27 Incredible Theodore Levitt Quotes

Theodore Levitt was an American economist and professor at Harvard Business School. Known for popularizing the term ‘globalization,’ Levitt also proposed the meaning and definition of the term ‘corporate purpose.’ With a half dozen books under his belt, and another half dozen articles published during his life, here is a look at some of the most notable Theodore Levitt quotes.

“A consistently highly creative person is generally irresponsible.”

“A product is not a product unless it sells. Otherwise it is merely a museum piece.”

“All organizations are hierarchical. At each level people serve under those above them. An organization is therefore a structured institution. If it is not structured, it is a mob. Mobs do not get things done, they destroy things.”

“An industry begins with the customer and his or her needs, not with a patent, a raw material, or a selling skill”

“Anything in excess is a poison.”

“Creative people tend to pass the responsibility for getting down to brass tacks to others.”


“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”

“Customers buy 1/4 holes, not 1/4 bits.”

“Every major industry was once a growth industry. But some that are now riding a wave of growth enthusiasm are very much in the shadow of decline.”

“Experience comes from what we have done. Wisdom comes from what we have done badly.”

“Ideas are useless unless used. The proof of their value is in their implementation. Until then, they are in limbo.”

“Ideas can be willed, and the imagination is their engine.”

“In spite of the extraordinary outpouring of totally and partially new products and new ways of doing things that we are witnessing today, by far the greatest flow of newness is not innovation at all. Rather, it is imitation.”

“Just as energy is the basis of life itself, and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement and progress.”

“Kodak sells film, but they don’t advertise film; they advertise memories.”

“Nothing drives progress like the imagination. The idea precedes the deed. The only exceptions are accidents and natural selection.”

“One should not focus on the differences between people but look for commonality and similarity.”

“Organizations exist to enable ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”

“Organizations, by their very nature are designed to promote order and routine. They are inhospitable environments for innovation.”

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want to buy a quarter-inch hole!”

“Selling concerns itself with the tricks and techniques of getting people to exchange their cash for your product. It is not concerned with the values that the exchange is all about.”

“Sustained success is largely a matter of focusing regularly on the right things and making a lot of uncelebrated little improvements every day.”

“The purpose of a business is to get and keep a customer. Without customers, no amount of engineering wizardry, clever financing, or operations expertise can keep a company going.”

“The true purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer, not to make you money.”

“Though progress starts with the imagination, only work can make things happen. And work itself works best when fueled, again by the imagination.”

“What is often lacking is not creativity in the idea-creating sense but innovation in the action-producing sense, i.e. putting ideas to work.”

“You want to dig your well where you have the best chance of finding water with the least amount of digging.”

Here is an insightful interview with the late Professor Theodore Levitt, known for coining the term globalization.

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