November 29, 2021

People Over Profit - The Story of Volvo's Gift to the World.

In 2019, @forbes published an article by Douglas Bell in which he wrote "... invention and innovation are not the same thing."

His article was about Volvo's CEO, Gunnar Engellau, and Engineer, Nils Bohlin. Gunnar strategically recruited Nils to work for Volvo after seeing his work on the three-point seatbelt with rival company Saab. Gunnar had lost a family member in a fatal crash and he knew how important Nils' work was.

After successfully testing the new seatbelt design that protected the passenger far beyond the earlier two-point seatbelt design, Volvo filed for a patent. But they weren't trying to protect the company from competitors stealing their work. Actually, just the opposite.

Once their patent was approved, they released it to automakers around the world. For free. They could have made hundreds of millions in royalties. But instead, they wanted to save more people from fatal car accidents.

You see, the invention was a brilliant piece of creative design that had the POTENTIAL to save lives. But to do so, vehicles had to actually have the seatbelts installed. And even further, people had to actually wear them.

The team at Volvo knew their invention would protect people in accidents. But they also knew, if the invention wasn't executed, innovation could never occur. They chose people over profit. And because they did, millions of lives have been saved.

The article ends by saying this... "Through persistence, seatbelt wearing eventually became not just a legal requirement, but a cultural norm; an innovation success, that many owe their lives to. It is worth remembering Bohlin, and Volvo's gesture of goodwill. It is a refreshing story of design ingenuity, corporate entrepreneurship, and capitalism with a conscience."

As you create your gratitude journals today, maybe give a special thanks to Nils, Gunnar, and Volvo - a company that truly cared.

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