Is There a Will For The “Why?” – Uncovering Innovative Product Opportunities
Posted by Plish on May 4, 2012
One of the best ways to generate innovative ideas is, in some ways, the simplest (but not necessarily the easiest!)
When confronted with a problem, don’t just brainstorm to solve the problem. Ask, “Why is it important to solve this problem?”
For example, if someone asks you to design and build a boat, the typical response would be, “Okay, what type of boat?”
But, if you really want to generate some innovative solutions ask him, “Why?”
The answer might be, “I want to get from here to Hawaii and I can’t fly.” Or it might be, ” Only rich people have boats and I want people to respect me.” Or, “I’m going fishing with a friend on a small lake and we need something for us to fish from.”
Too often, we let the problems, or stated needs, morph into the problem statement without much of a challenge. Someone says she needs a boat, so let’s build her a boat!
Occasionally that’s the right way to go. But, when we need to generate creative solutions, and we really want to shake things up, it’s important to find out what it is that’s really needed.
If, as per the example above, someone wants more respect, is a boat really the way to go? Similarly, a boat to get to Hawaii is nice, but is it prudent? Why can’t the person fly? And, there are other ways to fish. Depending upon the body of water, a boat may actually be limiting! Is it needed?
Getting answers to these questions will open our eyes to alternate products or services that meet deeper needs. We see that we may not need to design boats at all; we need a way to bolster self-esteem!
But, what if we are boat builders by trade?
We then are confronted with two choices. One, we simply get the specifications for the boat, build it and get paid. The other choice is more of a challenge, but its rewards could be magnitudes greater: We stretch ourselves with the goal of delivering products or services that will meet those, until now, unspoken needs.
This stretching means that we may need to partner with new suppliers or even restructure how we currently do business. That is why the title of this piece is, “Is There a Will For The ‘Why?’”
Finding out these needs and then acting on them will take some serious will power and maybe even soul-searching. The following are types of questions and solutions we might have to wrestle with.
How can we, as a company, help people feel good about themselves? What if instead of building a boat, we provided a service whereby sponsors pay for the building of fishing boats for families who lost their livelihoods to a hurricane? What if we sent “Thank You!” videos from these families to their sponsors, or maybe even made the sponsors part of their businesses so that they got a small percentage of the profits until the boat is paid off?
For those afraid of flying to Hawaii, what if we held a series of workshops for people on conquering their fears? These workshops could include conquering fear of water, boating, flying, etc.
Similarly, what if we held workshops on, ‘How to Fish Various Bodies of Water?” What if we partnered with another company to design a line of fishing waders? What about creating a division to provide rental boats based upon the type of water a person intends to fish?
All these opportunities to differentiate ourselves from the competition would be lost if all we did was take a customer’s money and build a boat.
It ultimately comes down to answering the question:
Is there a will for the”Why?”