If your brand was based on safety and you invented a major safety improvement, you may be tempted to keep it for yourself. But that’s not what Volvo did.

The modern-day seatbelt/shoulder strap was created for Volvo in 1959, and they immediately released the patent free-of-charge to other manufacturers to use. Volvo put safety ahead of profit and felt the invention was “so significant” that it needed to be shared. They were right, as this one safety enhancement has been credited for saving over a million lives.

Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin worked to make improvements to the lap strap, and to do so in a way that would be easy to use yet effective. His invention has been credited as “the most successful contribution to safety in the history of motoring” and earned him a place in the Automotive Hall of Fame.

Today, we take seat belts for granted and probably never stop to think of the engineering that went into creating them or to appreciate the impact that Volvo had by freely sharing its invention. But today’s organizations would be well served to follow Volvo’s lessons in sharing. Sometimes you reap the most from what you give away.

Thanks, Meg!


About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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