If you’re not constantly innovating and staying on the cutting edge of your industry, the competition will very quickly pass you by. In today’s highly competitive business environment, staying ahead of consumers’ changing tastes is the key to building and maintaining a successful company. But, what happens when you hit a roadblock and the new ideas seem to stop coming? It may be time to change the way you’re seeking out that next big innovation.
Flip the Flops
In 1968, a 3M Company scientist had been working on developing a super-strong adhesive, but due to miscalculations along the way, he inadvertently created a reusable, pressure sensitive adhesive. The new “low-tack” adhesive formula really didn’t have much value until 1974 when another 3M colleague had the idea to use it to anchor a bookmark in his choir hymnal, and at that moment the idea for Post-It Notes was born.
- The Lesson: When one project falls flat, don’t immediately write it off as a flop and move on to the next thing. Take a closer look from a different angle. You may find an even bigger idea waiting to be discovered.
Think About What’s Missing
Friends since childhood, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield decided to open an ice cream shop together in a renovated gas station in Burlington, VT, for two main reasons: it was a fun college town and, more importantly, it didn’t already have an ice cream shop. Their venture was a resounding success, which led to more locations, more flavors, and eventually the Ben & Jerry’s brand we all know and love today.
- The Lesson: Instead of thinking about what you have, focus on what’s missing. Sometimes big ideas are hiding in the voids. Who knows if Ben and Jerry would have been as successful had they started in a saturated ice cream market?
Embrace the Absurd
When looking for your “game changer,” don’t be afraid to embrace the absurd, because you never know what may strike a chord with your audience. Think about all the products that have been hocked on late-night infomercials throughout the years – the Snuggie, Doggles, Big Mouth Billy Bass, the Pocket Fisherman. They were all seemingly ridiculous ideas that ended up making millions. In fact, the Snuggie has brought in more than $500 million in sales since its debut.
- The Lesson: Don’t dismiss a silly idea simply because it sounds too weird to work. That may very well end up being exactly why it works.
Make It Easier
More than 50 years ago, a Minnesota turkey farmer visited his local welding and repair shop looking for a faster, easier way to clean out his pole barns. The resulting machine became the predecessor to the modern Bobcat skid-steer loader. Today, Bobcat Company is the leader in the compact equipment industry and a mainstay of construction sites around the world.
- The Lesson: Even if it’s not broken, you can still try to fix it. Think about the things you already do every day, and ask yourself if there’s a better way.
Don’t Throw Out the Trash
Today, we know Mattel as one the biggest toymakers in the world, responsible for iconic brands like Barbie and Hot Wheels, but did you know they got their start making picture frames in 1945? It wasn’t until one of the founders started making dollhouse furniture with the leftover frame scraps that their focus shifted to toys.
- The Lesson: We’ve all heard the old idiom “waste not, want not.” Even if you already have a successful product or service, there may be a big idea you’ve overlooked among the scraps.
How do you generate big ideas for your company? What are some ways you inspire your employees to think outside the box? Let us know in the comments section below.
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