Category: Innovation

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” – Thomas Edison

Much of innovation consists of solving a known problem with what you already have available.  If it’s a big problem and a really creative solution, it can be a huge opportunity and you don’t have to create something new from scratch.

This opens up entrepreneurial opportunities to those who are not PhD’s and Engineers.


“Adaptation is quicker and more cost effective than invention” – Joel Barker

I saw a running shoe design that was modeled after a suspension bridge. (I wonder if…) A company that made robots that look for bombs in war zones created the robotic vacuum cleaner. (I wonder if…) There are companies mining data on social networks to predict moves in the stock market. (I wonder if…)

You don’t need to be an engineer or a PHD scientist to have a killer idea for a company. Look for problems.  Their solutions may have already been applied to something else.

Be aware of your surroundings and embrace those three words.

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” – Ken Olsen, President, Digital Equipment, 1977

So… what happened to Digital Equipment Corporation?

The giants who control mature markets always bear the burden of supporting those markets, long after they quit growing and being profitable.  Inevitably, they begin charging customers more for less and stealing customers from their competitors.  Market cannibalism.  There are no more new food sources so they begin eating their own.

This is a perfect opportunity for innovators to find opportunities.  The early group of disgruntled customers are looking for a new solution to the pain they are feeling.  They are often willing to try new things, just to spite their existing providers.

The truly visionary innovators create the platforms people migrate toward in advance of any hint the existing market is poised for failure.  That is where iPad, Netflix, Vonage and Roku came from.

Go find a market where the leaders are saying negative things about the new players.  Better yet, go find a market where they are screwing their customers.  There’s opportunity!

“Perfection comes via rapid ‘good enough’ ” – Steve Hane

Don’t release crap.  But also, don’t try to release the perfect product.  It will be too expensive and someone will beat you to the market.  On top of all of it is the fact that there is no way to know how the customer will react until they have a chance try it for themselves.

  1. Do enough market validation work to understand if there is pain in the market and to what extent the customer is willing to pay for relief of that pain.
  2. Then understand the basic customer expectations for the price they are willing to pay.
  3. Release a product with the most basic features that address the pain directly.
  4. Set up a feedback loop directly from the customers.
  5. Implement the feedback and iterate like crazy.

Customers will guide you to what they need and are willing to buy.  And they will reward you well for asking.

“Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful.” – Warren Buffett

Those who think they own the market have an interest in keeping their share.  It is natural then to claim insight into the market and try to dictate to the market what it is they want next.

Pundits are worse.  Remember their goal is to get readers and followers, not necessarily understand where the pain is.

Customers may not know what they want but they know their pain.  Look for a problem in need of a solution.  Look where no one else is looking, perhaps at an underserved market segment that the big guys are ignoring because they are too big or busy to care.

When the incumbents are starting to take advantage of their existing loyal customers while trying to steal new customers, there is a market ripe for taking.

“I wrote about 150 songs but I really only wrote 15 songs…10 different times.” – James Taylor

You can create the next cell phone, the next digital camera, the next digital music player, the next personal game controller, the next electronic book reader, or the next GPS for runners and cyclists…

… or you can create the iPhone.

Repurpose, reinvent, evolve, transition.  Find new markets, and new customers.  Use a span bridge design to make a lighter running shoe.  Use a military robot to make an automated vacuum cleaner.  Use a fermentation process to make rare earth metals.

Nah, that’s CRAZY talk…