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Date: Friday, 11 Apr 2014 14:33


She was last Pharaoh of ancient Egypt. Brilliant and charismatic, she ruled over the great city of Alexandria and spoke 7 languages. And she stole ideas.

After Julius Caesar’s assassination, Cleopatra struggled against the politics of a divided Rome. So when the powerful general Mark Antony summoned Cleopatra to explain her loyalties, the Egyptian ruler pulled out all the stops.

Arriving in a treasure barge rowed by silver oars, Cleopatra dazzled in expensive silks and wore the biggest pearls ever discovered in her ears. She threw lavish banquets for Antony and his friends, all in the hopes of an alliance.

Mark Antony remained unconvinced - until Cleopatra wagered that she could spend 10 million sesterces (~$1.5 million today) on a single meal. But at the end of the extravagant feast, Antony expressed doubt she had delivered.

Cleopatra laughed, and told Antony he had not yet tasted the final course. At her gesture, a servant brought in two glasses of wine. Cleopatra removed a priceless pearl earring and tossed it into the wine. It dissolved and she drank the wine in a single swallow. She then offered the other earing to a stunned Mark Antony.

Unbelievably, the most expensive mixed drink in history wasn’t Cleopatra’s idea. (Although it's often credited to her.) Not long before, Clodius, the son of a famous Roman actor, served wine flavored by a pearl to each guest at a dinner party. Cleopatra, with her insatiable thirst for knowledge, had surely heard the tale.

A brilliant tactician, however, Cleopatra made the idea her own. With one bold, theatrical act, she proved to Mark Antony that Egypt was a powerful, rich ally with the resources to help him in his wars. He was blown away.

That is how Cleopatra built the most powerful partnership of the Ancient World from a stolen idea.

Author: "Katie Konrath" Tags: "Ideation and Brainstorming, Opportunity Areas, Fresh..."
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Date: Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 18:12


It isn't everyday that you get to look a legendary innovation guru in the eye and refuse to show your openness to new possibilities. Yet there I was, sitting across the table from Lateral Thinking legend Edward de Bono as he urged me to eat a plate full of chocolate-covered worms.  And I wanted nothing to do with them.

Edible-final-cover-hi-res-1I've been thinking about this recently as I was reading Edible, An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet, a new book about eating bugs by entomophagist Daniella Martin.

As I read the book and was faced by all the evidence Daniella presents about why bugs are one of the best sources of protein available, I wondered: Why is it that we are so resistant to eating bugs?  Is it because they're creepy-crawly?  Or because we're sure they cannot possibly taste good? 

Lets think this through.  After all, shrimp definitely can be considered "creepy-crawly" - and they're delicious in so many ways

And bugs are eaten as delicacies across the world - from Columbians eating toasted leafcutter ants like popcorn at movie theaters to skewers of fried scorpions in Thailand and roasted June bugs in Native American cuisine.

Rather, I think our resistance to eating bugs in Western cuisine is a symptom of the reluctance of humans to trying something new.

This attitude makes a lot of sense if you consider how dangerous it can be to experiment with potential foods. If you're ever starving in the wild, experts recommend following the 14-step Universal Edibiliy Test to determine if something is safe to eat.  It's important to remember, however, that this test must be done individually for every part of the plant you want to eat. And don't forget that even if a part of a plant (e.g. the root) is proven to be safe raw, that doesn't mean it will be safe when it's cooked (and vise versa).

Consider the history of two foods widely consumered today. For over 200 years (until nearly the 20th century), tomatos were regarded as dangerous in Europe and North America. As it turns out, most deaths attributed to tomatos were a result of the lead plates they were served upon. However, until that cause of death became known, tomatoes were classified as a type of "deadly nightshade"

Unlike the tomato, the mushroom deserves its deadly reputation. Accidental mushroom poisoning is rumored to have caused the deaths of Buddha, two Roman emporors, the mother of Peter the Great and the inventor of the Fahrenheit temperature scale. Many poisonous mushrooms appear similar to safe ones, and a mushroom's toxicity can even vary due to geographical location.  Thus, even the most experienced mushroom gatherers must cultivate a highly-suspicious nature.

For thousands of years, the survival of the human race has depended on being cautious about what we eat. Perhaps that's part of why we are so wary of putting strange new foods - like bugs - in our mouths. 

Yet, at the same time, the success of the human race has depended on our ability to incorporate new food sources into our diets - allowing for migration to different climates, the evolution of hunting and agriculture, and everything else that has led to how we live today.  Can you imagine how little the human race would have evolved if we only ate a single source of food like the endangered giant panda?

Our ability to adapt - and ultimately to innovate - has depended on us being open to new possibilities.  So while our caution for strange new food sources is well-deserved, it's also an obstacle we should overcome.

So who will join me in reading Edible - and being open to trying new possibilities?  

Author: "Katie Konrath" Tags: "Idea Acceptance"
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Date: Tuesday, 01 Apr 2014 16:40

During ideation and consumer interaction, time is of the essence, so it’s important to keep the conversation on track. But there’s a right and a wrong way to do it. For example: Don’t do thisDon’t think of thatWe’re not going to go there

Limitations like these quickly become the elephant in the room. They make the room feel smaller and suck all the life out of the discussion—and soon they’re the only thing anyonecan think about. 

But limitations can help idea generation and lead to more ideas – if you use them the right way.

The key to using limitations correctly during idea generation is to change how you view them. Instead of blocking in thinking and adding restrictions, focus your thinking on an “Opportunity Area.”  

Same premise—you’re still preventing ideation from going off in random, unhelpful directions—but very, very different results.

Why does this work? 

First, because vocabulary is important.

By changing the vocabulary from “don’t think about x, y and z,” to “what does this Opportunity Area make you think of?” you’re telling your brain that you’re open to whatever possibilities may arise.

Idea generation is all about making connections between the challenge you’re trying to solve and your life experience/knowledge base. So when you ask your brain to focus in on an Opportunity Area and make new connections, you’re working withyour brain, rather than against it. And, as long as you can connect that idea to the Opportunity Area, that idea isn’t bad or wrong (as your brain would interpret it if you were imposing limitations).

The vocabulary shift is also incredibly important because you avoid telling your brain “don’t think of this.” This keeps you from putting the elephant in the room in the first place.

Secondly, shifting your thinking to focusing on Opportunity Areas also increases your idea quantity. 

When people ideate without limitations, they begin by coming up with ideas fast and furious. The ideas are all over the board and they’re wildly creative—right until they hit a wall and run completely out of possibilities!

The human brain wants order, and so it channels thinking into pathways that it has used before. This happens a lot in ideation: people get stuck on a theme and all the ideas they come up with are centered on that theme.  As a result, they come up with tons of ideas, but the ideas don’t cover a broad range of opportunities.

Imposing limitations on ideation (in terms of a focus on an Opportunity Area), can combat this tendency. How? Simple—you deliberately focus on coming up with ideas in a single area (e.g. Customization) until you run out of ideas. Then, when that area is exhausted, you make a deliberate switch to a new focus (e.g. All-Natural).

The deliberate switching keeps your brain fresh by pushing you to look in different directions every time it gets stuck. It’s about staying nimble and looking for many options to get around that “don’t go there” elephant in the room. And the result is tens or hundreds of more ideas than you’d get by simply throwing yourself full-force in a single direction until you run out of gas.

So as you can see, limitations don’t have to be the bane of ideation sessions. Whenused properly, they can open the brain to new possibilities and also dramatically increase the number of ideas you create—and the number of ideas that make it to development and, eventually, to market.

Image © Brittany 2010


Katie Konrath helps companies come up with "ideas so fresh... they should be slapped" at leading innovation company Ideas To Go

This post was originally published April 1, 2014 on the Ideas To Go blog.

© 2014 Katie Konrath and Ideas To Go. For permission to republish, please contact.

Author: "Katie Konrath"
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Date: Monday, 31 Mar 2014 16:50

 Many people believe that creativity is an innate characteristic.  You're either born with it, or you're not - it's not something that can be developed.

Whether you believe that or not, there's a place in South West England where creativity sprouts right from the ground. Check out this fun tongue-in-cheek video about how they export creative juice to the rest of the world.*

*No creatives were actually juiced in the making of this video!

Author: "Katie Konrath" Tags: "Ideation and Brainstorming, Ideation and Brainstorming, Ideation and Brainstorming"
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Date: Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 17:57

Got a hot new product hitting the market? Are you looking to convince your consumers that it’s the perfect solution to their unmet needs? Then you’ll want to pay attention, because it turns out that how much you say about your new product might matter just as much as what you say about it.

When marketers have a hot new product on their hands, it’s incredibly hard to resist telling consumers all the wonderful things about it. For a great example of this, take a look at a product I recently read about on the Forbes blog.

This amazing pillow, the Pillo1, is designed to give users a better night’s sleep. It not only relieves neck pain, improves circulation, and reduces snoring, it helps people fall asleep 19% faster and increases REM sleep by 21% (as validated by independent testing). It also stays cool at night—all while being eco-friendly, sound-dampening and made in the USA.

But wait, there’s more! A quick probe of their website revealed that the pillow is dust-mite resistant and hypoallergenic, as well as mold- and mildew-proof! Not to mention, it was designed by a sleep specialist to maintain ideal spine alignment. Plus, Oprah.com says it's perfect for back sleepers and side sleepers, all in one comfy package.

Egads! Do you feel like you’re being buried under all the claims? Or did you just zone out halfway through? If so, you’re not alone.

Studies show that when people know they are being sold to, they begin “coping” (pdf) by disengaging, ignoring the message or simply discounting it altogether. That is why the “miracle” pillow above seems so suspicious. Consumers start to wonder: “If the pillow is so good in the first place, why are they trying so hard to convince me?”

Your product may actually be that good, but it doesn’t matter. Rather than intriguing them, telling consumers too many reasons why your product is the best thing since sliced bread can undermine your message, and might actually prevent them from taking out their wallets!

So how do you convey the value of your product? How much can you say? As it turns out, the answer is simple: in order to be believed, say three positive things—and stop there.

In this fascinating article published in January 2014 in the Journal of Marketing (pdf), researchers tested how many positive “claims” should be made about a product in a series of experiments. They found that when a person hears up to three positive traits about a product, they viewed that product more favorably. However, as soon as a fourth positive trait was mentioned, the person started feeling “sold to” and started to view the product more negatively. This result remained consistent across all four trials.

So, when you’re positioning your new product on the market, remember to show restraint when telling consumers about all the great things it can do for them. Three claims is plenty to get your message across, and will actually be more powerful.

Katie Konrath helps companies come up with "ideas so fresh... they should be slapped" at leading innovation company Ideas To Go. If you're interested in having her speak to your organization, she'd love to hear from you.

This post was originally published March 18th on the Ideas To Go blog.

© 2014 Katie Konrath. For permission to republish, please contact.

Author: "Katie Konrath" Tags: "Consumer Insights, Posit..."
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Date: Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 17:55

This morning, I watched a fascinating TED talk by Toby Shapshak about innovation in Africa.  In it, he projected the following image below.  


It's a picture of worldwide electricity usage, right?  No, he replied - this is actually a map of innovation.  In the rest of the world, people are too busy playing Angry Birds to focus on innovating.

Is that true?  Well, as it turns out, Angry Birds users log 200 million minutes every day!  So it's highly likely that a good portion of that electricty above is due to bored people playing a game where they lob virtual birds at each other. Astonishing, right?

But the point Toby is making is that in developed countries, people spend a lot of their day doing "time wasters" - which takes time away from the time they spend innovating.

Nearly 60% of US smartphone users spend most of their time on entertainment apps. People with smartphones spend 115 minutes a week using social networking. Going beyond mobile, 9.1 million viewers watched the season finale of The Bachelor and 112.2 million watched the Seahawks destroy the Broncos in the Super Bowl. (And trust me, both of those were a disappointment!)

Think about it - how much time have you wasted this week?  What thinking could you have been doing instead?  What problems could you have solved?  What's sucking up your time and distracting you from making amazing things happen?

Author: "Katie Konrath" Tags: "Ideation and Brainstorming, Published first at ITG, Learn to be Creative"
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Date: Tuesday, 04 Sep 2012 23:17

Michael Phelps

July 28th, 2012. London. A man on the verge of glory climbed on the starting blocks of his first final of the 2012 Summer Games. Earlier that day, he had unexpectedly squeaked his way into the final by only 0.07 of a second. As he crouched for the start, the crowd roared for him. When the buzzer blew, he did something that no one expected: he finished a well-beaten fourth.

Two days later, Michael Phelps became the greatest Olympic athlete ever as his 18th and 19th Olympic medals were placed around his neck. Over the next days, he added three more—finishing his career with more Olympic medals than 82 countries.

Yet even as his name was written in the history books, it was obvious that the rest of the world had finally caught up.

He was still magnificent, but Michael Phelps was no longer unstoppable.          

In the world of innovation, those shocking upsets lurk on every successful product’s horizon. An amazing product like the iPhone will take over the market. Challengers quickly rise and are just as quickly vanquished. Like Michael Phelps in 2008, the new product seems unstoppable.

Until suddenly, shockingly, it’s not.

Like Michael Phelps, the iPhone is without a doubt the greatest competitor in its category. No phone has sold so much and so consistently been tops for so many years. It has also worn the unstoppable label.

But right before it was named the most valuable company in history, Apple also tasted defeat. When customers bought 2.5 million fewer iPhones than expected this spring, Apple missed its earnings goal - something it has only done a handful of times in the past decade. At the same time, Samsung announced the Galaxy S3 smartphone—and the world pounced.

Before the Galaxy S3 even left the factory at the end of May, it had over 9 million pre-orders (2 times more pre-orders than for the latest iPhone.) In a shocking upset, the Galaxy S3 became the fastest-selling gadget in history.

What happened? How did Apple and Michael Phelps fall so short so fast?

Quite simply, they lost their hunger to push the envelope. They had reached the top—and instead of pushing to reach the next level—they paused to enjoy the moment.

Between Beijing and London, Michael Phelps cut down the mileage he swam and dabbled in alternative training methods. Competitors such as 400 IM gold medalist Ryan Lochte trained harder—and their intensity paid off. Phelps even admitted after the 400 IM that he had come up short at the end of the race.

Like Phelps, Apple stopped being so hungry this past year. The highly-anticipated iPhone 5 did not arrive in 2011 as expected. Instead, Apple disappointed with iPhone 4S—an improved fourth generation iPhone. Upgraded hardware and a nifty new speaking app simply weren’t enough to hold the lead when Samsung sought to change the game with their Galaxy S3.

When companies have a successful product, it’s tempting for them to take that as an opportunity to catch their breath and enjoy their success. But that’s when it’s most critical to keep the hunger level alive!

The instant something reaches the top, challengers have a benchmark and a target.

Between Beijing and London, elite swimmers studied Michael Phelps’ success. They studied his fitness regimen, analyzed his stroke and matched everything he did right. And then they dedicated themselves to going beyond.

The same thing happened with the iPhone. Samsung took some parts of the iPhone that consumers loved—and then asked themselves, “What’s next?” They studied consumer trends, gathered insights and unmet needs—and then set off to create a game-changer. And they succeeded.

In London, Michael Phelps was able to pull himself back to the top—but it was obvious that he was no longer an unstoppable force. In October, Apple has a chance to regain their dominance when the iPhone 5 hits shelves—but they are no longer the innovator to beat.

Reaching the top is an incredible feat—but staying at the top means staying hungry. There’s always a challenger waiting in the wings to take it away.


Katie Konrath helps companies come up with "ideas so fresh... they should be slapped" at leading innovation company Ideas To Go. If you're interested in having her speak to your organization, she'd love to hear from you.

This post was originally published on the Ideas To Go Blog.

Author: "Katie Konrath" Tags: "Missed Opportunities"
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Date: Tuesday, 04 Sep 2012 22:39

When you’re figuring out how to brand yourself for your dream career, you spend oodles of time discovering what you need to demonstrate in your brand to achieve your goals. But, what if I were to tell you that – no matter your field of how much pondering you’ve done – you’re probably forgetting to emphasize the single most important skill you need?

This is a skill that gets a lot of hype, but at the same time, usually gets pushed aside. It’s a skill that everyone has, and can develop more fully – although it’s also one often believed to be soley an innate skill. It’s also one of those soft skills that isn’t quantifiable. But most importantly, it’s the skill that over 1500 CEOS from over 33 industries worldwide believe is the ”most important leadership competency of the future”.

Do you have it? Depends – how creative do you consider yourself?        

In a 2010 global survey by IBM, CEOs worldwide ranked creativity as a more essential skill than dedication, ability to manage, integrity or vision for the leaders of tomorrow. Be assured though, that when they talk about creativity, it’s not about the artsy, sparkly meaning that is often given to the word.

This is the creativity that deals with new markets, new competitors, rising levels of complexity and everything else that results from an increasingly-connected global world where change happens daily.

In order to be on top – or to get there in the first place – it’s no longer enough for companies to manage themselves effciently. No, in order to be successful today, companies of all sizes need to create. Investing in creativity gives a company more strength and security than any other thing it can do.

Companies know this, and they’re looking for people – either as employees or as consultants – who are creative and can help them thrive.

At this point, some of you will probably be protesting that you’re simply not creative – so your personal brand will be fine without espousing any creativity. (“Thank you very much.”) And you wouldn’t be alone in saying this. A recent study by the European Centre for Strategic Innovation that found that 67% of business leaders believe great innovators are born and not made.

However, it’s absolute hogwash to say you’re not creative. (And taking the easy way out.)

Renowned innovation researcher Clayton Christensen and the other authors of The Innovator’s DNA have found that people who believe they are creative become so. Other researchers have found in studies of identical twins that (unlike intelligence) only 30% of creative ability has a basis in genetics. And innovation gurus like Edward de Bono, Michael Michalko, Genrich Altshuller and many more have developed techniques that anyone can use to generate ideas.

Instead, as those researchers, innovation gurus and the CEOs in the IBM study have found, creativity is a skill that can be developedand should. Every person has the ability to be creative: they just need to find the right technique that works with their style of thinking.

So, if you don’t already consider yourself creative and are not demonstrating your creativity already in your brand – or you are not actively learning how to become more creative, you’re leaving a giant hole in your personal brand. Are you willing to risk not having the “most important leadership competency of the future”?


Katie Konrath helps companies come up with "ideas so fresh... they should be slapped" at leading innovation company Ideas To Go. If you're interested in having her speak to your organization, she'd love to hear from you.

This post was originally published on the Personal Branding Blog.

Author: "Katie Konrath"
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Date: Thursday, 23 Aug 2012 21:30

When's the last time you got a reminder that not everyone thinks the same way you do?  I did not long ago - and I'm still laughing about it!

A couple months ago, I was in San Francisco for a meeting with co-workers. I decided to stay over the weekend to play tourist - and just for fun, arranged my schedule so I could play a game with the local underwater hockey team.

Before I left, another Minnesota Underwater Hockey player and I chatted on Facebook about how cool it was that I'd get to swim with the San Francisco Sea Lions on Friday night. I mentioned I was even bringing my own fins!  I was really excited!

That night, in San Francisco, one of my co-workers approached me with a concerned look on her face.  She touched my arm and asked "Are you really swimming with sea lions on Friday?"  When I nodded, she continued, "I didn't know you could do that. Isn't it really dangerous?"

Taken aback, I realized that my co-worker was on the verge of an intervention.  Why? Because she was expecting me to get in the water with this:

Whereas in my mind, I was planning on doing this: 

Not quite the same thing at all!  We both had an image in our mind about the Sea Lions - but our perspectives were very, very different!

This is why I prefer to generate ideas with others even though I'm an introvert.

Every single person brings a completely different perspective to an ideation session that is based on their personal history and knowledge base. And that's excellent for ideation because it expands the range of possibiliities exponentially.

When I brainstorm on my own, it's easy to get stuck on a single train of thought. But just bringing another person into the conversation will usually bring up a connection or direction that wouldn't have come up otherwise.  

And if you take everyone's different perspectives as a jumping off point for ideation, you can really get a diverse set of ideas. (Which is exactly what you want!) 

For the record though, if you ever come across me chatting casually about playing with Sea Lions, Loons, Swordfish, Hammerheads, Oysters or Narwhals - you can rest assured that they won't be the biting kind!

Author: "Katie Konrath" Tags: "Learn to be Creative, Id..."
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Date: Tuesday, 15 May 2012 16:58

Without a doubt, San Francisco is one of the most innovative places on earth.  But when I was there, I found myself irresistably drawn to a place that has actually shunned innovation for its premier product - and provided me with a fascinating lesson on how even the best innovation can fail.

The Boudin Bakery, the bakery that makes the delicious sourdough on Fishermans' Wharf, has been using the same sourdough starter since it opened in 1849.  In fact, keeping this original "mother dough" was so important that bakery owner Louise Boudin risked her life to save it during the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.

I don't blame her. Their sourdough bread is incredible!  I tried to eat my weight in it during the week I was in San Francisco.

During my tour of their bakery though, I was intrigued by the description of the delivery cart in the picture above.  It's one of the Boudin Bakery's old delivery wagons - and it's fascinating because the text talks about how bakers actually shunned using automobiles for their delivery routes long after they became the preferred method of transportation!

At first glance, this really took me aback!  Why would a business shun a new technology that requires less upkeep, works faster and more consistantly, and - ahem - doesn't necessitate constant manure clean-up????  Seems like a slam dunk to me!

As it turns out though, some mental ethnography reveals exactly why bakeries were so unimpressed by the "advantages" of the automobile for bread delivery.

To understand, pretend you're an automobile salesperson interested in selling your newfangled automobiles to the Boudin Bakery. You really want to make them your client, so you've decided to let the delivery boys try your automobiles during the delivery morning route. 

Imagine your sales attempt goes something like this:

You show up at the crack of dawn to hand the lucky delivery boys their key to a shiny new car.  They're thrilled: "You just hop in this thing, turn this key and go?" they ask with a big smile on their face.

"Absolutely!" You reply. "No more taking care of horses - all you have to do is turn it on when you want it!" And then the delivery boys are off!

While you wait, you sit down to enjoy a delicious sourdough loaf and chat with the bakery owner how much faster automobiles go than horses. He can barely contain his excitment - it seems he'll be saving a lot of time (and money) with this newfangled invention.

When the sun is fully in the sky, the delivery boys return and the bakery owner heads off to hear their report.  You're feeling great - and are supremely confident that your automobile has sold itself. 

Finally, the bakery owner comes your way.  He tosses you the keys and says "I want nothing to do with those automobiles. I'd rather keep my horses!"

Wait! What? That's not how this story is supposed to go.  The baker should be begging for the keys. Isn't the automobile cleaner, faster and more convenient than the horses currently being used to deliver bread?  What in the world just happened?!!!

Sure there must have been a mistake, you convince the bakery owner to give your automobiles another chance. And just in case of technical problems, you'll ride along with a deliver boy the next morning. Here's how that went:

Early the next morning, you show up bright and early as the delivery boys are loading their horse carts.  You jump in the passanger seat with the delivery boy who will be driving your auto, and off you go with an enormous stack of bread loaves to deliver to the bakery customers.

The ride-along goes great. You drive to the first customer's house, the delivery boy turns the auto off, gets out, and delivers the loaf. Then he hops back in the automobile with you, turns it on, drives to the next customer and repeats the cycle  until finally the loaves are gone.  Then it's back to the bakery - and you're totally mystified. It seems like everything went perfectly and the delivery was a success.

After the delivery, you sit down with the bakery owner and give him your sales pitch again. He signs and says, "Look: I love the automobile. I love how it takes less effort to get it ready and how I only need to pay attention to it when we're actually delivering bread. But it just doesn't work for my business."

He then explains that even though horsedrawn carts take more effort around delivery hours, they're radically more efficient during delivery times

How?  Because the horses learn their delivery routes.  That means the delivery boy can set the horse on the route, and then jump on and off the cart to deliver loaves of bread to customers' doorsteps while the horse keeps slowly walking forward!

With an auto, the delivery boy had to start and stop the vehicle for every customer - which makes absolutely no sense when doors are less than 20 feet apart.  With a horse, the cart never stops and advances just far enough that the delivery boy never has to backtrack.  As a result, the loaves of bread get to their customers faster and more efficiently - which is essential for a business that has to deliver freshly baked bread just in time for breakfast!

Suddenly, it's clear why automobiles had no appeal to a bakery owner.  In a business where speed of delivery was everything, horses were a clear winner. 

Horses might require more upkeep before and after the delivery - but in the bakery, that didn't matter.  Delivery drivers had time while the bread was baking to get the horses ready, and time after the delivery to unharness the horses and care for them.  

Efficiency and speed during the delivery window were the bakers' priorities, and the automobile simply could not compete with their old method of delivery!

Luckily, as it turns out, bakeries were not the only target market for automobile manufacturers.  And in the long run, autos did win out over horses. 

But to me, hearing this story really drove home the point that it's absolutely essential to understand what motivates your target audience when you're inventing a new product for them.  Automobile companies weren't targeting their product solely to bakery owners - but if they were, they would have had to focus on different priorities in order to make their product a success. Otherwise, we might still be driving to work in our horsedrawn carriages!

Author: "Katie Konrath" Tags: "Best of getFreshMinds, C..."
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Date: Friday, 06 Apr 2012 04:47

  Shoe without heel

"There are no bad ideas" is always the first thing everyone will tell you when you're learning how to be creative.  No matter how outlandish, or dangerous, or downright impractical - every idea has value in an idea-generation session.

That's because even a bad idea has something in it that made it pop up in your head.

So, instead of dismissing a bad idea, you throw yourself at it like you want to know everything you possibly can about it.  What prompted the idea? What's the benefit?  Who does it benefit? What do you like about this idea?  What would make this idea work for you?

Once you've done that exploration of the "bad idea", then it's time to start coming up with new ideas based on the stuff you like about the "bad idea".  That's how real innovation starts.  You take a new concept or benefit, and you find a new way to make it happen.

But what happens if an idea is so bad that your internal censors automatically and unconsciously squash it before the idea even forms in your mind?  What if the current modus operandi is so solidified in your head that something wildly different never even has a chance of occurring to you?

For example, I recently saw the shoe pictured above at a department store.  Notice anything... um... unusual about it?

If I were a shoe designer, I would never in a million years have created a high-heeled shoes that didn't actually have a heel. It simply wouldn't have occurred to me.  

Judging by the millions of other shoes I've seen, not many real shoe designers have ever imagined this either. It probably never crossed any of their minds - or if it did, it it was probably dismissed at light speed as something that would never work.

But it does work.  People actually can walk in those shoes - real people, not just Lady Gaga and Posh Spice.  They're even sold at normal everyday stores like Nordstroms, Urban Outfitters and even on Zappos. 

The shoe market is a very crowded one and it's near impossible to really stand out. But heelless shoes make that splash - because they're something that no one even thought was possible until they saw it happen.

So think about it.  What conventions are so ingrained in your mind that you take them as a given even when you're thinking creatively?  ("Oh, high heeled shoes MUST have heels")  What assumptions are you making? Where ideas have you squashed before they've even had a chance to become "bad ideas" in your head?

Think about it! 

Author: "Katie Konrath" Tags: "Fresh Ideas, Learn to be..."
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Date: Wednesday, 08 Feb 2012 19:06

SF Sea Lions UWH

Photo courtesy of the SF Sea Lions and the MN Loons. Taken by Adam Lau.

This past weekend, I spent 3 days playing in an underwater hockey tournament as a member of one of the Minnesota Loons teams.

“What in the world is underwater hockey???” you’re probably wondering. Right? I don’t blame you – it’s right up there with cheese rolling and ferret legging as one of the world’s weirdest sporting events!

Underwater hockey is a game where two teams of six battle on the floor of a pool to knock a hockey puck into a goal.  The hockey puck is weighted so it stays on the bottom – and it’s the goal of the players to spend as much time on the bottom – in play – as possible.

(Players train both to hold their breath longer and to quickly grab a breath while getting back down to the bottom quickly. They wear snorkels, diving masks, and fins – and teams are apparent by the colors of their sticks and caps.)

Still not picturing it?  Take a look at the championship bout at last weekend's CanAm Midwestern Championships:

What’s fascinating to me about this sport – besides it being tons of fun to play – is how the game began as an innovative solution to a snorkeling club’s problem!

The whole story reminds me of “PO”, one of innovation guru Edward de Bono’s creativity techniques.

“PO” is a tactic where you take a statement that leads to a dead end, and then revise it to figure out ways to move forward.

Still unclear? Let me teach you about this technique through underwater hockey’s creation story.

Almost 60 30 years ago, a new snorkeling club in England found themselves facing a vexing situation.  They had just spent all summer attracting new members to their club – and then it became too cold outside to actually go snorkeling! 

Not surprisingly, interest in the club quickly waned.  Plus, members who stuck with the club during the winter got out of shape and lost significant lung capacity because they weren’t motivated to work as hard in a boring pool as in the open (and much more interesting) water!

So, the snorkeling club's dead-end statement was “Our members don’t want to snorkel in a pool."

Is that statement true? Absolutely.  But it leads right to a dead end.  There's no point in coming up with ideas for snorkeling in the pool because everyone already knows their members won't like them.

In the creation story of underwater hockey though, several leaders of the snorkeling club decided that they wanted to push beyond that dead end.  So they challenged themselves with the statement “PO: Our members look forward to snorkeling in a pool.”

(Let’s all imagine they added the word “PO”.)

As a result, this avenue of thought is no longer closed off and they have permission to think of ideas for snorkeling in a pool.

Then, the snorkeling club members could start coming up with ideas for fun things they could do in a pool to get their members excited about strapping on their snorkels and spending time holding their breath underwater in the winter. 

And thus underwater hockey was born

Today, underwater hockey is played all over the world.  Local clubs scrimmage regularly, with teams in over 30 countries and dozens of clubs in the US alone.  And every 2 years, the best players compete to represent their countries at the World competition.

All because a new snorkeling club in England said “[PO] Let’s figure out a way to make our members want to go snorkeling in a pool in the winter.”  

Cool, huh?  Lateral Thinking definitely leads to fun possibilities!

Author: "Katie Konrath" Tags: "Fresh Ideas, Learn to be..."
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