Is imitation a form of innovation? Can it be? I think so.
In less than 16 months (started counting Sep 2009) I witnessed three different frozen yogurt bars pop up in Greensboro, NC: Feeney’s, Frozato, and Taste. Now there’s a grand total of four frozen yogurt bars (Red Mango, the fourth, may have been here before I noticed the proliferation) to serve the ~260K residents of Greensboro. Each seems to have staked out a particular location - well away from each other - and the corresponding demographic.
How can / will each bar differentiate itself? Do they have to? Can all four be successful? Will there be a fifth? I’ll have to check back in a few years and see.
The point is that when my students were tasked to brainstorm new ideas, they would get frustrated because they often couldn’t invent something never-before-seen new. I kept reminding them that you may not have to come up with the new idea first, just be better at executing it. After all, Google didn’t invent search - whether or not they’ve perfected it is an oft debated matter of opinion. L. didn't invent the condom but they sure are making headlines with their approach. There are countless others, but the result is the same: it may not always be a matter of invent, but re-invent, differentiation via the execution.
Now off to get some yogurt!
Interesting piece on private prisons. What if all jails were privatized? What if we privatized the whole supply chain starting at the initial processing? In other words, excluding the law enforcement piece, privatize the formal booking, receiving and handling of the suspect / felon. What else?
It won't be too long before it's, "Honey, can you please pick up some bread, milk, eggs, bananas...and, oh, if they have it in purple, an electric car? Thanks!" If you've ever been to a super-box store or a club store, you know that what can be sold, will. The trick is creating something so compelling that you create suction into the store.
Perhaps a dating site catering specifically to Chinese women would help filter the wheat from the chaff.
One of the websites that I frequently sent my students to learn about entrepreneurship is Springwise. What I would do is present one of the ideas from my Springwise RSS feed and then I would ask, "so where else could you re-apply this specific idea?" They would usually start out with "grocery store", "manufacturing center", etc. I would then try to lead the discussion toward the uncommon: what about military bases? what about establishing contacts within the HR relocation departments of major corporations? Then I would ask, "what else could you do? where else could you re-apply this type of idea." My goal was to get the entrepreneurial-leaning students to put on the simplicity lens. Could they identify a simple corollary first before trying to create a mythical new idea.
So, what else?
During my brief stint as an adjunct professor many years ago, I recall that half of my students had dreams of one day starting their own business. One of my favorite parts of the teaching night was when I presented a random idea and asked the students to put on the brainstorm lens - "what else could you do with this...". Most of the time we would end up in the realm of the zany. Sometimes, however, we would actually land on something achievable and plant the seed. This is an homage to ideas - zany or otherwise.