Archives for posts with tag: Innovation

Necessity is the mother of invention, or so they say. Many good things can also come out of accident, confusion or a misunderstanding.

When I was working as an account manager in the marketing business, we came up with a public sector strategy to encourage people to claim the benefits they were entitled to with the strapline ‘money for nothing, cheques for free’. It was a line from a Sting and Dire Straits song that I actually thought was cheques for free, but was in fact ‘chicks for free’. My misunderstanding.

I have a potential new brand name for you.

The other day my mother and I were enjoying lunch at the house of one of my brothers. Admiring the crockery, my mother asked ‘this is nice, who’s this by?’, turning the plate over and squinting without her reading glasses at the brand. ‘Ah, EWOH’, she said.

‘I think it’s called HOME’, her daughter-in-law commented, ‘you must be reading it upside down.’

A funny moment for us all. The more I thought about it, though, the more I liked the new brand name ‘EWOH’, pronounced ee-woah.

Probably needs a bit more research…

What do you do when you come up with what you think is a genuinely new idea for a business, product or service? Inventions, as we all know, are 1% perspiration and 99% inspiration, so you probably still have one foot in the starting blocks even though you have a great idea.

Maybe it’s such a great idea, so obvious that when you make it a success people will say ‘that’s so obvious, why didn’t I do that?’. Maybe you don’t know if it’s been done before and you’re anxious to get it off the ground before someone else who’s better resourced and financed than you comes in .

I’m not an expert in this area, as I tend to help people scale their start-up, which is a step or few beyond what I’m describing here. Nevertheless, there are two things you can assess pretty easily. First, does this thing, or something close to it, already exist? Second, is there a market for it?

If it doesn’t already exist, it’s often a good indicator of viability if your idea dovetails into some of the emerging mega-trends. You need to look out for articles like this one from people who know the field. Who knows, you might be nicely aligned with some of the future ‘big things’. There’s no guarantee that someone somewhere isn’t already developing precisely your new idea, and you could argue that if it’s been identified as an emerging trend you’ve missed the boat, but who knows, there might be room for more than one player in the truly hot areas.

Sometimes it’s a genuinely new idea that there isn’t a market for, and we’ve all had those, probably several of them. And perhaps it’s a genuinely new idea that we don’t have time to work on, because of other commitments. I had a genuinely new idea about two years ago. I researched it and nothing like it existed, which amazed me, because it seemed so obvious. Two years on, I’m still working on my idea, and it still doesn’t exist.

At some point, you have to forget the genuinely new idea and move on, or go for it. Nothing ventured…

Breaking the mould is one of the most underrated achievements I can think of. We’re so conditioned to conforming to the norms and adapting what’s already there to create something ‘new’. Which isn’t new, really. Then, when someone comes up with a truly different musical genre, device or way of doing something, you’ll hear people say, ‘well, that’s obvious, I could have done that.’

Yeah, but it wasn’t, and you didn’t! Maybe it was hiding in plain sight, but it’s only obvious in hindsight.

Have you been to Gloucester Motorway Services? It’s not like other motorway services. At all in fact. The building and landscaping is great, the decor is not at all what you expect, and the seating is comfortable. The toilets are clean and well kept. The food is lovely and reasonably priced. I’ve been in twice for a short break – it wasn’t there when I lived in Gloucester and I probably wouldn’t have gone since it was so close to home – and their decaff latte is probably among the top 3 cups of coffee I’ve ever had.

It’s got a farmhouse theme going on and sells some really nice products. It is, in fact, the complete opposite of a motorway services place. It’s genuinely breaking the mould. You’ll never look at one the same way again.

It takes an approach like this to make you realise that all motorway establishments don’t have to look like grimy monstrosities with toilets that resemble a war zone.

Oh, and it’s been awarded an architectural honour as well. A motorway services establishment! Awesome stuff.

We live in fast-moving times, and when I think about areas like communication, healthcare and transportation I am amazed by the pace of improvement due to innovation and technology development.

There are some things, though, that seem to lag behind considerably.

Take the umbrella for instance. We’ve had rain as long as the planet has had an atmosphere, yet the humble umbrella has barely evolved from its primitive instrumental ancestor.

It opens, it closes, it has a handle, it can double as a walking stick or a handy prop for 1950’s musicals.

Surely in the 21st century there is no device more prevalent, more fundamental and yet more worthy of a makeover?