Jun 3, 2019
Today our expert guest is Ron Klein, a problem solver known as the grandfather of possibilities. He is the inventor of several ideas that have changed the world, such as the magnetic strip on credit cards, the credit card validity checking system, computerized systems for the real estate MLS listing service system, the voice response for the banking industry, and the bond quotation and trade information on the New York Stock Exchange. He’s a strategic advisor, consultant, mentor, and public speaker.
How does one become an inventor? Ron’s grandfather was a famous inventor and he was always involved in interesting things. He was his idol, and got him started on the path of inventing.
After being drafted in the Korean War, he was able to get an education as an electronic engineer and mathematician, which solidified his future as an inventor.
Ron’s philosophy is simplicity. When you turn a problem into a challenge, you have an opportunity to solve it. What is the given in a challenge, and what is the solution I’m looking for?
Humbly, Ron calls the invention of the mag strip on the credit card “the simplest challenge I ever had in my life.” When a major department store came to him in 1964 with a problem, he looked at that problem and said “this is very simple.” Anyone in his same position would have arrived at the same solution.
At 35 years old, he took his company public and sold the company. Essentially retired, after 3 weeks of sitting out on a boat fishing, he wanted to get back to his purpose in life. That’s when he started General Associates, without really knowing what he wanted to do. He just didn’t want a big company, a building, or a lot of employees.
In his pattern of turning problems into challenges into opportunities, Ron was able to turn a liability from a poorly thought out purchase into actual gold. Thousands of teletype machines that were scattered across the united states were able to be junked and have the gold-coated components separated out and sold.
Three months after starting General Associates, Ron got a call from the New York Stock Exchange to buy his remaining teletype. He sets up a contract to sell the machines with a maintenance contract.
While spending time on the floor at the Stock Exchange, Ron noticed how manual the process of trading was. Instead of running around with pieces of paper, he could automate the whole process. There was a lot of resistance, but he befriended the leading bond trading manager and gave him his prototype automation box.
Suddenly, people were calling to find out how he was buying up all the bonds before anyone else even had a chance! Soon, he had 1500 automation boxes on the floor, for $300/month, for the next 26 years.
Considering his incredible role in shaping the technologies of our past and present, Ron brings some insight into the technology of the future. Artificial intelligence will be all positive. “Fall in love with that electronic leash you carry around,” referring to the cell phones that have become such a huge part of our lives.
After a life of innovating, Ron isn’t done yet. He is currently working on a project called Project Eli which covers several of his future projects centered around the technology we all carry around in our pockets.
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