You may not have heard of him but you’ve heard of his product. General Mikhail Kalashnikov, a role model for opportunism and innovation, recently passed at the age of 94. His legacy lies in more than 75 million units of the automatic weapon found around the world: the AK-47.
As a wounded soldier in the Second World War, he would listen to his infantry comrades complain about their unreliable weapons. He became intrigued with the possibility of designing a more reliable weapon, something of obvious and great importance. Putting existing components into an exceptionally robust configuration, he designed a weapon that was easy to use, easy to repair and very reliable regardless of climate. In business terms, he identified the most crucial, unmet ‘value-drivers’ for a ‘market segment.’ Add that the AK-47 was easy to assemble, and it’s no surprise it inspired countless knockoffs.
Kalashnikov didn’t reap the big dollars from his efforts that a modern-day entrepreneur might. Yet he serves as a role model for seeing opportunity in the face of frustration, understanding the key value-drivers, and innovating a practical solution. Market-driven innovation at its finest.