of reasons declining into an afterthought in the photographic industry. But in my current photography business I am still restoring old and damaged photographs. Eastman Kodak was once my biggest supplier; now the only Kodak products I have are in an antiques display case. Life and work sometimes take strange and unexpected twists and turns.

I think there is a simple but profound moral of this story. It applies to anyone in business, no matter which field of endeavor you happen to be working n: Keep trying new things, new directions, and do not believe the naysayers that say something cannot be done or the people who are afraid to step out, take a risk and follow their passion.

Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” If I had not experimented and discovered the additional capabilities of the photographic print processor, I might not have “perished.” However, I would have missed out on significant income – along with the satisfaction of knowing I had learned to do something even the manufacturer was not aware could be done. That in itself is part of the satisfaction of being engaged in an entrepreneurial venture.

Jim Mathis is the owner of a photography studio in Overland Park, Kansas, specializing in executive, commercial and theatrical portraits, and operates a school of photography. Jim is the author of High Performance Cameras for Ordinary People, a book on digital photography. He formerly was a coffee shop manager, and executive director of CBMC in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

Reflection/Discussion Questions
Are you the type of person that likes to explore, to experiment to discover new things about a machine, a process, or even business philosophy? Explain your answer. How open are you to people that are always offering different perspectives or approaches to a problem? If someone came to you and proposed a revolutionary or radically different way of doing something, would you be willing to give it serious consideration? Why or why not? How do you relate to Mr. Mathis”s statement that he had no obligation to inform Kodak that their machine could do more than they realized it could? What do you believe is the importance of “vision” in the success of an enterprise, or simply for the fulfillment of one”s personal and professional calling?If you would like to look at or discuss other portions of the Bible that relate to this topic, consider the following brief sampling of passages: Genesis 1:1,26-27; Proverbs 20:24, 24:5; Jeremiah 33:3; Matthew 7:7; Ephesians 3:20

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