1.Take a fresh look at the past.
Few ideas are completely original. Example: Jason Lucash and Mike Syzmczak were looking for speakers that were convenient to carry and that would reproduce the quality sound of the music they liked when they were traveling. Their speakers would have to fit easily into a suitcase and require no batteries or power supply. They noticed that origami — the ancient art of folding paper to make three-dimensional animals, boats, cups, and more — would allow an object to be folded flat when not being used. They also saw that Chinese takeout boxes are flat packed until a restaurant wants to fill them; then they are popped open.
Today, Jason and Mike's multi-million dollar company, OrigAudio, makes "Fold N Play" speakers. They require minimal space in luggage, because they begin life flat, like a Chinese takeout box, and turn into three-inch speaker cubes with a few simple folds. Both origami and Chinese takeout, old ideas that inspired big new business.
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2. Change your POV.
Taking a different point of view can open added revenue streams. Though Apple might have set out to design a more handsome MP3 player, it quickly realized that the true product benefit was the music itself, not the design or the technology. It framed its market in a different way and looked at its business from another perspective. Apple understood it was in the music business, not the player business, and developed a look and function that removed as many barriers as possible to delivering music. It invented iTunes. By connecting consumers with what they desired in a single step, Apple now "owns" the delivery of digital music.
3. Check your culture.
Innovations that enhance and build on existing consumer beliefs are easier to introduce to the market than products that try to change behaviors. Febreze noticed people smoothing bedspreads and curtains at the end of cleaning, and smiling as if to say, "I have finished, job well done." Febreze saw that positive reinforcement at the end of a cleaning routine as an opportunity. How could they further enhance that good feeling?
In a relatively mature category where other air fresheners were positioning themselves as part of the cleaning process to mask odors, Febreze highlighted its use as a finishing touch, a good smell to signal the job's end. It was far more attractive than suggesting it was needed as a part of cleaning. Febreze became a rapid success. Who wants to perceive one's home as having bad odors, even if it does?
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4. Think in Pictures.
Simple is sticky. Make your idea so simple, capture it in an image or combination of words and images with such clarity, that everyone will understand it. "I heart New York" has an immediate impact and sense of energetic fun missing from "I love New York."
5. Believe in your inner innovative genius.
We all have the power to design and develop thoughts into brilliant and practical innovations for everyday living. Personal passion is power. A belief in your own talent will generate your natural curiosity and open-mindedness, and help you be more willing to take risks. It will also give you the resources to stretch and challenge yourself if your first idea is not a winner. Improve upon it. The weakness of your first idea points you toward its potential strength.
"Red Thread Thinking" is a proven approach that enables you to innovate whenever it's necessary — for everything from personal problem solving to entrepreneurial aspirations to tackling larger, more complex global issues. You have the power and inspiration to bring your own knowledge and understanding to bear on anything that you believe can be improved upon.
What's on your mind? Where do you see a need? Seize that opportunity. You can create an innovative solution that captures market attention and compels people to purchase.
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Debra Kaye is an international innovation and trends expert specializing in culture strategy and innovation for consumer brands, and author of "Red Thread Thinking: Weaving Together Connections for Brilliant Ideas and Profitable Innovation," Learn more at RedThreadThinking.com and follow her Facebook and on Twitter @DebraA_Kaye and @RTThinking.