Sometimes it seems so obvious that we wonder how we missed it. I’m reminded of Thomas Huxley’s reaction to first hearing about Darwin’s theory of evolution: “How stupid of me not to have thought of that.” The problem is we mistake “what is” for “what must be.” Our imaginations are often bound by the constraints of experience.
Here’s an example. When I was just a young boy my mother taught me how to sort the clothes into piles based on color–whites, colors and that nebulous in-between category. And then you washed–at the minimum three loads, because you had three piles. That’s the way I’ve always done it. That’s the way everybody I know does it. That’s the way you have to do it. Or so I thought.
Then comes this invention–the Dual Washer that let’s you wash, say, colors and whites at the same time. Two different compartments. Two different water temps. But they both agitate simultaneously, saving energy and time. Doh! The perfect system for today’s small households.
It’s not on the market yet. But I bet it will be. And we’ll wonder why it took so long.
Instead of going to a stuffy middle-aged toy industry analyst to find out what is going to be hot this Christmas, Walmart decided to ask kids. Yep, they gathered 1000 kids under the age of 10 to play with a bunch of toys and decide which ones they liked best. The winners earn a “Chosen by Kids,” designation, which gives them some merchandising cred as well as dedicated shelf space and special recognition on their website.
Successful innovation often starts with asking the right question. Like these, maybe:
What if we made a belt that didn’t have any holes, which are the first thing to wear out? Or, what if we made a belt that fit perfectly every time, even if you gained or lost weight? Or what if we did both?
Enter the Mission Belt. As soon as I heard about it from Shark Tank I had to order one. I liked it so much I bought another five as gifts. Why? Continue reading →
Every now and then a product comes along that is so audaciously unique that it can’t help but succeed. And who but the innovation gurus at Procter & Gamble could have taken Scope to such a carnivorous new level? Mint flavor? That’s your daddy’s mouthwash. Fresh Burst? Who even knows what that is? Citrus? If I want to gargle with orange juice I’ll do it in the kitchen.
But bacon flavored? Now you’re talking. The kind of mouthwash that will make a man breath deeply and leave a woman breathless.
Steve Jobs was right–it isn’t the consumer’s job to know what he wants. For instance, if you’d have asked me yesterday what product I would most like to see I definitely wouldn’t have said a smart trash can. But now my eyes have been opened and I have seen the future. (Good news for all of you post-apocalyptic fans–it is not a Wasteland.)
A Japanese inventor has created a trash can that, like an outfielder, moves to catch the stuff you throw towards it. Since I prefer distance shots and my three-point range is only about 25%, this could save me quite a bit of stooping, not to mention the embarrassing exposure of my lack of athletic prowess. Using a Wii technology, this can will glide to the right spot, making me look like Chauncy Billups raining treys.
IMDB has been the g0-to site for movie buffs for a long time, before Rotten Tomatoes and before the latest deluge of movie sites. When Amazon bought IMDB in 1998 it seemed like a good fit, but I wondered what would happen to the site. Well, for the past four years it was more or less business as usual. Pretty good iPad app. OK for mobile. Some layout and UI improvements. But more or less the same IMDB. That’s fine.
Now there’s something different that might signal a really interesting future for the site. X-Ray for Movies links the IMDB database with movies on Amazon’s Kindle Fire in a much more interactive and dynamic way. Just touch the screen on your Fire to find out who is in that scene, plus background and biographical information and more. Very cool.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend Walmart’s monthly Saturday-morning employee meeting at their headquarters in Bentonville. It was a delightful experience and I couldn’t help but feel like I was experiencing something very unique in the corporate world.
CEO Mike Duke conducted the session, which featured contributions from over a dozen Walmart executives and managers, including several on live video feeds. The auditorium was filled with a few thousand Walmart employees who showed up for this voluntary 90-minute meeting at 7:30 Saturday morning, an impressive accomplishment in its own right!
OK, this is wacky. It’s off the wall. And it will probably never make a dime. BUT … it’s too silly not to show. The fledgling, under-funded EMOKI has introduced playful ears you can wear and move with your thoughts. Um, yeah. So strap on your bunny ears or the kittycat version and go all Bewitched on everyone (yes, I know that Amanda wiggled her nose).
But here’s the thing–controlling things with your brain is absolutely the future. And you need some stuff like this–the simplest application–to push the technology forward.
Naturally, there’s problems with this product. It’s not nearly as visually arresting as it should be because we assume the ears are battery powered. And if you have to explain, well, that takes the fun out of it. On the other hand, I can just imaging the Match.com mixer where everyone is given a pair and you look for someone who can’t stop wiggling at you!
There are eight ways to innovate an existing product. The most common one is Function Innovation, that is, the product performs a task or has a capability that is new and unique. Generally, these functions are close-in to the product–your MP3-player allows you to create a playlist, or your blender has a pulse feature. But sometimes Function Innovation can be further removed from the existing product fundamentals, like when Texas International Airlines introduced the first frequent flyer program in 1979 (quickly copied by American, United and Delta). The idea being that you’re not getting any added features on your flight, but rather an entirely new benefit–bonus travel that can be used personally.
This blog features consumer products innovations that we like--for a variety of reasons--but perhaps the most revealing litmus test is "I wish we had thought of that!"
Feel free to suggest innovations to be featured. Send them to Innovations@sagepointgroup.com.
The SagePoint Group
The SagePoint Group develops innovative products, services, concepts and promotions for its clients. SagePoint partners have extensive C-level experience and focus on delivering high-impact, big ideas that are strategically on-target, operationally feasible and will build the business. Go to www.sagepointgroup.com to learn more.
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