build a better mousetrap

“Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door” is attributed to the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson from the late 19th century.

It may, however, be a misquotation of “If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad, hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods“.

The phrase “to build a better mousetrap”, has come to signify a false belief that companies need only build a better product for them to succeed, as if the sales and marketing of that product played an insignificant role. Americans rarely believe that a product can sell itself.