The accidental inventor.

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The generally accepted wisdom about innovation goes something like this: an inventor begins with a particular problem in mind (for Edison, as an example, it might have been “I’m looking for a way to light up a room.”). Then, through trial and error, he tries a multitude of possible solutions that don’t yield much in the way of results. Then suddenly, a Eureka! moment—a flash that seemingly comes out of nowhere that provides the solution to the exact problem we were trying to solve.

The truth is, innovation rarely works like that. Jonah Lehrer, in his book Imagine describes how very often great inventors don’t really “invent” from scratch at all; often what the most successful inventors do is find surprising new applications for what’s already available to them. The “innovative” part is not to invent new technologies, but rather to find new uses for existing technologies.

That’s what Gutenberg did when he brought his wine press skills into book printing. What the Wright Brothers did when they applied their knowledge of bicycle mechanics to make airplanes. And what the Apple team did when they brought their extensive experience in operating systems, digital files and data management to develop the iPod.

In essence, Apple’s engineers didn’t start our saying “We’re looking to develop a product that will render the Discman obsolete.” It was more likely they said “With all we know about computers and the digital world, what other product possibilities or consumer markets can we get into?”

Interestingly enough, the approach the inventor takes to create something new and exciting works in business as well. An organization with a strong Brand Vision (which represents the ONE meaningful, unique and true thing the organization aspires to be remembered for) is adept at keeping the consumer’s “greater purpose” in mind.

The Brand Vision reflects the ultimate solution for the consumer. It’s understanding, for example, that a customer isn’t purchasing furniture, she’s purchasing a beautiful room that reflects her good taste. So the organization can use its knowledge, expertise and connections to further this ultimate goal for the customer, perhaps through free interior design classes, in-home design consultations, a take-it-home-and-try-it policy, or simply by helping access the latest insider news.

In short, you don’t have to be an “Edison-type” to be innovate. You just need to be in line with understanding what the consumer is hoping to accomplish or feel when she purchases your product or service.

Happy innovating!

Posted by Mickey

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mickey Lonchar
Mickey Lonchar has spent the better part of two decades creating award-winning advertising with agencies up and down the West Coast, Mickey currently holds the position of creative director with Quisenberry Marketing & Design, a full-service advertising and interactive shop with offices in Spokane and Seattle, Wash.

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