Time says the Microsoft Zune was one of the ten biggest tech failures of the last decade. That’s a pretty bold statement in a post-Theranos world.
The Zune seemed like a great idea. It was capitalizing on trends, was more sleek and colorful than the iPod. Microsoft poured millions into the product’s development and marketing.
But still, kerplunk.
What you might not know is that the Zune’s touch-screen technology was repurposed into the Microsoft Surface. The Surface struggled too, until Microsoft introduced the Surface Laptop series, which has been growing steady and topped $1 Billion in sales in 2015 and whose market share continues to grow.
In the tech industry, innovation is built on the concept of failing fast and failing smart. Try something, see what happens, learn and adapt, then try again. Still, There are some days when those of us working to improve community outcomes probably feel like the folks behind Zune. Uncool. Failures. Ridiculed. These are days when we’ve struggled as hard as we can to make a great idea happen, to see a project through to the end, to win friends and influence people — and it just doesn’t work out.
But there’s something to salvage — even if it’s just a hard a lesson — in each one of those failures. No one can promise us that our next iteration will be our best iteration. And if history is any judge it probably won’t be. But if we stumble around for a few more months or years trying like hell to learn and to make the next big breakthrough, we will get there.
This is why we created our New Horizons grant fund. We believe that when we are addressing some of our state’s most pressing issues, nonprofits need some room to take a swing at a new idea and possibly miss. And we know that to address issues ranging from obesity and gaps in mental health care to issues impacting prematurity and children’s supports — we likely aren’t going to find a breakthrough by doing more of the same. New Horizons Grants are small, pilot or “proof of concept” grants designed to provide the funding to try out an idea and see if it works. If it does – great, we want to help you scale it up. If it doesn’t, that is also great. Let’s share what we’ve learned widely so others can learn from it and set off to trying the next idea.
For those with a big dream, trying to find a way to change things we encourage you to keep at it knowing that with enough reflection and effort you’ll get there. And in the meantime, all we can do is keep trying and reach out to our friends, mentors and network and to learn. We want to be part of that network and would encourage folks with an idea to apply for a New Horizon Grant at our next deadline – this June 1.
Are you having a Zune kind of idea? Better yet, have you already had one and think you are ready to break through? We’d love to hear from you — our team loves sharing stories of Louisiana’s success and connecting people who are working through challenges with resources. So let us hear from you – whether as a grant application or just as a quick note sharing about your experience. Together we can improve health in Louisiana. We’ll likely have plenty of failure as we make the journey towards that end but it is precisely those stories and that learning that ultimately help us achieve the goal we aimed at in the first place.
BCBSLA Foundation President and Head of Community Relations