Andre Durand

Discovering life, one mistake at a time.

The Wisdom of “Asimo”

September 25, 2008 By: Andre Category: Life, Musings

About every 3 to 4 years, I see a commercial showing some latest trick that “Asimo”, Honda’s robot, is now able to accomplish. A few years ago, he served up a tray of coffee. Walking it over from the kitchen to a table and setting it down. Today he’s figure skating like Dorothy Hamill in the 1976 Olympics. When I first saw these commercials, I thought, “…what a waste of money. Honda should stick to building great cars,” but as the years went on, and Asimo went from a clunky toy to something of shear engineering genius, I’ve come to appreciate the wisdom and the courage of the people behind Asimo.

What Asimo represents, that I believe we’ve somehow forgotten in America, is the long-term view. It wasn’t that long ago that we did great things here in America, we took risk to pursue what seemed like crazy dreams. Putting men on the moon, breaking the sound barrier, building crazy tall buildings, erected cities in the desert. These were all crazy ideas, but they were also great, because they represented big vision and a ton of courage.

As a society, we’ve gotten so caught up in the ‘today’, living in the moment, that I believe we’ve lost sight of the fact that big dreams take time, perseverance, courage, and commitment. Our society, and in particular, Wall Street and our public markets, demand immediate results. I believe this short-term returns-oriented mentality, when not balanced with a longer term view of investment and long-bets, will belittle what we’re capable of.

Listen to how Honda’s former President and CEO, Hiroyuki Yoshino, describes their vision of Asimo. There is a lot to be admired in these statements, especially considering the fact that they come from a leader within a public company.

More than 20 years ago, our engineers set out to make a contribution to society beyond our existing product lineup of cars, motorcycles and power equipment products. It was a big dream – some thought it was simply the stuff of science fiction – to create a humanoid robot that could walk on two legs and whose main purpose would be to help people, such as the elderly and others who were confined to a bed or a wheelchair. Ultimately, our efforts led to the creation of ASIMO, a humanoid robot, which stands for “Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility.”

“Our dream for the future was to create something that did not exist – an advanced humanoid robot capable of walking and operating where humans live and work. For Honda, the challenge itself was enough reason to pursue this dream.”

To me, all the recent turmoil in our financial markets is simply the next proof point that however it is that we’ve been running things isn’t working. Wall Street, and indeed I think America in general, has become too focused on short-term gains. It’s time to return to a longer view of contribution and value add. In another 10 to 20 years, Asimo might not appear so crazy. But he will exist only because people had the courage to do pursue something really outstanding.

Small steps, long-term outlook.