Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘business model innovation’

There’s More to Hot Sauce than Meets the Tongue – How to Jumpstart Business Idea Generation

Posted by Plish on March 7, 2018

Hot sauces

They’re everywhere.  From mild to scorching, these heat packed condiments can perk up almost any dish – if perky is what you want.

How do we come up with new ways of growing a hot sauce business?

There are multiple ways to come up with new business ideas.  One of the processes I use for generating multiple ideas quickly is illustrated below.  It’s based on a simple process.

  1. List the traits/attributes of a specific product/service (I use VUE) Those are shown in purple in the concept map below. (Color coding helps tremendously in keeping track of ideas.  I could even do more color coding by group)
  2. Think of ways of enhancing or changing the attributes.  These are the ideas. These are shown in green.
  3. Let one idea lead to another – don’t censor yourself!

Hot Pepper Ideas-copy.pngThe PDF of the above document is here


This use of Attributes can be even further structured. While I just took traits as they popped into my mind, there are other tools that I use that are slightly more structured and they can be used to guide idea generation.

(In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m actually using these additional frameworks, it’s just second nature and I don’t think about it as much.)

It’s about POEMS

Not poetry, but POEMS. This acronym was developed by the folks over at the Illinois Institute of Technology-Institute of Design. The POEMS framework is not actually an idea generating tools per se.    It is a research framework. It provides a memorable way to code/categorize observations.  However, I use it  as a way to jump start ideation.

POEMS is an acronym for:






For each of the above, list everything you know about each one and then subtract, add or change the attribute.

People – Who uses this?  Using the Pepper Sauce example, people typically think of hot sauce as geared towards adults.  What about making a hot sauce for children?

Objects – What are the objects that people interact with?  Bottles, the sauce itself which is made up of vinegar, spices, sugar, peppers, etc.  Eliminate the bottles.  Eliminate an ingredient.

Environment – Where are the products or services used?  Where are hot sauces used? Kitchens, at the meal table, in a car.  Where can the use of hot sauces be extended?  Can where they’re made be changed?  

Messages/Media – What messages are typically conveyed?  What do labels and other media look like? For Hot Sauce, why do labels always using scary, intimidating images?  Can a container label be inviting and gentle?

Services – How are products delivered?  How are they sampled? How are they bundled?  What places have hot sauces?  There are health values to the capsaicin, what about selling that idea/product at boutique spas?  What about developing medicinally spike pepper sauces?  What could you add to give them more nutritional value?

If POEMS isn’t fruitful try AEIOU.

It’s similar to POEMS, but AEIOU gives a slightly different twist. Each framework can give you new ideas.

Activities – What do people want to accomplish, what needs to get done
Environments – The setting and context
Interactions – Are between people/people, people/objects, objects/objects
Objects – The things in the environment, things people use
Users – The people using the product, trying to accomplish something

So, there you have it.  What do you do to jump-start new ideas?

NOTE: If you actually want to try out a hot sauce idea, let me know 😉


Posted in brainstorming, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, Disruptive Innovation, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, product design, Service Design, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How to Make Sure Prototypes are Useful, Even When They Fail

Posted by Plish on November 28, 2016

It worked flawlessly for 4 minutes and 25 seconds…

And then it didn’t.  The VP smiled and said, “I get the idea.”  After getting through the embarrassment of the failure, the team learned what went wrong, and got to work testing variations of the failed component.  The new versions didn’t fail, and the product went on to eventually make millions…


“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” – Warren Buffet

Risk and fear walk hand in hand with lack of knowledge.  The best way then to minimize fear and minimize risk is to understand,  to know what’s happening.  Prototypes are part of that knowledge building process.

The knowledge base that takes shape through prototyping is equally, if not more, valuable than the actual mock-up itself.

The challenge in most organizations is to make the shift from being object/success based, to process/knowledge based.  Then, even if a product never gets commercialized, the knowledge that gets created can be used for other products, other projects, and make those into money-makers.  Knowledge creates a bolder approach to the future!

What do we do to make sure we’re after knowledge, not just results?

Whether you are creating products, services, or even a new business model, don’t think of prototyping as a ‘testing an idea’ event, but instead as a learning process.   The best way to change into a process based mentality is to ask questions, and then create prototypes that will get you that knowledge.   Three basic questions guide how you get that knowledge as efficiently as possible.   Notice that nowhere are we asking,”Will this work?”  Instead, ask yourself these questions and then start prototyping!

  1. Which answers can I get to easily?  Easy translates into fast answers.  It doesn’t necessarily mean cheap, it just means  that there are few moving parts, so to speak.  The relationships are clear cut – there are anticipated outputs for each input.  Subtract a dimension from your  concept and test that.  For example, if a knob has three dimensions but you want to see how easy it is to grab,  cut it out of cardboard and build a two-dimensional model. Sketch when you can.  Is there infrastructure in place, such as test equipment, that makes it easy to test something?  Quick answers, that’s what you’re after.  You might not be able to go to the moon with your prototype, but you might be able to get more confidence that it’s possible.
  2. Which answers can I get cheaply?  Low cost doesn’t mean quick or easy, though often it does. These prototypes also often aren’t highly accurate. But that shouldn’t matter.  Can you build something out of polymer clay instead of 3D printing it, or molding it?   Find ways to duplicate function using cheap materials or techniques.
  3. Which answers  will give the greatest bang-for-the-buck?  Getting these may be neither cheap to test, nor fast to create, but, at the end of the day, they yield potential answers that could unlock future decisions.  To find these, ask what part, system or sub-system, if you eliminated it from the design, would cripple it hopelessly?  What is key?  The movie “Victor Frankenstein” is playing in the background as I type this.  The electrical charging system is key to energizing Frankenstein’s creations as none of his creations are possible without electricity. Those electrical systems are his bang-for-the-buck systems.  Those are the types of things you want to prototype!

With each of these three types of prototypes, make sure that you have back-up plans.  Make extra parts.  Make variations. Confirm that you understand why things are happening the way they are.

When do I prototype the final product?

Even though it’s often tied to ‘go/no-go’ decisions about a product, prototyping the final version is part of the prototyping process spectrum.   It’s still about knowledge creation, so if you’ve learned what you can about the systems in simple, cost effective methods, and you’ve learned about the ‘bang-for-the-buck’ systems, there shouldn’t  be many surprises.  Still, expect the best, and prepare for the worst.  Have plans in place to deal with those surprises.

Remember, prototyping is about knowledge creation!  That’s why failure is okay. (In fact,  believe it or not, you want some level of failure!)

Let’s summarize what it takes to make sure prototypes are useful.

Make various types of prototypes to answer questions:

Make easy prototypes.  Learn.

Make cheap prototypes.  Learn.

Make prototypes of your key components and sub-systems.  Learn.

Document your learnings.  Build upon what you know.  Experiment to find out what you don’t know, and document it so it can be shared.

Follow this process and your prototypes won’t just be an artifact tested in a one-time event.  They will be doorways to knowledge, and knowledge eliminates fear, allows you to deal with risk, and ultimately, leads to success.


Posted in 3D Printing, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Innovation and Design at the 2016 International Home and Housewares Show

Posted by Plish on March 10, 2016


Just got back from one of my favorite shows, the 2016 International Home and Housewares Show.  It’s a great opportunity to see what’s new and cool in the world of housewares and home, in the kitchen and in people’s minds – what’s good for the eye, stomach, heart, and/or soul.  Below are some pics and descriptions of products that I found particularly innovative, beautiful, unique, and/or conversation evoking.  Occasionally I include the clever  – the product that takes a different tack to do something that’s already done extensively/commonly. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but these really made me stop, pause and ponder.  They are in no particular order.  They are here because they deserve to be and they each have their own virtue.

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The Everplush company recycles cotton and more. They are leading the charge in ‘sustainable softness’.  This company is finding innovative ways of providing textiles that use embedded microfibers, jade, and lava rock powder to provide enhanced moisture wicking (without sacrificing comfort), cooling, and warmth retention, respectively.  I was impressed with the feel of these materials and the company is looking at ways of making their products even more ubiquitous.

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It seems that very few things are standardized in the world of blenders.  What caught my eye is that the Tribest folks utilized something that is standardized: the Mason Jar.  By doing that, you can blend, drink and store using standard jars.  No need to worry about plastic blending containers and cleaning.   It’s smart.

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I love tea.  I have an entire drawer filled with teas of all sorts as well as a gourd+silver decorated bombilla for savoring Yerba Mate.  World wide, tea is not just consumed, it’s experienced. Teforia  realizes this and their product is a beautiful and different way of approaching the consumption of tea.  The infuser ‘reads’ the package, and then knows what the best brewing sequence is for that particular tea.  It then adjusts temperatures and steep times to optimize the extraction of flavors from the tea.  I compared a green tea brewed typically and with the Teforia infuser.  The Teforia tea color was richer and the flavors layered and complex.  It was a pleasant dance upon my palate.



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Food Cycler

Love this.  The Food Cycler is an in-home composter.  Put your scraps into bucket and 3 hours later it’s reduced to a powdery, flakey compost that you can put in your garden.  Truly no fuss or muss or additives.  Great way to minimize landfill burdens and help create a more integrated home food waste disposal process.


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Pancake Bot

Do you like pancakes?  Check out the Pancake Bot.  It’s a food printer.  It doesn’t need to print in 3D because pancakes are well, 2D.  Upload your designs via an SD card and enjoy the pancakes.  Oh, if you don’t want pancakes, you can turn off the griddle and print 2D cake decorations on paper.  Go wild!

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These FlavorSheets bring simplicity and bold flavor together in a simple package.  Wrap the meat/fish in the sheet, vacuum seal it and place it in the fridge for 20 minutes.  Take it out and the food is evenly seasoned and, the seasoning is not falling off when it’s thrown on the grill.  This makes great sense in sous-vide cooking as well.

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Molecule-R Aroma Technology

Do you want to create your own arugula noodles,  or savor a bite of fruit and merengue on a fork while simultaneously whiffing the aroma of vanilla, or create exotic drinks with green tea foam?  If so, joining the Molecule-R community might be right for you (It is for me!!! 🙂 ) Molecular gastronomy is revolutionizing how people experience food.  Once the domain of high powered chefs, it is now possible for homechefs to make and experience edible works of art.  Molecule-R provides kits and materials for those interested in molecular gastronomy.   They are an extremely helpful group and the kits seem well laid out.  Get your lab coats on and have fun with your food!

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This is simple beauty, courtesy of Ohashi.  I love the MAST humidifier.  Add water and the leaves of curved cypress release moisture.  These  Masu boxes, or variations of them, are made from discarded wood – beauty from that which would be thrown away. They are used for storage, as cups, and are designed and manufactured exquisitely.

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Continuing the beautiful, elegant theme, these tea settings from Zens radiate serenity and aromas of tea in their design. Simple yet profound…

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Mortier Pilon

While beer kits have been around for some time, and they are still being sold by great companies such as Mr. Beer, and Brooklyn Brewshop, the trend for making fermented things at home is expanding into fermented/pickled foods such as sauerkraut, kimchee, pickles, Kefir, Kombucha or whatever else you’d like to get bubbling!  Fermented foods are good for you and fun to make.   Three different companies took three approaches.  Mortier Pilon is a fancier (and more expensive) system. Their couture mason jars (an oxymoron in some ways – these jars are too nice to be considered mason jars) add a touch of class to the fermenting stuff within.

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Fermentation Creation

Fermentation Creation takes a much more traditional approach, going for the homey look  while retaining  feel of a quality product.  Their kit comes with everything you need for one great price. Chop, Salt, Brine!  Literally, it’s that easy.  The folks at the booth were great as well!

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Microbiota, Inc

Microbiota is all about Kefir – both milk and water versions.  Their containers are pretty straightforward and basic and remind me of the way home brewing equipment looked when brewing first came on the scene. Functional but not much else.  Having said that, only a few years ago, it seemed the only people who knew what Kefir was were Eastern Europeans.  So the fact that this is at the show is impressive.

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Ever looked for a knife handle that fits perfectly with your hand?  NextGen Knives has analyzed the grip that chefs use, and made a handle that is more comfortable to accommodate that grip.  Then they took it one step further and figured out a way to customize knife handles by using a 2D scan of your hand and engineering the shape to give you a comfortable fit! These knives are Made in the United States and use specialty steel alloys for the blades.  This knife starts a long overdue conversation, not only about knife handle design, but kitchen utensil design, and brings 21st century technology into the manufacturing process.

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Water purification is still a worldwide concern.  I was impressed Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in creativity, Design, innovation, Sustainability, Sustainable Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dear RadioShack, It didn’t have to end this way…

Posted by Plish on February 5, 2015

It’s official.

RadioShack has filed for bankruptcy.

Call me naïve, but I really don’t think this had to happen.  I realize I’m ‘Monday Morning quarterbacking’ (Why DID Seattle throw that pass on the one yard line?!?!  I digress….) but RadioShack had made some bad choices.

RadioShack’s bankruptcy, which has been expected for months, follows 11 consecutive unprofitable quarters as the company has failed to transform itself into a destination for mobile phone buyers. Its sale agreement with Standard General could spare it the fate most retailers suffer in Chapter 11 – liquidation.

A destination for mobile phone buyers.  Seriously?  You can get a cell phone at WalMart for pete sakes!

RadioShack made multiple attempts at rebranding, as if a logo or name change was going to pull them out of obscurity. It wasn’t enough.

As someone who has literally gone to RadioShacks my whole life, the one thing that RadioShack fell away from was what made it famous in the first place.

RadioShack was trailblazing as a Maker store long before people even used the term “Maker.”   Yet, as the years passed, the only things that qualified as maker-esque were buried in the far corners of the store, literally collecting dust.  Most employees, it seemed, liked techie stuff, but weren’t that well versed in maker-esque components that were on their shelves.

I went over to Google Trends and looked at a few search terms to see how often people were Googling certain terms since 2010 (I didn’t put these all on one graph because there were scaling issues)


3D Printing






Maker Space


Raspberry Pi


Every trend is going up.

But, not this one: Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in 3D Printing, Brands, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Maker Movement | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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