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Plain Talk for a New Generation
Next Year's Car

A standard is more than a technical document. It’s an approach, a method, a concept, a design. It’s inspiration, experience. It’s an idea. Every day, ASTM people are developing ideas to make products safer, better, and more competitive. And in companies everywhere, there are people dedicated to selling those products. They’re developing strategies for promotion, for distribution, to tear down barriers to trade, to gain advantage over competitors.

Companies today are competing for shares of the greatest, most enticing market in history. They have to work with many governments, use all the resources at their command to open markets, remove restrictions, and avoid duplicative costs. They are engaged at every level of trade, in every arena where competition exists, to win the battle for the great global market.

Global companies and the governments they deal with know that competition between standards, between ideas, is a part of trade. Why is it, then, that some lose this battle by forfeit? Why shouldn’t a society that is dedicated to success in the marketplace apply the same commitment to promoting its standards that it does to promoting its products?

Standards are valuable resources in which great amounts of time and money are invested. Shouldn’t resources like this, especially ones in which industries are so invested, be marketed? Some societies have grasped this concept, and made it policy. They’ve learned that exporting ideas (i.e., standards) that determine which products will be accepted, which material will build the bridges, the roads, and the houses, brings handsome profits. They sell their ideas hard, for they know that like next year’s car, the customer will buy the idea of the car, even before it comes on the market. The standard as an idea is a powerful inducement to trade, a promise of things to come. The promise may be safety, it may be quality, or it may be acceptance in the marketplace.

A man once said, “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, though he builds his house in the woods the world will make a beaten path to his door.” [1] This man obviously did not live in the information age, or have to sell in a global market. Anyone who develops a better idea today knows that it has to be sold.

Because it’s part of the package. Because every time an idea is relinquished, given up or given away, another one will take its place in the market. And that’s the one that will sell next year’s car. //

1 Attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson (in a lecture) by Sarah S. B. Yule and Mary S. Keene, Borrowings 1889.

Copyright 2001, ASTM

James Thomas President, ASTM

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Jim Thomas

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